As we wrap up this year’s Autism Awareness Month I can’t help looking back at how my life has changed and how the affects of autism has changed our family. When my boys were younger, autism meant our days were filled with therapy appointments, physical, speech, occupational. And we were struggling, dealing with temper tantrums oftentimes in crowded places, frequent calls from the school, long visits with teachers and administrators, testing schedules, and wracking our brains for ways to make things better. We were constantly working on ways to get Thomas to speak more, scream less, use “nice hands,” remember to look people in the eye when he talked, etc. And try not to break everything.
Today, now that Thomas is in his teens, autism has come to mean other things to our family. The days are easier. The plans are in place. The speech is in place. The temper tantrums have faded. The school IEP is running smoother, though we still have our issues here and there. The phone calls have lessened to occasional emails. And the most disagreements we have are typical teen arguments over remembering to do homework before 8:00 p.m. Our conversations are more broad about getting outside more often, remembering to reach out to your friends and keeping up those relationships, taking time from your computer and ways to incorporate healthy food into a strict diet. We talk about the importance of communication, about friendships, about family time, about things going on in the world. Sometimes, Thomas will see news stories, that a typical teen would never even think twice about, like North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons for example, and that will keep him up at night with anxiety. Thomas loves history and loves knowing what’s going on in the world, but that comes with a price because he worries about things that typical young boys might not. We have lots of talks about prioritizing what we can and cannot control in life.
Also, this month we sat down to write my oldest son’s college essays and I was touched to read his perspective on his youngest brother’s diagnosis and how it’s affected him. He wrote about how Thomas has helped him develop into a young man with more patience and appreciation for people who are different and face more challenges. And how Thomas’s struggles have taught him to have an undeniable passion for the things he loves and wants to achieve in life. Autism has affected us all, and changed us all, and I know, made us stronger for it.
So as Autism Awareness Month 2018 comes to a close, I’m thankful for this moment to reflect back on how autism has changed our lives. A thing I never thought I would say. It hasn’t always been easy but we are a better, stronger, and I would even say a closer family for it. And looking back at all the challenges we’ve been through, I know there’s nothing we can’t handle.