Life lessons my autistic son has taught me

7 March 2016

Dear friend,

My son inspires me every day; his strength and resilience, his humour and his trust, drive me to be a better person. As with everything, when I stop focusing on the autism and focus on my son it becomes easier. Who is teaching who here? Life lessons my autistic son has taught me...

Persevere: it amazes me how the big lad just keeps going. Learning to ride his bike, using a knife and fork, climbing the frame at the park, learning to swim, it may take longer but he gets there. It makes me ashamed of my failed attempts at painting, playing piano, learning dutch...

Prioritise: Pick your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff. As a perfectionist this is difficult but I am learning what is really important in the scale of things and sometimes choices have to be made e.g. academic versus social progression, special v 'normal' school, trying something new v eating pizza again.

Expect the unexpected: just when you think you know how the big lad will react he surprises you. His reaction can not be predicted. I can tie myself in knots trying to protect my child but the unexpected response is sometimes a blessing. I have learned that I cannot plan for every eventuality. I can not always be in control.

Take time out for yourself: after a long day at school the big lad needs time out. For him this is usually playing on the wii. I am learning to take time for myself but this remains a challenge. It is too easy to ignore our own needs and prioritize others but I am learning to step away from the iron.

Keep a positive attitude: my son approaches every new challenge with a smile on his face, full of fun, enthusiasm and mischief. A positive attitude helps you cope more easily with the challenges life throws at you. It makes it easier to avoid worries.  

Accept help: at big lad's last review meeting there were ten people present. Over the last 4 years he has seen many therapists, psychologists and Drs. He accepts the help without question. We are learning to open up and ask for help too. Asking for help is not weakness, it is a strong person that acknowledges their vulnerability. 

Forgive & Forget:  Give people the benefit of the doubt and accept them for who they are. No judging, no recriminations. Everyone makes mistakes. The big lad is incredibly loyal, a friend is a friend, no matter what.

Love Unconditionally: I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming, all encompassing, crippling love that you feel when your child is born. There are times when I feel that the strength of my love is being tested by the big lad. As the saying goes, you always hurt the people you love the most. But being a parent has taught me the real meaning of unconditional love: choosing to love someone for who their really are positive and negative points. 

Be yourself: there is a massive amount of pressure on us to conform, to follow the majority, to fit in. It takes a huge amount of courage and self belief to go against the majority to stay true to yourself. Autistic children have no falseness about them. He is not striving to fit in, to be normal, he is only striving to be himself!

Challenge yourself: step outside of your comfort zone. Do things that you didn't think you could. Try new things. But mostly challenge those stereotypes and don't be limited by others expectations or beliefs. 

Reach for the stars!

What has being a parent taught you? Let me know in the comments. 

This is a revised post that was originally published in February 2015.

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