Living With Autism: The Long Journey to a Peaceful Heart
Life is wonderful, then bam! You have been chosen—you have a special needs child. Now begins the whirlwind of emotions, pain, sorrow, heartache, fear, and the feeling of helplessness; each one serving as a necessary component in the long process of acceptance, healing and moving on.
It’s amazing how you instantly feel you are all alone in the world. One’s thought might be that it is impossible that anyone would or could understand the turmoil that has infiltrated your mind, your existence. Oh, if only kids came with manuals to guide us through the difficult decisions. In many instances, everything you learned and experienced with your typical offspring seems to be null and void.
There are three check-in stations on this new journey.
The first is ACCEPTANCE.
A difficult endeavor yes, however, healing can begin once acceptance is in place. Please do not waste weeks, months or even years thinking that it will go away. It will not happen and the longer one lingers in this gray zone the more hopeless and depressed you can become. Should this happen, you are of no help to the loved one who needs you so desperately. Regardless of the reason your child is the way he or she is, that child is yours.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 states “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens.” I believe that our special children have a concrete purpose and they are of more value to this world than anyone can imagine. I believe they are the windows to knowledge and a key component in the birth of human kindness. Their innocence and unconditional love erase much of what is wrong in this world. Once you have reached acceptance, you can move on to:
Do not try to achieve this alone. Find a support group or another family or friend that shares what you are going through or a similar situation. You will be amazed how communicating with someone else everyday events and hardships can bring you the inner strength you may need to get through a day. One example, taking your special needs child to the dentist. Not a big deal for the typical parent and child to take on, but for you, it can turn into a very stressful, heart-tugging, energy draining event. Having the option to turn to someone who actually understands is truly therapeutic and can help prepare you for the next adventure.
Strengthen the healing process by realizing that, “you didn’t do this.” It wasn’t something you ate or the vitamins you missed or the shoes you wore. It is also a must to know that no spiritual force did it either. It was a result of the human condition that we are all exposed to while on this earth. I believe that much help can be provided by our creator to endure if we seek and accept it. Have faith in yourself that you are equipped with all that is required to help your child succeed. Experiencing low times can be frequent. During these times you may feel that you just can’t face another day. At this time ask yourself “Who other than myself would I want to take care of my child?“ I’m willing to bet that you cannot come up with any other caregiver because no one else would know, love or accept your child as you do.
I, for one, believe that everything happens for a reason and something good generally will follow the not so desirable. While it may seem impossible to understand why or what good could come from an individual’s misfortune, consider these precious people are here teaching us patience, humility and are placing before us an immeasurable display of love that will enrich the lives of all they associate with.
This could be the most difficult because it is now decision-making time for everyday life and a deep look into the future. Like most, you are probably considering entering your child in an early intervention center or school setting to give him/her a head start on the new journey. Affording your child with the earliest possible start can prove most beneficial. However, I feel there is nothing more nurturing than sufficient time in a loving home to instill a feeling of safety and well-being. Take into consideration that your child will be in the new environment for many years to come.
Unfortunately, there is no preparation for the day when you leave your child in the hands of basically strangers. Count on it to be one of the hardest days of your life. However, all bad days pass. File it in your mental strength builder folder.
In a previous paragraph, I touched on how the passing of time is credited with healing. The passing of time will also greatly reduce separation anxiety between you and your child. Once you have located the establishment your child will attend by all means research it fully. Plan a tour and visit the teaching staff, support staff and special services offered. You have the right and obligation to do this for your child. Quality professional employees will not find this offensive, and if anyone does, then keep in mind you are doing your part to the best of your ability. Remember that piece of mind is priceless.
Here are some helpful points to guide you through the process:
- Do all you can do at home to get your child ready for this new adventure. It is your job as parents to ensure your child is prepared in as many ways as possible; such as being toilet trained, able to use utensils, and possesses some self-help skills. If your child is capable of performing these tasks or shows potential toward mastering them, it is important to strive for this success in the home setting.
- In the case that it is necessary for such skills to be practiced in the daycare setting it is crucial that all parties work together to achieve such goals. What is done at home must be carried out in the day setting as
- Realize that in some cases there are individuals that will never be able to do for themselves. This should not compromise good quality, professional care.
- Good hygiene is a kindness that is appreciated by students and staff. Accomplishing this at home saves time and will promote a more successful day.
- There may not be a cure, but there is help for those who seek it. Together you and the outside provider can work together toward suitable goals for your child to accomplish.
- Once goals are set in place, it is very important that all parties’ parents, teachers, and caregivers work together as a team. Failure to do so may bring forth unwanted results.
There will always be many ups and downs in the daily life of a special needs person. One must try to remember that:
- Life is full of possibilities.
- Failures go hand in hand with successes.
- There will be good days as well as not so good days.
- Always keep a “can do” attitude but try to stay realistic about the fact that some things will become a reality but some may
- Embrace all of the help that is available because more effort trumps less.
- Draw strength from those who care.
- We were placed on this earth to unite in love, grow in brotherhood, practice compassion and care for each other as if we are all family because, in truth, we are.
I have traveled this special journey for more than 25 years. It is a process that I never dreamed I would have to experience. Life is never predictable, never easy, but success is obtainable on a daily basis with perseverance, dedication, the strength of family and faith in our abilities as parents. All perceived failures become valuable lessons. All successes yield victorious peace.
Janie Dixon lives in the state of Delaware with her two daughters ages 31 and 35 years, and son Adam who was born in 1989. He was diagnosed with autism in 1993. He is verbal and moderately self-reliant. Now 28 years old, Adam has held a kitchen steward position for six years. Hard work and dedication from family and available help services afforded him his happy existence.
This is article was featured in Issue 73 – Amazing Ways To Support Autism