I have a topic that is weighing heavy on my heart. It is something I think about a lot because it profoundly affects my life daily as a parent of a child that has autism. My son is a loving, sweet, stubborn, smart, and unique boy that has a brain and body that sometimes don’t always work in sync. He struggles with feeding, motor skills, sensory processing disorder, auditory sensitivities and auditory processing disorder. Each day he struggles to find effective ways to communicate, how to find his words, how to have appropriate social interactions with others and how to control his overwhelming impulses to seek and avoid sensory stimuli. Our lives are not easy, and we work tirelessly with therapy to help him gain skills. Despite all of his challenges, our struggles as parents to help him, the medical expenses of treatment, and my inability to work to manage his schedule – I would not take any radical measures to cure my son of Autism.
There are a lot of “theories” of what causes Autism, but scientists still have not identified the cause or any effective methods for treating Autism. If you go on to any Autism Parent board, you will see a broad range of speculative talk about what causes Autism. I understand the drive to want to uncover the cause because typically cause means we can find a solution to fix the problem. Unfortunately, even if we do identify the cause, it’s highly unlikely that there is anything that can effectively change how the brain processes and functions. Parents will go to lengths to have their children drink bleach, remove heavy metals from their brain via chelation, or try other experimental treatments that doctors promise will cure their child. There can be overwhelming desperation in parenting a child with Autism, especially when you are dealing with violence, meltdowns, and children being unable to function at a high level. A part of me understands these measures these parents take to help their child, but then another part of me gets highly offended.
My child is moderately affected by Autism, and we have good and bad days. However, even on our worst days, I never want to cure my kid of Autism. I don’t look at my child as a broken individual that needs to be fixed. My son is a child that needs guidance and therapy to help him learn skills. We can work together to learn to communicate effectively, manage his impulses and sensory overload, and help him understand the importance of social interaction. These aspects of his life do make our day to day more challenging, but these are just a portion of what Autism has given to him. He also has an eidetic memory, intense focus on areas of interest, a happy disposition, a loving heart, and high level of intelligence. He is determined to learn and will try harder than anyone I know to master any area of interest. We work on his challenging areas in his development, and we praise and encourage him to explore the where he excels.
My view on Autism has less to do with it as an affliction that has robbed my child of his thoughts and feelings, but a platform that will enable him to see the world in an entirely different way. He will be able to find ways to cope in time, and we will push through all of the struggles. I am focused on spending my time as a parent as productively as possible, and I don’t want him to look back and say, “Why didn’t mommy just accept me for who I was?” The most valuable advice my son’s therapist ever gave me was to always speak to him and about him positively. His inner voice will become what I say about him and to him. That was a turning point for me as a parent to realize that I had no choice but to embrace who my son was and love every single aspect of him. I will never be found saying that I hate my son’s Autism, that I want a cure, or that I would give up anything for him to be neuro-typical. If he hears me say those things, he will start to doubt himself, and his self-esteem will suffer.
It is not easy to always live in a place where I chose to be positive about our life, but the thought of me saying or doing anything that could make his life harder would be enough to kill me. I will push through all of this, and I will embrace every single inch of Autism. It is hard for me to read and see other parents that are taking a route differently than mine. I try hard not to judge their choices, and I pray with every fiber of my being that they will find peace in their hearts to accept their child instead of trying to cure them. Autism doesn’t have to be a negative blanket that covers our lives. It doesn’t have to swallow us whole, suffocate who we are, and take away our own identities. We have the power to help our children in productive ways that enable the best possible outcomes for their lives. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults, and not all of them will be profoundly affected by their disability. Many will be able to work and will be able to find independence with their unique skill set. Many Autistic Adults are making incredible contributions to the world. We need to stop looking at this as a disability that takes away their life. Yes, it makes things more complicated, but they can still be happy and healthy humans.
If you are a parent that is stuck in despair and anger, I strongly urge you to seek professional help for you and your child. I found for my family we needed both a therapist for my son and another one for me. I work on my feelings, thoughts, and frustrations with the help of an excellent therapist. As a family, we work on all the challenges in Family therapy. I am a huge proponent that there is never TOO MUCH therapy and mental health help to assist any family. Never be too proud to reach out for help. There are many resources at your disposal via the internet, your local social services department, your school district, and private therapy centers. Nothing about this road will be easy, but your attitude is in your full control. I would encourage you to keep your head up and focused on the future. One day I am sure most of us will look back and smile at how far our children have progressed. Don’t forget one day your child will become an adult, and one day they will ask you questions about the choices you made. Try to choose to help them, love them, and try not to be angry at them or their Autism. They can’t change their neuro type, so it’s better to embrace them than to fight them.