Autism Awareness Month is always a time for me to reflect on my family’s journey and how an autism diagnosis redirected the life plans I had laid out so intentionally in my mind. I remember the shock and numbness of diagnosis day and the change I had to make in my mindset to continue my forward march. Over time, I learned to shift from planning life events to focusing on what’s important and taking it one day at a time.
I appreciate that lesson now more than ever. As our world continues to adjust to the new reality of homeschooling and adapting to stay-at-home orders, canceled plans have become all too familiar. There are many unknowns about when and how our routines will return to normal. During this time, I’m relying on the lessons I have learned from my family’s autism journey to remind myself to focus on what’s important.
Live with gratitude
Over the years I have reached a place of gratitude for how our autism journey continues to make me a better parent and person. I have learned not only to be thankful for the blessings in my life, but to be purposeful in my gratitude. When Abram has a tantrum, I know that my actions can exacerbate the situation. In the moment, my instinct is to tell Abram exactly what I want him to do and expect that he will follow. As every parent knows, that just won’t work. I have learned instead that I must be intentional with my mindset. I shift my thoughts to the blessings in my life and the love I have for my family. I picture a specific event or recall the sound of my children’s laughter. When I do this, the emotions and thoughts that I envision swirling above me start coming back together. My anger settles and is overtaken by peace. My ability to connect with people comes back, which allows me to help Abram work through his emotions and emerge from the tantrum.
Find joy in the everyday
Abram is truly a joy and I would love for him to live with me until I’m 60! He is driven and dedicated to any task he takes on. He does his own laundry and he even folds it, which is more than I can expect even from myself. Abram loves pushing buttons, sometimes figuratively but always literally. We have found that the trick is to turn his obsession into something that works for us. I can give Abram a choice and make sure I would be happy with either option. Whether Abram chooses to load the dishwasher or start a load of laundry, I love the result either way. Recently Abram has taken to handwashing dishes, and you won’t hear this mama complaining! This is a huge milestone for us because he has conquered some sensory issues and I am delighted with the result. When I focus on the joy Abram brings me, I can appreciate the positive side of simple, everyday things.
Stay focused on what’s important
As parents, our instinct is to plan for our children’s futures. With autism, however, you learn quickly that you can’t make plans. Abram just recently turned 15, and I have to fight my wandering thoughts of whether he will drive, and then what will happen if he does. Will he be safe? Will other drivers be kind to him? As my thoughts spiral and swirl, I have to refocus them on what’s important. I think about Abram’s achievements, whether large or small. I recall the simple, everyday things that have brought me joy, whether it was Abram’s simple act of cleaning up after dinner last night or folding his own laundry before we started homeschooling today. Autism is a journey and we never know what’s around the next turn. I have learned to stay focused on the positive and the progress we make every day.
During this Autism Awareness Month, I’m taking a step back to reflect on Abram’s achievements over the last year, both large and small. I think about the moments we have shared as a family and the joy we have found in the simple, everyday things. As we continue on our autism journey and weather the current situation in our world, I know we will all make it through, one day at a time.