As a mom of a terrific 20-year-old son on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, it has recently occurred to me that as a young mom of a newly-diagnosed kid, I would have appreciated reading about all the great things that were ahead of me as my son worked his way through puberty and young adulthood all in his own unique way.
Yes, there will be challenges, yes there will be dark days (and nights) and lots of advocating and LOTS of therapy. Having said all of that, this is what you have to look forward to:
- Your child has a unique way of seeing the world, as you know. There is much he/she can teach you. Go where your child is and see if from his/her point of view. It’s not wrong, it’s just the way your child sees it. And it’s interesting.
- Your child will love certain things passionately. Enjoy those passions and use them to connect. They will rotate from year to year. Except for LEGOs—which he/she will ALWAYS love.
- Your son or daughter has a pure heart—there is no guile, no manipulation, no scheming or lying—they simply don’t have that gene! He/she isn’t terribly concerned about what’s appropriate to say at any given moment, so the most amazing things will come out of his/her mouth. Often truly profound things.
- Your child can memorize literally ANYTHING—if you put it to a catchy tune. Math, phone numbers, addresses, you name it. Come up with a ditty.
- It’s possible (maybe even likely) that your child will continue to surpass your expectations as he/she gets older. Expect the best and let your child tell you if he/she can’t do it. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised year after year in school. Unless the school is no good.
- Most kids on the spectrum are serious rule followers. You don’t have to worry about them actually breaking ANY kind of They just wouldn’t do it. Phew – no midnight calls from jail.
- Your child will often say the most hysterical things that will stay with you for years. Like when the Rabbi asked my son what his biggest fear was on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, and my son said that he would have to give the money back. Really.
- You will meet the most AMAZING group of people. Doctors, psychologists, speech and OT therapists, resource people at school, ABA providers and all kinds of special people who have devoted their lives to helping our kids. I’m always amazed by the kindness and support of this community. It’s a wonderful village, and you will be surrounded by goodness.
- Your kid has a gift. You will find it. He/she will be very very good at something. You just may not know what it is yet. It might be making incredible card houses. Keep an eye out. Music is very likely to be involved. See #4.
- Your kid was born at the RIGHT time to have autism. The zeitgeist of this generation of kids in school is that autism is cool. Maybe it was The Big Bang Theory, or maybe Julia on Sesame Street —or the kid on atypical on Parenthood, or countless other new characters. When we read Just Elliot to classrooms of 1st, 2ndand 3rd graders, at the end when I ask, “Who knows what autism is?” generally the majority of the hands go up. And invariably, there’s the kid who is madly shaking his/her hand to be called on so that he/she can proudly announce “I have autism!” There’s never been a better time to raise a kid on the spectrum.
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This is article was featured in Issue 73 – Amazing Ways To Support Autism