As a parent, raising a child with autism is as much a lesson as it is a challenge. A mother talks about her key takeaways from a lifetime raising a child with autism, and the experiences she has had.
Autism can sometimes be a difficult diagnosis to live with. However, it can also lead to some truly memorable and special experiences, and it is important to focus on the good things rather than the bad days. I’d like to tell you about what A.U.T.I.S.M. means to me, and hope that you will agree with me:
A is for Awe
I am awestruck at what my child is able to do, despite the limitations placed upon her.
U is for Universe and Understanding and Unique
My child inhabits a parallel universe that I must understand and help others understand. In the process, I evolve as a human.
I learn the great lesson, that differences in others must be appreciated, and that uniqueness can carry advantages as rewarding as similarity.
Fortified with that strong positive message from a parent, any child will very likely make astonishing progress.
T is for Tolerance
I must tolerate the insensitivity of others, and learn to take it not as a personal slight, but as an opportunity to educate.
I is for Incredible
I stands for the incredible inner resources I never knew I had. The incredible ability of a friend, or family member, even if there be only one, to be supportive. The incredible joy in my child’s eyes when she achieves a breakthrough.
S is for Selective
I must be selective about the episodes I focus and dwell upon, whether they be the behaviour of my child, a setback with the school system, or differences with my life partner or a relative.
I must ball up like an armadillo and let those forces flow over me, to temporarily crush, but never to consume.
M is for Movement and Milestones
I must keep moving. Moving to find answers, moving to find ways around obstacles, moving to harness the energy of well-wishers, moving to enrich the life experiences of my child.
I can set a distant goal, but I must not look beyond the next milestone. I must never belittle any achievement, any change, any dawning awareness in my child, no matter how small. Rather, I must celebrate each milestone by throwing a wild party, even if just for two – my child and me.
(The author, Chitra Raman, is the mother of a young individual with autism. This current work was first published in the December 2002 issue of the Autism Network Journal.)
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