When a child is diagnosed with Autism, often times there’s a grieving process for the parents. Their original expectations are drastically altered, sometimes in one moment, sometimes over the course of months or years. Grieving is important, if we don’t acknowledge how we feel about something deep at the core, we will never truly deal with it, and it may spring up at another inopportune time.
I’ve heard many Autism parents grieve the fact that they may never hear their child say, “I love you.” Like I said, grieving is okay, I understand it, I felt the same way, I said those words. I was saddened that I wouldn’t hear my son, Jeremiah, tell me those words every mom wants to hear. But then it changed.
My attitude changed because I’m privileged to have learned (and will forever be learning) from Autistic adults as well as other Autism parents who see the positives in Autism. I hadn’t been focused enough on those positives, I was seeing too much negative. My grieving was going too long,
I was in the “poor me” mentality.
While there’s a time and place for those feelings for some of us, it’s just that, a time and place for them. There are many moments when I’m frustrated, when I wish Jeremiah could tell me what he wants so he isn’t hitting me, banging his head against me, or trying to scratch me out of anger. I wish there wasn’t regression, I wish that if I stopped teaching and directing for one day that Jeremiah would still follow the “rules” of the house. I grieve for myself, that I don’t have down-time when I desperately want it. I grieve because no one seems to completely understand the life we live.
But life with Autism is so much richer when I see the wonderful, and there is an abundance of wonderful.
I can acknowledge those frustrations and grieve, then I need to move on and recognize what’s beautiful in him.
At some point in my journey through Autism, I heard an Autism mom say, “My child says ‘I love you,’ it’s just in his own way.” She was right! This was a profound moment for me. A moment I was looking for, yearning for, was already in front of me. Jeremiah was already telling me he loves me, I just wasn’t listening. This was my problem, not his. Can I tell you the joy I felt? The angst that was lifted from my heart?
This has happened on more than one occasion, this heavy feeling of “He will never” being lifted from me and being turned into something beautiful and special.
Yes, there are obstacles that come with having a child with special needs, but there are also so many exceptional moments, and life lessons we learn that no one else gets to. When Jeremiah (age five) does something he’s never done before, something that an infant or toddler might do, it’s euphoria. I experience moments no typical parent witnesses. When Jeremiah laughs at something someone said, it’s pure joy. When he communicates by leading me by the hand or using my hand to point to something he wants, I’m elated.
See, Jeremiah does communicate, it happens to be in a different way than a typical child. He tells me he loves me every day when he “asks” me to do something for him, when he smiles at me, when he laughs at the silly nickname I’ve given him, or when he sits in my lap. In all of these moments and so much more, he’s telling me he loves me.
Not all of you have a child who will hug you, or look you in the eyes and smile, or respond with a grin when you say his nickname, but I hope you can find the ways your child tells you he loves you.
An Autistic adult made a list of things typical people should just assume about the Autistic individual. I’ve tried in vain to go back and find who wrote it, but can’t, however, I do know it was written on an Autism Facebook page that supports positive thinking in regards to the disABILITY. On the list, she wrote that we should assume that the person who has Autism loves us if we love them and show them we care and love them.
How does your child say “I love you”?
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*A note about my terminology. Autistic vs. Has Autism – In the adult Autistic community I’ve heard it said countless times that they prefer to be called Autistic. The parents of Autistic children say “use person first language.” I respect the Autistic adults opinion, as they are the ones living with what my son has. I also understand where the Autism parents are coming from, I felt the same way. I used to only us the phrase, “My son has Autism,” but I know use both references interchangeably. I don’t feel there’s a right way or wrong way.
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