Blessings? Most people would not use that word when they think of autism. I probably wouldn’t have either until I had a child on the spectrum, but it is true.
When my daughter was a toddler, I was always so impressed by how smart she was. She could line things up by colors and shapes better than any of her peers. She could memorize huge portions of dialogue in movies at only three and four years old. She could also meltdown like no other. Gifted? Expressive? Yes and yes. Different? YES.
Different isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong. Society makes us feel like we should conform and fit in. I disagree. As a mom of a child on the spectrum, I want what every parent wants. I want my child to be happy, liked, successful and independent. It just looks a little different than it might with her neurotypical peers. Not less, just different.
I remember when my daughter was in second grade and she came home from school one day. She told me that her best friend told her they weren’t friends anymore. There were no tears or sadness, just a statement. I asked her what they were doing when she said that. She explained that she took her friends swing because she wanted to swing. That was when her friend said this. I asked my daughter what she said to her after she told her that. She popped a fruit snack into her mouth and chewed. Then she turned and said, “I told her, ‘Yes we are, remember?’” Cut and dry. In her mind they were friends, and she just figured her friend forgot.
This is one of those Blessings I mentioned. Why? Because most children would be hurt and emotional in this situation. My child is Black and White. This made it easier to make things like the swing incident a learning opportunity. She learned when it was appropriate to apologize in a very practical way. She didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and over the years she was able to “learn” social cues to know when she may have made a mistake.
Lying. Don’t be jealous, but my child doesn’t lie. Most of the time it is another one of those Blessings! At the same time, it can also be a curse. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you need to have strong self-esteem. You will need it for the times when family, friends and even strangers feel the need to give you unsolicited advice on how to “fix” your child. You will need it when people stare at you as your child melts down because the lights or sounds in the store are too much. But, the main reason you will need a solid self-esteem is for when your child is brutally honest to you. Nothing is sacred. I’ve been ratted out publicly for passing gas. I’ve been told that I must be putting too much food in my body because my butt is getting bigger, and I have had my child look at me in complete disgust as I don a pair of pantyhose, finishing it with the comment, “I don’t think those fit you.” By the way, pantyhose are the devil. All in all, this is a blessing because I know I will always get a truthful answer from her. I will also always know when her little sister is doing something wrong. She unknowingly rats her out all the time! See it now? Parenting win! Blessings!
Puberty. Ugh. Most parents dread this milestone. I know I am dreading it with my younger daughter; however, my child on the spectrum breezed through this stage. How? She is a fact type of girl. I explained menstruation in a scientific way. “This is what happens; this is why, this is what you need to do to take care of yourself.” When it finally happened she called me into the bathroom and told me with no embarrassment. I told her, “This is what we talked about. Do you need help with anything?” She said no, and five years later, there has never been an issue. Blessings!
I have had people say things to me like, “It must be so hard to have a child with special needs.” It is usually accompanied with a sympathetic frown. My response is usually, “She is actually the easy one.” By the way, remarks like this should be on the top of the list of things to NOT say to a parent of a child with special needs. Don’t pity me. I don’t pity myself. My children are different, unique and amazing in their own right. Not less.
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These are only a few of our Blessings of Autism, and there really are so much more. Every small success in my child’s life is on a completely different level than that of her peers. Small things can be huge in the life of someone with autism. Tying shoes, potty training, talking. Huge!
Parenting is no joke. It is hard and most of the time we are learning as we go. It is no different with a child on the spectrum. I may seem like I have a good grasp on this, but the truth is, I have just failed and learned from it enough to get to this point, and just when I think I’ve got it, the issues change.
The main point I am trying to make is that the Blessings are there. Focus on them. They can be few and far between, but they are so much bigger than everything else. In times when things can be so overwhelming, they are sometimes the only thing that keeps you sane.
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I worry. I hurt for my child. I cry for her, and most of all I fight for my child. The biggest Blessing? Most of the time, she doesn’t know any of that. All she sees is my love.
Find those Blessings!
This is article was featured in Issue 73 – Amazing Ways To Support Autism