April 20, 2015 by Kelly
I would call myself a reluctant advocate for autism awareness. You might wonder why I would use the word “reluctant.” Well, my reluctance comes from the fact that I never wanted to be one, an autism awareness advocate. I didn’t want to be a “parent with a cause.” I didn’t want to have a special ribbon on my car or “light it up blue” during the month of April. And I didn’t want to be here, the voice of a parent with a child who has autism. But after I became one, I realized no one does. None of us planned this, this challenge, this life. And we can either fall apart or join together. And eventually, you make the choice, whether conscious or not, to keep going.
And you know what? Given the chance I’d do it again.
My name is Kelly, I’m 40 years old and I am the mother of three boys. I have been married since the year I graduated from college to my high school sweetheart, Brian. And our youngest, Thomas, who is 10-years-old, has autism. We didn’t always know he had autism, we didn’t know what was different about him or how to handle it. We tried, failed, triumphed, gave in and sometimes gave up but the one thing I do know is that I wouldn’t change it – this hand we were dealt. I always wondered why people would say they wouldn’t “change” something that others see as less than desirable. But I get it now. Because when you’ve been given a challenge of something like autism in your life, it has the gift of putting everything else into perspective. All the annoying bad things in life, the missing socks, broken bicycle chains, the traffic snarls, parenting a child with autism give you perspective over all that. Maybe you learn to not sweat the small stuff as much, maybe you learn your own tolerance level, or maybe you learn your capacity for love is greater than you ever knew. Whatever the challenges, the diagnosis, like it or not, has its gifts. It’s just a matter of how you view them.
I’m writing this blog on behalf of my friends at New Horizons Professional ABA Therapy with the hope that we might start a discussion about parenting a special needs child. I hope that other parents might be able to learn from some of our stories about Thomas. I am not here to write about how I always got it right, because goodness knows, I don’t have all the answers. But maybe the blog will give someone hope. We have had our dark days, days we never thought we would make it through, but we did. We have all triumphed over incredible challenges, and we’re here now with experiences to share. And I hope I can give that gift to someone else. I know when Thomas was diagnosed over 7 years ago I really needed a place to read about other people’s stories and to know that it gets better. So I will be sharing stories here about Thomas, about what it’s like to weave through the mystery that is your child. And I will ask some of my friends, other parents with kids on the spectrum, to share their stories. So we can all learn. Because if there’s one thing I know is “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” That’s a quote by Dr. Stephen Shore and I find it to be perfectly true. Just like all children, kids on the spectrum are all as unique as a snowflakes. But at the same time, we can learn from each other’s challenges, we can connect with each other and maybe in the end, we can give each other hope. Because I know that’s what I once needed. A little hope.