My husband and I have been parents for 18 years. When our youngest daughter was born just over five years ago we knew we had not ‘arrived’ yet (do we ever really ‘arrive?), but we did feel pretty comfortable with our parenting skills and abilities by then.
However, we quickly learned that parenting this sweet girl was going to take some finagling, a bit of thinking and praying, a lot of reading, and extra support from one another.
By the time she was about a year old, I had begun to suspect she was more than just a “late bloomer” or a “picky child.”
After visiting and speaking with our doctor when our daughter was nearing 18 months, we received a referral for a developmental assessment.
I had spent months with my suspicions, wondering if there was something going on with her, and I felt relieved to finally be on our way to getting some answers.
We qualified for in-home therapy, so we were able to immediately begin making progress with getting our daughter to communicate better. We had already spent much time in trial and error, figuring out why she was crying at any given moment, encouraging her to say “cup” when she was thirsty and “eat” when she was hungry.
What a joy it was to hear her begin to say “up, up, up” when working with her instructor to build a tower. We now had hope that she was on her way to communicating!
I will never forget the night she awoke crying, not an unusual occurrence, and uttered the words “a pup” as soon as I entered her room. In that moment my heart leapt with joy, because I knew she was asking for her cup.
What a joy it was to get that cup for her, and I stayed just a bit longer in her room that night, to give thanks for positive change for us both. To be able to understand her better and meet her needs, we had to get her talking on her own. And we had just taken our first real step towards that goal!
Looking at our sweet girl now, you would not know of the struggles we’ve endured. Our daughter is extremely intelligent, as many on the spectrum are. She is learning how to play cooperatively, to empathize with others, and to engage in imaginary play with her sister and friends. Her ability to share what she is thinking or needs is sometimes difficult but she is making progress there, too. We can see it, and we are so thankful.
However, there are days, months even, when parents with children on the spectrum wonder if they are going to be able to get their child through the next struggle. We wonder if we will have the support we need from friends and family. We ask ourselves if our marriage will make it through the extra stress that a special needs child adds to the relationship.
We worry that our other children won’t understand why we have spent so much extra time with this sibling or why they have had to sacrifice over and over again. But we keep marching on.
My husband and I are only in our fifth year as special needs parents. Yet, even in our short-lived career, we have been in great need of accurate information about autism, therapy resources, support as parents and for our marriage, and coping skills to help us continue to learn about autism, its many ‘faces’, and how to parent our daughter best through her current stage and any to come.
As a blogger, I am a part of several online networking groups and I have attended a few blogging conferences over the years. Through these activities and associations, I have come to know many other bloggers within the autism community.
They have written heart-felt blog posts that have encouraged me. I’ve received book recommendations and suggestions from them for talking with our insurance company about therapy needs. These friends have been there for me as I have walked through the diagnosis process.
Now, some of us are coming together to offer 30 Days of Coping Skills for Families Living with Autism. We have each written stories from our lives with a bent towards making life a bit easier for other families out there who are also living life with autism. Our desire is that our stories, experiences, and resources will provide hope, encouragement, and real help for families.
Parents at the very beginning stages of getting a diagnosis as well as those far into their careers as parents of an adult child on the spectrum, and anyone in between, will benefit from this series.
Please join us for each of our 30 Days of Coping Skills for Families Living with Autism. We’ve created a fabulous resource that will encourage and equip all who are traveling along the road of life with autism, and we are overjoyed to share it with you! Be sure to head on over and leave a comment, share our posts with a friend or family member, and be encouraged yourself as you take this journey.
Wendy Woerner is a preschool teacher turned homeschool mom, an encourager of women, a virtual assistant, and wife of twenty years to her high school sweetheart. She loves to read, write, sing, and travel with her husband. Wendy enjoys the simple life, but on occasion dreams of living in a quaint little villa in Italy. Her hope is to equip and encourage others to live life with passion and purpose in all that they do. To connect with Wendy, be sure to subscribe to her blog, Purpose Living Wife.
This article was featured in Issue 46 – The Time for Acceptance