In the 10+ years since Sweet B’s diagnosis, I’ve learned quite a bit about autism and about myself. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of anger, a bit of guilt and a bit of grief. There has also been a lot of joy and personal growth. I’ve shared a few things in the past, like dealing with the initial diagnosis and in the Autism A to Z series, I’ve also shared a bit of our story. This started as a personal blog, so I still like to keep some of my personal stories present. That’s why today I’m sharing 10 things that autism has taught me. If I really sat down and thought about it, I could probably write a book… but we’ll start with a blog post. These are just a few lessons learned from being the parent of an autistic child.
Initially, I never would have said that my daughter’s diagnosis was a positive thing. It wasn’t something that I was going to celebrate and I doubt that you could find a cake in the store that would say: Congratulations on Your Child’s Autism! It’s just not something that you would want to celebrate. But, now it’s something that I can at least look at somewhat positively.
By looking for the joy in the every day and by appreciating the lessons that I’ve learned.
10 Things That Autism Has Taught Me
1. Strength. Autism has taught me strength in so many ways. Not being physically strong, but how to be emotionally and mentally strong. There have been days where I was pulling my hair out and days that I just wanted to give up. But my daughter needed me and that kept me going.
2. Perfection is overrated. I am a bit of a perfectionist so this one was definitely a hard pill to swallow. But I had to accept that in order to function. While I would ideally want everything to be perfect- it’s just not possible.
3. Plans will be ruined- and that’s okay. Even if I would love to be able to plan something to the very last minute and detail, sometimes it just won’t happen. And that’s okay. I have learned to be flexible and to accept that it’s not always going to go as intended. Yes, routines and schedules are still important (perhaps more so for my daughter than me) but even when those don’t go as planned; I need to remember that it’s okay.
4. Anger is okay. I’ve learned to accept and embrace my emotions. I’m only human and they happen. The main thing is how I deal with my emotions. And instead of holding them in, I need to learn to let it go.
5. There is joy in every day. Sometimes you just might have to squint a little to find it. But appreciating every day and finding the joy in every day things has been crucial. Instead of focusing on the things that my autistic daughter cannot do, I focus on the things that she can do.
6. Expectations will need to be lowered. This applies to expectations I have of myself, of people in my life, and those around me. I can’t always set these lofty expectations and then expect for people to meet them. And the same holds true for myself. Yes, setting goals and having higher standards is great… but I also need to be realistic- which brings me to lesson number 7.
7. Some days the glass is half full and some days it’s half empty and some days it’s best to just be appreciative that you have a glass. It’s okay to be a skeptic and it’s okay to be a little cynical and pessimistic. It’s also okay to be a little optimistic. The important thing is to find a balance. I try to be a realist and keep that point of view with everything. On the days that are particularly trying, I remember what I’m grateful for and count my blessings.
8. Patience is a virtue that I don’t always have. My patience threshold has been tested numerous times but it has also increased. I have never been known for my patience but with autism, I’ve learned that I need to have it.
9. Being stubborn is not always a bad thing. I have always been a stubborn and willful person. This has worked both for and against me. But as a parent of a child with autism… being stubborn, when applied in the right situation, is a good thing. It’s helped me to be more firm when I’m advocating for my daughter.
10. Tomorrow is another day. Some days, no matter how hard you try or no matter how much you want them to be different- just aren’t going to work out that way. And that’s okay. That’s why there’s tomorrow. So you can start fresh.
Autism has taught me a lot- about myself, about being a parent, and about life in general. These were just 10 things that autism has taught me… but there are probably hundreds more. Being a parent of an autistic child is a challenge and there are new skills that I pick up with each passing day.
This post was originally published on April 15, 2015 and was updated on February 29, 2016.