Everyone in life eventually learns big lessons. For those of us who become parents there are lessons specific and unique that we learn when it comes to rearing another human life. But this post is dedicated to the parents, grandparents, and guardians of children with autism, and for the people out there that have an interest in learning a little more about the spectrum. So I posed this question to a number of people: What is one thing being a parent of a child with autism as taught you?
For me, someone who’s first child was neurotypical I’ve learned to celebrate the small stuff. I so regret not learning that lesson with my older son. I remember the milestones with my first son and celebrating those, his first steps, his first words, etc. But when was the first time he held a spoon the right way in his hand, pointed at a car, said I love you? I don’t remember because I took it for granted… that those things would just happen, and they did. But I wish now that I could go back and record every little thing because now I realize those “little” things were just as big and exciting and important as his first steps.
Having a child with special needs has taught me not to worry about what he can’t do and focus on what he can. There are so many things he can’t do, but I’ve learned that when I put my focus and energy into what he is capable of there is celebration everyday. My autistic child may not be able to say hello, or use a spoon, but you have to admit it’s got to take a lot of intelligence for a non-verbal 4 1/2 year old who struggles with over-stimulation and motor skills to figure out how to show us and teach us what he wants and needs every single day. I’ll never forget the first time he pointed at a puzzle piece, or arranged the letters of the alphabet without any guidance. These things I expected and took for granted with my first son and I’ll always regret that. But I’ve learned my lesson, throw those milestones out the window and be thankful for every little thing.
Here are some of the answers I got in reply to the question I asked “What is one thing being a parent of a child with autism has taught you?”
“I would say the one thing I’ve learned is that autism effects everyone in your family, and it changes they way you function as a family, and that’s ok. Trying to have a typical family life is very hard when you have a child that won’t sleep at night, or who has to have things just so, or who can’t go to birthday parties or other things people typically do with their children. Trying to be that family is something I’ve had to let go, for my own sanity. And we created a new style of family, where we all participate, and help, and make sacrifices, and we are happier for it. I’ve learned to go with the flow.” ~ Jaymee L
“Being a parent of an autistic child has emphasized the importance of observation, listening and response.” ~ Jacque McCurdy
“Being a parent of an autistic child has taught me not to judge others by what you see. You never know how hard it is for others or what disabilities they may be dealing with unless you are in their shoes.” ~ Cindy
“Being the grandmother/guardian of an autistic child has taught me what really matters in life. The dinner dishes will wait till after my little guy is in bed. The more time we can spend communicating, the better life gets.” ~ Carla Mann-Townsend
“Appreciate the now and not to sweat the later.” ~ AshleyHope Hudgins-Tarantino
“Its taught me never to take anything for granted. anything. ever” ~ Melanie Husted
“To appreciate the little things.” ~ MaryJo Malczewski
“To see the world through new eyes, not put everyone in a box, there is beauty in difference and different is beautiful.” ~ Carole
“That normal for my family has changed and that is okay for my sons and I.” ~ Lyla Carnathan-Gollihar
“Patience. The patience to learn, understand & accept. The patience to let him be who he is & will be.” ~ Stuart Duncan
“When times get tough, and food runs short, the loudest children are first into the stew pot. A life lesson for any child.” ~ John Elder Robison