I am a huge advocate for both my children; my oldest is on the Autism Spectrum. I believe many people are scared of the diagnosis. I was in the beginning as well. Though I also was searching for answers.
Why won’t my son talk to me like the other children his age?
Why does he sit and stare off into space for long amounts of time?
When my oldest son, L, was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum it was because I was determined to have someone help me learn how to parent my child. The diagnosis gave me the ability to understand Autism and it opened a window into my child’s mind.
One day a parent confided in me that her child was recently diagnosed being on the Autism Spectrum. I told her to treat the diagnosis the same way you would if your doctor told you she had asthma. You’d research it, you’d create safe environments for her, you may or may not need to medicate and most importantly you’d love her. She’s the same child. Now you just have an extra set of tools to help you parent her better.
I have learned so much about the human spirit by being L's mom. I believe that my heart has gotten bigger and my level of kindness and tolerance has doubled. It's hard not to. L isn't equipped with filters. He is honest about everything; the concept of lying or telling "little white lies" is lost on him. He says what he thinks. I am learning authenticity from him. When he hugs you or tells you that he loves you it isn't because it's out of habit or because he knows it will make you feel better. It's genuine. It's honest. It's his truth.
I’ve noticed that I desire to be around more people who can live authentically, people who speak their truth. It’s a cliché to say but life is too short to spend hours on small talk.
If you've ever talked to a child on the spectrum about something that interests them, it's as if they know everything about it. And they do. When L finds a new interest he dives head first into it and seems to not come up for air for quite a while. We live and breathe that topic for weeks, sometimes months. He's had quite a few phases; butterflies, superheros, most recently the Yu-Gi-Go.
It started with trains. This was one of my first "ah-ha" moments of realizing that L was different from his peers. While the other little boys were just as fascinated with Thomas the Train, L's fascination reached a deeper level. He only wanted to read books about trains, he had every Thomas episode memorized word for word and would reenact them on his train table with his actual trains. If you give the information to a child on the Autism Spectrum in a way that their brain can understand it, they will digest the knowledge at rapid speed.
I haven’t had the conversation where I explain to L his diagnosis. I’m waiting for him to organically ask the questions. Right now he will gladly tell you, “I’m endowed with special abilities.”
And that is exactly how I want him to see himself.
Having a child on the spectrum opens your eyes to all that you have been missing, or never took the time to notice. Parenting a child on the spectrum is different, but different can be pretty remarkable if you just take the time to understand it.
Gretchen Schock is a mom living in Greenbelt, MD, a writer and a yoga instructor. Check out her creative writings and crafty goodness on her blog, www.CocktailMom.com. Or come to a yoga class and be inspired!