What does the real life of the parent of a child with autism look like? As with any parent, appreciating the good parts is essential, both for the parent and for the child.
I came away from a workshop a while back about raising a child with a disability, and the speaker, Kathie Snow, said something really important. She said that too often, we identify our children by their disabilities, naming them first before their names. Even worse, we tend not to spend a whole lot of time on their positive attributes, despite the fact that there are so many. When you talk about your child, say his or her name, talk about three things you appreciate about him/her, and discuss the child’s likes and dislikes. Allow other people to see, through you, the good in your child.
In John 8:32, the Bible says “the truth will set you free,” and as often as this quote is used, it seems infrequent that we pursue the actual truth.
What are the truths I know about my son?
One of the most challenging things about parenting a child with autism is the uncertainty you can experience. And sometimes, no matter how much we reinforce positive behavior and attempt to understand other behaviors, they crop up quickly and without much warning. But I know even though we go through many rough patches, no matter how badly I sometimes handle his meltdowns, he always comes back to me with love in his heart. If I need a confidence booster, he’s there to tell me how great a mom I am. In fact, according to him, I’m “the best mom ever,” but I’m also pretty and sweet and I make him proud. When it comes to his brother, Squeaker has no competition for the most protective brother. He will defend him and protect him always. If you need a cheerleader, he’s there. If you need a hug or a kiss, he’s ready to give one. And he has a mind like a steel trap. Once the information gets received, it never leaves his mind. My son has an inquisitive nature, a good heart and a delightful sense of humor — not to mention a large amount of gratitude for the small things in life.
It’s unfortunate that so many people overlook the most wonderful things about my son. There is so much more to him than the challenges he faces. There are things he does to cope with his need for structure, attention, routine and comfort, but they do not encompass all of who he is.
Parenting requires you not only to have the courage for advocacy and the strength for getting through hard times, but to have a heart large enough to hold all the love. So tell me your truth. Shout it loud and proud. Tell the world about the wonderful world of parenting and your child with autism.