WHAT MY SON HAS TAUGHT ME...
I started writing this in April which was Autism awareness month but May is also an important month…with mother’s day and most importantly, It will mark my son’s 21st birthday. This blog is dedicated to my son Merv who was diagnosed with PDDNOS (pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified) at the age of 2.To put it in simple terms , he is on the Autism spectrum.
To learn more about Autism and the early signs, please visit :http://www.autism-society.org/
The past 20 years has been quite a roller coaster dealing with his diagnosis.We’ve had our share of tears, laughter, achievments and failures along the way.I know that you could say that of any child but when you have a child with special needs, it takes it to a whole new level! You constantly go through the ‘high's’ and the ‘lows’. I have learnt so much from him over the years and it has changed me as a person (for the better…I think) in so many ways!
Here are a few I would like to share:
It is defined as affection without any limitations or conditions
The classic example of unconditional love is between a parent and child, so any parent can attest to this, but with a special needs child it magnifies the term and totally puts it to the test! You love your child even on those not so good days, when you know you would never get an ‘I love you’ from a nonverbal child or a hug from a child with sensory issues.With Merv we get a lot of love through his hugs, maybe a peck on the cheek or sometimes even a ‘loving punch’ on the arm! Ouch!
Well, this one is quite simple.Who doesn’t agree you need patience, patience and more patience when you are dealing with a child with special needs? People tend to say I have a lot of patience and that’s why God chose me to be his mother! Hmm ..I don’t think so! It is something I learned along the way. Patience needs practice and sure enough, I got a lot of it :)
When you have a child who does not show any physical disability it is easy for people to judge them based on their behavior.I am sure we all have seen that child with melt downs in a store and think maybe he needs some discipline! I would have thought the same, if I did not have a child on the autism spectrum.So now I have learned not to judge anyone based on their looks, talk or behavior, because you never know what they are going through .
Never underestimate anyone
Even though I know my son understands more than he experesses, sometimes I am guilty of underestimating him.I do have to correct myself from time to time.There have been so many instances where he has proved me wrong! For instance, when he had to have braces a few years ago, almost everyone including the physicians thought it was impossible.I was not sure either, but like any strong willed special mom, I thought we will give it a try . Needless to say Merv did an excellent job completing the treatment over a span of 2 years, with the help of some great staff at the Orthodontist.
Children in general have so much resilience don’t they? I remember when I used to work for the Pediatrician, I saw children come in so sick one day and return completely recovered and happy the next day.Merv too has this immense ability to recover from whatever challenges he faces. He has been through so much in the past 20 years and his resilience amazes me!
laughter is contageous
A happy Merv not only smiles a lot, but also makes us laugh with his silliness and pranks.He reminds us not to take life too seriously and to see the humor in every day things. When he walks in the mall or stores with a grin, I have seen very serious looking people staring at him and immediatley changing their reaction to a smile.Its contageous!!
this too SHALL PASS
We go through different challenges with behaviors, sleep patterns, food habits etc on and off. Some may be harder than the others.I constantly remind myself that its just a phase, which will pass and it eventually does! This reminder came in so handy when I was going through my own challenges during my treatment.
You could say this of life in general, but very often we compare childern. I have learned over the years that comparisons only hurt and doesn’t help the child, whether it is with a typical peer or peers with special needs My son has taught me that every child is unique, special and different with the emphasis on DIFFERENT! They say, if you meet one child with autism, you met one child with autism, meaning each child is unique and different.So we need to celebrate their individuality and achievements,which brings me to the next one.
CELEBRATE THE SMALL ACHIEVEMENTS:
In ABA (Applied behavior analysis) for children with Autism, there is a technique wherein you teach the task in small sequential steps which ultimately leads to the desired behavior. Every little step or behavior the child completes is so important because without them there is no end result. That is why every little progress is an accomplishment to be celebrated! I have learned to focus on what my son ‘can do’ rather than what he ‘cannot do’and celebrate those little success moments !He successfully completed a three day sleep away camp recently and we are so happy he got to experience that!
always remember the real age
We have heard many parents refer to their children and say ‘he is still my baby’ but don’t mean it literally. For a parent of a child with special needs, you tend to continue treating them as kids long past their age.It is easy to forget their chronological age, because of the constant care and help they need.We tend to attribute everything to their disability. Just because your son is non verbal and not on par with his peers intellectually , doesn’t mean he does not have the same feelings and attitude of his typical peers.While we do drive my son around and take him places, we always listen when he says ’no’ to certain places like a park or a mall. He is still a 20 year old young man and we are learning to respect his choices.
YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING:
You are never too old to learn!!! As we continue to teach our son his basic life skills, even as he transitions to adulthood, we know very well that he continues to learn. Every time he has a new experience, he has learned something from it, even it may not be a very significant one. Sometimes skills are lost and he has to relearn them. As for us, it seems like the last 20 yrs has been a big learning curve about his diagnosis,medicines, foods, behaviors etc.We also learn a lot from other parents who share similar hopes and dreams for their children as we do for our son.