Why did this happen to me?
How to go from victim to victor when your child has autism
Your dreams for your child began early, before you even met your spouse. Perhaps they began in childhood when you donned your mom’s heels and pushed your dolls in a carriage. Your dreams revolved around happiness and contentment, where you were able to meet your child’s needs with love, hugs, kisses, food and tender words.
Then reality hit hard. Your child wasn’t contented with breastfeeding or a bottle. He didn’t sleep peacefully with a swaddle or a book and kiss good night. It became clear that you were the caretaker of an absent soul, who fluctuated between lethargic and hyperactive, perhaps spinning in circles. He didn’t use words for communication. And then there was the incessant crying or screaming… or perhaps just silence.
The dreams didn’t match the reality. The diagnosis: autism spectrum disorder.
No one would argue that there is a period of adjustment, even grief, over the realization that life as you know it now wasn’t what you envisioned. No one would blame you for taking time to adjust. But your child is your child, and your dreams were solely your dreams. Some parents learn much later in life that their child is not responsible for fulfilling their dreams. You have to learn it now, and fast. You cannot afford to spend years in grief or denial. It’s time to take action.
· Realize that your dreams are yours. If you want to help your child, do it because you want to. Wake up every day wanting to fight for their health, happiness and development as a human being because you desire the best for them. Do it with joy! Doing it because you have to results in resentment, animosity or martyrdom, and no child wants to feel or be told later that somehow they owe you, or that they somehow ruined your life. Ouch!
· Ask yourself what is truly important. Once you’ve made your choice, own it! Have the wisdom and the courage to build your life around the answer. If you choose recovery, it will take years, and many resources. You will face criticism within and outside of your family, and you will have to rise above all of it, no matter how hurtful. The people who choose to try to recover a child from autism typically do so because their life is unbearable, and the pain of remaining where they are is far worse than the energy required to take the steps needed to improve the situation.
· You will have to fight for your child’s recovery. No one will do it for you. No doctor will be there 24/7 to make decisions for you. No therapist will be in your home day and night to do the hard work for you. You will have helpers, for sure, but you are responsible for organizing, directing, training, and mastering the process accessing the medical interventions, followed by implementing the educational and behavioral interventions necessary. Be ready to take on that leadership role.
If you choose to pursue recovery, bring all your gifts and talents to the process. Make it fun for yourself, because enthusiasm is contagious. Your child will sense your positive (or negative) attitude. And be prepared to go beyond what you’ve mastered, your comfort zone, because otherwise, you will never grow. You will be asking your child to go outside his comfort zone as well, and it is helpful for you to understand what this feels like.
Making a big life change is scary. What is even worse is regret. So, do everything you can so that your child can reach his God-given potential, and do it all for you. Because in reality, these are your hopes and dreams.