Eleven years ago my husband and I entered a developmental pediatrician’s office with our then seventeen-month-old son, Justin. We were both nervous and resigned, anticipating, and in some ways welcoming, the autism diagnosis we were sure our boy would merit. Four years later we would retrace our steps in a different state with our second son, Zach. On this occasion we were much less scared, even eager to get a diagnosis to help us to access services. It wasn’t that we were less concerned about the progress of our second child. It’s just that by then we’d been doing the “autism gig” for the length of a presidential term, and we had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Those four years had taught me indelibly what it means to be a special needs mom.
I learned so much from my eldest child, and then again from my youngest. I learned about my limits, and how to stretch them to accommodate my children’s needs. I learned about the endless boundaries of love, and how to summon patience I didn’t know I had. I learned so much, knowledge I wish I’d had at my fingertips when my first child was diagnosed.
If I could go back in time, these are the ten things I’d tell myself about my impending journey of parenting two children on the autism spectrum:
1) You will revel in even the smallest increments of progress, progress you would not have noticed if your children were typical.
2) You will learn to always push your children to do a little bit more than you think they can.
3) You will learn how to be flexible (this one remains a challenge for me.)
4) You will worry about what happens to them when you’re gone. This one you will never conquer.
5) You will irrevocably alter your definition of what comprises a successful childhood.
6) You will learn how to ask for help (this one remains a challenge too.)
7) You will learn how to listen, really listen, both to your one son’s vocal attempts and to your other’s complete sentences.
8) You will learn, through lots of practice, how to be patient.
9) You will learn that the inability to speak does not mean your son does not have a lot to say.
10) You will learn, perhaps most importantly, to make time for yourself.
My heartfelt wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, particularly those in the autism community!
For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com/
Follow me on Facebook at Autism Mommy-Therapist