Friday, May 18, 2012

What They Don't Tell you About Autism

I spend most of my writing time discussing ideas, tips and advice regarding autism-parenting. And after writing over a hundred articles about the subject I began to think about all the aspects of autism we as writers (and even parents) don’t discuss. Overall your perception changes, and your view of the world. Nothing is black and white anymore. But it’s not so much that life is grey, but rather it’s multi-dimensional. You gradually accept you can’t understand what you don’t have a full understanding.  There may have been a time when you would jump to judgment over the bad things people do, politics, various reports and articles you read; but now you realize you don’t know the whole story. You realize knee-jerk reactions just contribute to problems and feed the same anger and hate, which people claim to be offended about.

Autism makes you more understanding, empathetic, and open minded. Autism can make you hyper-aware of behavior and motivations in people, children and even animals. This starts early on, when you are trying to reach your child. You have to tap into to your empathetic nature and you need to be open because it's the way in. From doing this you begin to realize your own judgments tell a story about yourself. You now know you don't have all the answers and no one does; you cannot understand what is happening in everyone else's lives since you aren't in their lives. Judgement is one of the first things you let go.

You become more observant to people’s idiosyncrasy and how everyone has quirks, sensory issues, stims and does things to help balance themselves. This leads to understanding addicts more, since those choices are fueled by imbalances in the brain. You understand yourself more, and all bad behavior in children. This isn’t just in the area of addiction, whether its smoking, drugs, alcohol, food or shopping, but all things.  Because you have this ability to understand without judgment you can then focus on the solutions, instead of the problems.

Autism helps your realize you will try almost anything, which leads to lowering your comfort zone for trying other new things. You can see how there were activities you would never consider before but now suddenly it seems silly to not try. Overall autism will make you more peaceful and more stressed out.

You will change what you believed about friendship. You will realize how much deeper it can go, how you will find friendship in places you may not have thought. You will bond with people who go through what you do. You will forgive people who you originally wrote off as a ‘bad friend’, but you will remember who to spend your limited time.

You will disregard some of your previous beliefs. This can even come in the area of your budgeting and financial attitude. You will change how your define responsibility. You realize there are more things you can do without than you ever thought. Clothing and shoes can last a lot longer than your realize, and furniture is more for function. Autism makes you more conservative with your resources, but more liberal with your love.

Things you took for granted before you no longer do. You will spend a lot of your time being grateful, you will spend a lot of your time feeling worried. You will feel uncomfortable about looking into the future; you may not look forward to things as you did before, not the feeling of excitement because you have been taught all new things are problems. But you will still find some peace in this; you will still feel happy if you let yourself.

You will cry for happiness and pride, and you will cry from frustration and stress.

You may find yourself at a loss of words at times to explain to others exactly why it is as challenging as it is. People will tell you to treat special needs kids like any other, but they aren’t like other kids. And you are no longer like other parents. The rules are different. Even with the similarities, the challenges of 20 children can never measure up to the challenge of one who is autistic. It’s a different world. Much of what you learned about social rules and benefits as being part of society, or as a parent are suddenly gone, those rules don’t exist. So the way you should expect to be treated by your child is gone, it doesn’t exist for you. You will not have what your friends have. But in essence, you will have more.

Autism isn’t a death sentence; it isn’t something horrible that happened to you or your child. It certainly doesn’t “wreck your life”, but it can wreck some moments. It is a challenge and it is completely ok to feel terrible about it at times, just like anything. As long as you let it go and do not let it become who you are.  One of my favorite quotations is by Maya Angelou, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Your life is how you define it.