Here’s my advice to parents of children with autism. Most importantly, love your children in the moment. Individuals with autism change from minute to minute. Be present in each moment. Accept that life will have its challenges, but remember to reach for the stars. Never put limitations on yourself or your child.
Ignore what you have read, heard, or Googled. Your child is unique. He or she has limitless gifts and talents, even if those gifts aren’t the most obvious or conventional. Love the quirky, weird, geeky. Embrace your child’s love for Legos, collection of rocks, vast knowledge of dinosaurs. You might be surprised by what your child has learned about his or her speciﬁc interests. Foster those interests. In the future these interests may turn into a job opportunity for your son or daughter.
Laugh through life. Having two daughters with autism, I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed. Stop, take a breath, and laugh. When my youngest daughter empties out her eraser collection with over 500 tiny pieces, it’s easy to freak out about the mess. Instead, I try to look at what she is doing with the erasers. Within seconds a smile creeps across my face. Often the erasers are divided into very speciﬁc categories. My daughter usually has an equally elaborate story to go along with her creation. I am amazed by how her mind sees the world.
Celebrate everything! My husband and I cheered excitedly when my daughter ﬁnally learned how to tie her own shoes. Which brings me to another point, don’t compare your child to your neighbor, friend, or dentist’s child. When my oldest daughter with autism turned three, she still wasn’t potty trained. Every play group, trip to the park, grocery shopping run brought some sort of scrutiny. As my daughter approached four, I felt as if every toddler in the world was using the toilet. I ﬁnally stopped comparing my daughter to every other, supposedly potty trained at six months old, child. Talk about a celebration when my daughter learned to use the potty! Oh happy day!!
The truth is we are all different. We are all unique. Everyone has challenges and setbacks. Autism can be your worst enemy or your best friend. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of thirty-six. Two of my three daughters were diagnosed with autism at an early age. Being able to see the world as my daughters see it, is a gift I do not take for granted. We celebrate autism in our home every day. My daughters are funny, talented, and perfect just the way they are. Love the different! Be proud of your child’s uniqueness! Celebrate the gifts autism has given your family.
Remember, nobody has the “perfect” child.
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