Years ago… When our son was first diagnosed with Autism—this was before the DSM change—and when children weren’t being evaluated as young as they are now—he was diagnosed at 2.5.
Our son is now 14.
I bought into the belief that our son needed a cure—because I linked all of his challenges—poop smearing, aggressive behavior, inability to communicate verbally—all of that to Autism.
And surrounded myself with other like-minded moms. Which isn’t a bad thing. We all need community, especially after a diagnosis.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that a lot of the beliefs I’ve accepted, adopted, and thus, allowed to play out in my own life and our son’s—was never evaluated… by me.
What does it mean to raise an Autistic child? What does it mean to love an Autistic child?
As I embarked on my mindfulness journey, after first having been introduced to the stimulus-belief-response model and power dialogues at the ATCA, and then spending years learning from mindfulness teachers, reading countless books, and finally training to become a mindfulness teacher so I can help others…
What I’ve come to discover for myself is that to love someone is to simply accept them as they are. Not who we hoped they would be. Not who they will grow into in the future. But loving them for who they are at this moment.
There isn’t a layer of my son underneath his Autism. Autism is a part of who he is. Sure, he has his own set of challenges, but don’t we all?
Moms of Autistic children in particular are facing their own challenges: depression, anxiety, healing from childhood trauma, just to name a few. Which is why sharing self-caring practices for special needs mamas is so close to my heart.
We’ll continue to always work on life-fulling goals. Communication skills? Absolutely. Relational skills? You betcha. Daily living skills? Emotional regulation skills? Self-awareness? Mindfulness practices? Yes. Because what I’ve learned so far whilst raising two Autistic teenagers, is that the more in tune they are with their bodies, the better they’re able to recognize when it’s dysregulated. The more they recognize intrusive thoughts for what it is—the more empowered they feel when they understand that you can always choose otherwise. This is a continual process… which is why we call “mindfulness” a practice.
Once I removed that lens. My perspective shifted. How I engaged with our son shifted. And that was the real miracle. We tend to think of miracles as something that happens out there—outside of ourselves. But the real miracles happen within us.
And he became—and always was— simply another child to love. Another human being I’ve been chosen to raise.
And what is it that all children want? Isn’t it to simply be seen, to be heard, to feel valued, to know that they’re special but also that they belong, to contribute to their families and society… essentially to be loved.
These days, I’m focusing on how to help him feel seen. I want him to know that he matters as an individual, and that’s why inclusion and accessibility for all abilities is so important. We’re working on contributing to the family household, and to his classmates, so he feels purposeful. And of course, we’re working on having his voice heard—that’s why AAC devices, keyboarding, and letter boards are things we work on regularly.
To be seen.
To be heard.
And ultimately to feel loved.
We’re continuing to work on mindfulness practices, and introducing him to both his internal world and external world.
Many of us go through all of our lives, never understanding that “how we see the world, creates the world we see” (-Bears Kaufman author of Happiness is a Choice). And for our Autistic children? That is equally as important.
Related post: Embracing Your Child With Autism
You may also enjoy: Embracing My Two Autistic Children Who Are On Opposite Ends of the Spectrum
Always rootin’ for you on your special needs parenting journey!