Count Your Blessings

A number of years ago I received a call at home from a mom who wanted to talk to me about her son. Nothing unusual about that; I received many similar calls due to my association with the Parents of Autistic Children (PAC) support group. What was unusual was that her 2-year-old with autism was one of a set of quads! After I picked myself up off the floor, I asked her how in the world she managed to keep her sanity with four “terrible two’s,” one of whom was on the spectrum. I could sense her smiling through the phone when she replied, “Who says I’m sane? I just put on a good act!”

I’ve thought about her often over the years, especially when I’m having a particularly rough day. Her kids are grown by now, but I’ve lost touch so haven’t been able to follow their progress (or hers!). I’d like her to know that she made me realize that I needed to count my blessings because I didn’t have it so bad after all. And I guess that’s the lesson here…no matter what you are going through, there is usually someone struggling through worse scenarios (at least through someone else’s eyes).

Learning to accept that your life will take a different route once you receive an ASD diagnosis is difficult at first. We all project expectations on our children when they are born, some realistic and some not, but all based on our hopes and dreams for them. Finding out that some hopes and dreams may not materialize can really take the wind out of your sails. We talk about the grieving process in our Autism Orientations and discuss the different stages you may encounter on your journey. It’s important to go through that process in order to come out on the other side with a renewed sense of hope and new dreams for the future. They may even be better dreams than you had before.

This new path can be difficult, but it can also be extremely rewarding in ways you might never have imagined. The first time your child says “I love you” unprompted. The day you can finally say he is potty trained and you can kiss those diapers goodbye (not literally!). The moment you see her using her imagination to pretend play with her dolls. These are all things that most parents acknowledge but then quickly move on with their lives. Not us! We savor these moments as if they were life changing milestones, because they are. We know how much work went into making them happen, and we feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and hope. I know for a fact that I would not have been as involved in my son’s school and extracurricular life had it not been for his autism. And you know what? I would have missed a whole lot, so I’m extremely thankful that his diagnosis made me take a more active part.

Josh has a shirt someone gave him that he loves because it’s big and warm and comfy. I like what’s written on it…”So I’m not an astronaut.” No, he’s not, but not many people are. He is, however, sweet, lovable, funny, and has a terrific memory. He is a work in progress, and I am so very thankful he came into our lives and made them better. All those “firsts” he achieved are permanently imprinted on his dad’s and my brain because each one was a new fork in the road of his life.

I hope you will also savor every memorable moment of your child’s development and count your blessings. Just remember the lady with the quads!


Carolyn Shindler

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