5 Things I’ve Learned from Parenting a Child with Autism
Parenting a child, and now an adult, with autism has been a rollercoaster of a ride. It has been a challenging road that I never could have imagined for myself. Despite the challenges, I have learned more about myself and the world around us than I ever could have imagined.
My oldest daughter is now 19. She was diagnosed with autism right around her 5th birthday, sending us on a journey of ups and downs that no one could prepare me for. Here are a few things raising a child with autism has taught me.
1. Things will never go as planned- I had big visions for our future, complete with frilly dresses and dance classes. I imagined my daughter in ballet by age two and mother-daughter shopping trips during her teens. By age two my daughter was just learning to walk, now in her teens, her version of a shopping trip is going to one store to look for one thing that she already has in ten other shapes and sizes. What I envisioned is no where near reality. Changing the big dreams about our future has helped me to be perfectly okay with the little changes that happen throughout the day.
2. Appreciate the little things- As I mentioned, my daughter walked at age two. She didn't talk until age five and made eye contact with me for the first time at age eight. We waited a long time for each and every milestone which made me appreciate them all that much more. We cheer for small things like the correct pencil grip and remembering to put on a coat when it's cold. I will forever be grateful for the change in focus she has given me.
3. Different is okay- I have always be a quiet, self-conscious person. My daughter is loud and generally unaware of her surroundings. She has taught me to be comfortable standing out in a crowd and that all of our differences should be embraced. Her unique brain has given me a whole knew way to look at our life and the people in it.
4. Accept people as they are- When my daughter interacts with people she rarely notices the clothing they wear or the color or their hair. She loves people who are nice to her, plain and simple. She would never judge you for your behavior. It's refreshing to have someone in your life who does not let society influence any of her decisions.
5. Even your worst day could be someone else's best- Was my day long? Did it take me forever to write an article or did I burn dinner? Possibly, but the sound of the vacuum does not send me into a meltdown. I can handle bright lights and a tag in the back of my shirt. The small things that we have to overcome each day seem so much smaller when we are with someone, day in and day out, who has to overcome so much more just to function.
Do you know someone with autism? What have they taught you?
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