Everyone is excited when a new baby is born. People come to visit, and the new baby gets a lot of attention. It is an exciting time for everyone. Then life starts to become normal again, back to routine, this time adding in another person. For parents who have a child on the Autism Spectrum, there comes a moment in time when you realize your child for some reason is different than the others at the playground. Then comes the statement, “Your child is on the Autism Spectrum.” Lives are forever changed, and life is now on a different journey, which no one can ever prepare for.
Vivid images come to my mind as I write each one of those statements. I can clearly remember where I was, who I was with, and what my thoughts were. Today, as I was driving, I began to reflect on our journey. It has had high, snow-capped mountaintops and low, green valleys. One constant factor has been the people who have crossed our paths along the way. From the very beginning, I noticed that people varied in their reactions/interactions with our family. Someone once stated, “I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. It turns out I have to teach the world about my child.” Being open and honest about Autism is the best way to go. Try to educate the people you encounter about your child. Putting your best foot forward is always a good way to start. Then, it is up to the other person how they respond.
We have had wonderful people enter our lives who have been supportive and encouraging. They ask questions and want to know about Autism. They accept our daughter for where she is at. They are great role models for our daughter to learn from. Encouragement, thoughtfulness, and kindness radiate from such friends. It has been a joy to share our journey with these people. I encourage you to be this type of a person if you know someone with special needs. You will not only bless that person but also their family.
Along our journey, we have also encountered people who are not so understanding. It is from these interactions that our family has grown, especially our daughter. It is hard to see your child go through difficult situations. Napoleon Hill once stated, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Teaching our daughter how to gracefully deal with and go through difficult situations with people who are not so understanding has been tough but rewarding. Recently, after going through a difficult experience that required a lot of talking and explaining, our daughter understood that not everyone is always nice and understanding. We were able to use the idiom, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and explain to her what it meant. Through our ABA training, we were told that a concept is truly learned if the person can identify it in another situation. It was exciting to see our daughter light up when she was able to identify a similar situation in a movie she was watching. Navigating social situations is a skill that needs to be taught to people on the Autism Spectrum. There are many ways to teach social skills, such as using social stories. We have used each real-life situation, whether positive or not, as a learning experience.
There is a famous saying that goes, “Some will, some won’t. So, what? Someone’s waiting! Next!”. This is a great quote to keep in mind when interacting with people. Some will be kind and understanding, therefore creating lasting friendships. Others won’t be so kind and understanding, which is just fine, but remember to move on. No matter where you are on your journey in life, this is a great life lesson to learn.