Growing up I never imagined I’d find myself right in the middle of this community let alone be the mother of a special needs child. I figured the good Lord knew I didn’t have the patience or stamina for the job. Yet, here I am raising not one, but two, children with autism. Despite my lack of patience, perfectionistic nature, and strong temper I’ve gotten endless compliments on my parenting.
Many of these comments surfaced right after I wrote ‘When life get’s hard’, which isn’t about autism so much as finding strength to battle my own inner demons. Ever since publication it seems all I get called is a ‘good mom’, an ‘amazing mom’, numerous compliments or cliché quotes about special kids have special moms, yada, yada, yada. Frankly, it’s kinda weird.
I know those saying these type of things, think they’re being nice or supporting me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind compliments. I mean, I am pretty dang awesome…but when most of the lip service sets up a relationship of me versus my son: because having autism in my life ‘obviously stinks’…
I don’t like that.
Not. One. Single. Bit.
Sir Bounce A Lot is my buddy, my snuggler, my cuddler, my son. We’re on the same team-autism and all. My real problem is hope. I have an unquenchable fire inside, pushing me. Somehow I know we’ll get this guy off the worst of the spectrum. Anyone who knows the stats on autism would call me crazy, yet I still believe.
* Notice I said that I want to get him off the worst of the spectrum. Not the whole spectrum, just the worst. Basically I just want him to talk and understand me in return.
Autism isn’t my burden
I don’t carry the burden of autism. I can handle living with this sweet munchkin the rest of my life-and love it. You see, autism isn’t my burden, my burden is hope. Hope pushes me to work hard, go on insane diets, research like crazy, do a ton of therapy, and oh so many things outside of my comfort zone. That’s what hope does, it helps us to learn, grow and reach.
In all honesty I’m grateful for autism. Autism has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I’ve grown so much as a person because of the neurology in my family, I’m more patient, more intuitive, and emotionally stronger. Frankly, anyone would under these circumstances. Its not that I or any other parent of special needs children are amazing-its just that our growth is more public because of our situation. So I’d like to share the awesomeness of autism with those not lucky enough to see the benefits themselves.
*Please note I’m talking about straight autism here, not the different diagnoses that can accompany autism (i.e. epilepsy, Rett sydrome, or anxiety).
Your Brain Does What?
Recently Autism Speaks did preliminary research that found individuals with autism have more neural synapses than neuro-typical individuals. This may be the cause of all the sensory issues autism brings, but it can also allow an individual to remember more information. Get past the onslaught of lights and sounds in life and your brain becomes a sponge.
This explains why Sunny and I both maintain nearly perfect GPA’s, and it’s fairly easy for us. Our brains literally hold more. Autism can help individuals to retain more information and be incredibly ‘book smart’. Academic learning can be a breeze for those with autism.
A stronger foundation
Autism has led me to appreciate the benefits of studying patterns and the details to success. I used to be one of the least creative people on this planet, I clearly remember the day I cracked my first funny joke. At the age of 12 my older sister ran to write this astonishing event on the calendar, because it was that novel.
Despite my lack of natural ability, I studied creativity because it intrigued me. I studied steps and ideas most people would skip, so I could lay a creative foundation necessary for myself.
Whenever I learn a new skill, it takes forever because I don’t learn things intuitively. I have to learn everything specifically, but when I learn it, I learn it. However, once I learn enough similar things I develop patterns that allow me to learn similar skills at an exponential rate.
This is why I can sing, play piano, draw, paint, throw clay, write, sew, draft patterns, design costumes/clothes, be an athlete, and speak in public-many of these skills have similar principles behind them. Autism has forced me to look at the nitty gritty, and build my skill set from a very deep level and up.
Parenting can be easier-okay parts of it
Believe it or not, parts of parenting can be much easier. It’s hard initially, not gonna lie. Meltdowns wear me out! But if you lovingly, consistently teach these guys the correct way to do something they will always do it. Consistency and routines are a major strong suit for those with autism.
Because of this my son will always clean up the living room before he watches TV. The shoes and socks always go in the bin by the front door, and we always clear our dishes after a meal. Bed time means singing, prayers, and snuggles. There’s no question, it’s just what we do.
Sunny always does her homework when she first gets home, and never uses the word stupid (or allow anyone near her to use it either). She knows to do all her chores before playing or crafting and how to divide her money the Dave Ramsey way. We’re currently working on teaching Sunny manners in a concrete manner. Once we get that down she’ll likely be a very polite girl doing things most people would think counter to autism. While paradoxically we’re using the autism to help her be a social superstar.
Autism doesn’t mean you can’t do things, it’s just learning in a different way.
What’s your worth?
Autism has also taught me the value of human life. I’m not talking of the morality of killing or war. I’m talking of what value to put to life.
Have you ever been loved by another and yet not been able to explain to yourself ‘Why’?
‘Why do they put up with me?’
‘Why am I of worth?’
‘Why do they love me?’
I’ve been asking those questions about my husband loving me for a long time. I still don’t have an answer.
Recently I’ve been looking at the other side- ‘Why do I love my son?’
He doesn’t talk, dress himself, or do much on his own. I may never be able to retire and yet when those big blue eyes shine at me, his dimples pop and those giggles roll-I’m mush. It doesn’t make any logical sense from a worldly view. Being a parent doesn’t bring me wealth-it costs money. I trade peace for worry, comfort for work, and ease for toil.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What then is love? What makes a person worth anything? Love, worth, these entities are indefinable, we cannot quantify them. We can only accept or reject the beautiful reality that we are worth loving because we exist. No amount of learning, money, or work can earn us the worthiness of love.
Autism has taught me that simply being is cause enough for love.
Simply being is celestial.
Simply being is majestic.
Autism isn’t my burden, it’s a misunderstood blessing. One I’m trying to embrace every day.