As a parent, finding our way to appreciation of the autism of our child is a tricky path to walk.
We hold out hope that things will be better once… (fill in the blank).
The blank gets filled in with whatever current challenge we are overcoming, such as “…once he gets through special kindergarten and can go to regular first grade…” or “once she learns not to hit her friends…” or “…once he finishes high school and can go to college like other kids his age…” or “… once she gets out of school and gets a job supporting herself…”.
The Grieving Process
Unlike parents of children with other disabilities whose long-term outcome is clear early in life, parents of children with ASD, especially high functioning ASD, often hang on to the hope that after a certain milestone is achieved, our child will be like everyone else.
Parents of a child who was born with Down’s Syndrome, for example, have a relatively clear picture of what their child’s future holds. They grieve when they first learn about the Down’s Syndrome, and then they pick up the pieces and move forward.
Those of us with children on the autism spectrum tend to grieve over and over again at each new milestone that our child does not master like kids who are not on the spectrum.
The Elusive Nature of Autism
In part, what complicates our acceptance is the elusive nature of autism. So often our kids seem like all the other kids! We have good days, where we think maybe we have turned the corner, only to find that we are still having struggles. We have hurdles that we get over, only to find that there is a whole new set of hurdles right behind the ones we have just jumped.
None of us ever wants to give up hoping for the best for our child. But it can be helpful at some point to make the decision NOT to set ourselves up by expecting our child to magically join the life path of other kids their age.
Instead, educating ourselves so we can appreciate, understand and embrace our child autism included is a more reliable path to peace.
“Coming to terms with autism can be painful, but the truth is, the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate the beauty in the difference of our kids with ASD, and the easier it gets to navigate life with autism.”
Many parents simply don’t want to accept that their child is on the spectrum. There is still a lot of erroneous, but real stigma around a diagnosis or autism.
Making the decision to recognize, accept and learn to work with the differences presented by someone with ASD is much more effective, and much less complicated and less painful than continually expecting the individual to rebound and join the neurotypical path to life success.
While it may serve our children when we accept the diagnosis, that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Coming to terms with autism can be painful, but the truth is, the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate the beauty in the difference of our kids with ASD, and the easier it gets to navigate life with autism.
Even more importantly, it gets easier for us to help our kids to discover what they need to know to live happy and functional lives in the world.