MBA Mommy

Part MBA, Part MRS, Part MOM…..All ME

Gifts of Autism

Posted by mbamommy on October 11, 2011

I’ve finally decided to write this post (it’s been on my list of topics for months now) because I just found out that very dear friends of mine are having their son evaluated for autism and they find out the results of the eval today.  I only know this through a very quiet grapevine and I respect their need for being secretive about it.  It took me months before I was able to speak openly about Z.  I didn’t start writing about it until at least 6 months after the fact….when I finally was able to breathe again.  But, I also know that they read my blog.  And, I’m hoping that they finds this post at an appropriate time….when they’re ready to start breathing again too.

Z was officially diagnosed in May of 2010.  But it took us 6 months to go through the process, which began November 2009.  Among all the advice and words and noise I heard from others at that time there was one theme that I just couldn’t wrap my head around.  It was the idea that there could be positives about having an autistic child.  I kept hearing all these Moms talk about the gifts their autistic child had given them, how they wouldn’t change them for the world, how much they had learned from them.

And I called complete and utter B.S. on all of them.  I figured that they were all these amazing women who were just better people than I was. Better women, better people, better Moms.  Because for the life of me I couldn’t think of one positive aspect about Z being autistic.  Of course I loved him.  Of course I would have laid down in front of a moving train for him.

But, the day to day?  The constant fighting and negotiating and meltdowns and trips to various therapists and fear and exhaustion and lack of understanding of my own son?  I would’ve been quite fine without all of that, thankyouverymuch.  I loved my son but I’m not sure I really liked spending time with him.  He was so……difficult.  I didn’t get him.  He didn’t get me.  And I was a bit resentful of him.  I had a lot of Why Me?  Why Him? going on.

I remember watching an episode of Parenthood when Christina went to a support group for parents of Aspie’s and a woman in the group was saying (paraphrased) “I feel like I’m stuck all day in a place where the rules are different.  And they don’t make sense to me.”

Boy, that struck me.  I could’ve said that myself.

And then there were these women….these annoying, frustrating, full of crap women, talking about how much they had learned from their kiddos.  Talking about how they were better people for it….more patient, calmer, more open, how they could celebrate the smaller things in life so much more intensely than a parent with a NT kid…because those milestones, those achievements were so much more challenging to get to.

I didn’t get it.  I guess I just wasn’t one of those women.  But….where were the women like me?  The angry ones?  The frustrated ones?  The ones who couldn’t see the silver lining on that gray cloud?

Well, the joke was on me.  These women were one and the same.  They were angry.  And sad.  And frustrated.  But, they also had the benefit of time and distance.  They were able to breathe.  They had time to understand their children.  They had time to recalibrate to their new lives.

It was about a year after his diagnosis that I started to (grudgingly) see that these women weren’t full of it.  I had read enough and educated myself enough that I started to understand Z.  And because of that I had more patience with him.  And all of a sudden, because I wasn’t so angry all the time, he started responding better to me.  And our relationship has turned into what it is today.  I get daily hugs and kisses.  I get daily “Mommy, I love you”s.  I can talk to him about anything and am just amazed at how that little brain of his works.  The meltdowns are rare now.  The enjoyment we get from each other is not.

Not only would I still lay down in front of a moving train for him, but I started to enjoy him in all his quirkiness.  I got that when he was bouncing around, making noise JUST to frustrate me and ignoring my repeated attempts to get him dressed and out the door, it wasn’t that he was trying to make us late.  It was that his little body was running a little too fast for him to calmly get dressed.  And, I finally knew what I could do to help him.  And, how amazing was it when I could actually calmly and gently implement a strategy to get his body to run at the proper level so as to get dressed and out the door without a meltdown!

And, what about the day when he first tried to make a friend at the playground….and was successful?  And, what about after working with his teachers and implementing various strategies to help him through his day…and receiving positive reports on his behavior….and how he was able to do the things that all the other kids were doing….only better…because his little aspie brain works differently than theirs?

You know what?  Those women….with the benefit of hindsight, time and distance….were right.  Autistic or not, all children are gifts.  They teach us a lot more than we teach them.  They teach us humility.  They teach us patience.  They push us to be better people.

I still don’t believe the line “God only gives you what you can handle.”  And, while I appreciate the “Z is lucky to have you as parents.” comments that our friends have said to us, I don’t quite believe that either.  What I do believe is that there are gifts that come with autism.

It just takes time to see them.

To my dear friends: I hope you read this.  I hope you reach out to me when you’re ready.  Because as slim as that silver lining may look right now, it’s there.  Just breathe.  And be patient.  The gifts will come.

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2 Responses to “Gifts of Autism”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this post and your recent posts (as your posts always make me think about your topics for some time afterward:) and I think that part of your gift to others with this blog is the important mission to reduce stigma associated with Aspergers and ASD. We should all do our part to reduce stigma and recognize gifts (and recognize the challenges – your honest commentary is highly commendable, mama.) We should all be so honest with others and ourselves.

    • mbamommy said

      Ah, Teeny. Thank you so much for saying that. I’ve recently had several people tell me how much my posts mean to them and how much they’ve helped. To get that feedback is so damn humbling… I certainly didn’t set out on any mission of any sort when I started writing, it was just therapy for myself really. But, I’m so thankful that someone out there gets *something* out of this.

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