Monday, April 18, 2011

What I Have Learned from Autism

Child Health has asked for parents to write about what they have learned from their autistic children.  Of course, this got me immediately thinking about what I would say that I have learned from having a son with autism.  Here is the list I will be submitting.  For each entry, they are donating $1 to Autism Speaks.  It's a great cause.  Anyway, this can't possibly be a complete list, but I wanted it in writing before I forgot some of the best ones:

What Joey Has Taught Me

  • To accept the unimaginable
  • To love without condition
  • To believe that it's okay to be different
  • To be flexible when he can't
  • To say "yes, you can" when he says "no, I can't"
  • To believe he will achieve more than they said he would, because he always does
  • To say to the experts, "You don't know it all."
  • To be amazed at empathy in other children
  • To educate the uneducated
  • To never believe that autism is defined as "less than"
  • To comfort my son when he is hurt or confused
  • To cheer his successes and encourage him to work through his weaknesses
  • To take a break sometimes and try again tomorrow
  • To let go when it's time to let go
  • To allow fear and pride to co-exist
  • To laugh when life is silly
  • To cry when life is hard
  • To rejoice in every step forward and goal achieved
Joey has taught me to be his protector, his advocate, his champion, his guide, and his soft place to land.  Mostly, Joey has taught me that he is perfectly my child, the child that was chosen for me before he was born, the child that I never knew was missing until he was here, the child God picked out for me because he knew we would be the right family and I would be the right mother for this special gift we have been given.

I have learned more about what it means to be a mother since having Joey than I learned with my older two children combined.  There is more instructing, more involvement, more mothering, more everything.  And I really like that.  Having Joey gave me one more chance to do this mothering thing right.  And, as a bonus, his older brothers have more empathy for people others see as different (in a bad way) than children who were not raised with an autistic sibling.  My older sons are also Joey's protectors and that makes me think I have done something right.

But, mostly what Joey has taught me more than anything is that Joey is just Joey.  And "just Joey" is absolutely perfect.

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