We walked out of the clinic stunned and silent. I had, of course, firmly suspected Autism. After all, that's why we were there. But until the words were uttered I could still hope that I was wrong. My son's dad buckled him into his car seat, and I stood beside the car feeling like I was slowly turning to stone.
He came and stood beside me, put his arms around me, and wisely said, "He's still Jaden."
I needed to remind myself of that often that first year. When it felt like I was drowning in everything Autism - drowning in research and interventions - I had to pull back and remind myself that he was still him. Perfectly and uniquely. I never wanted him to be anyone or anything other than 100% himself.
Accept your child. Completely. Not what he/she will be, could be, or should be. Who they are, in this very moment.
If they have Autism, then that's who they are. Autism isn't an ugly monster inside of your child's head or invading your life to destroy. The most destructive thing you can do is refuse to accept. It isn't something you can separate and cut out like a cancer. It's a state of being.
Be careful to not make your child feel like there is something inherently wrong with who they are. Be careful not to let anyone else do so either. Even when it seems like they aren't listening or understanding, chances are that they are.
If you find yourself unable to accept your child 100% as themselves, right now, then you need to pull back from the "fight." Breathe. Do something with them that they like to do. Do something fun. Hold them in your lap as they watch their favorite show (if they'll let you.) Read to them.
Never ever lose sight that above anything, you two are simply mother and child. That is your core. Make that your rock.
You don't have to accept it when a doctor or so-called expert says "never." Acceptance doesn't mean "give up." It means HOPE. No one should be giving you a prognosis of the future. Every person, every child is unique. The brain is amazing and plastic. As with everyone, growth is based on (unknown) potential + experience. Don't let anyone limit you or your child.
Accept what is now, give every opportunity for growth. As Autism parents we have to walk a very fine line emotionally and mentally. We have to learn to hope while throwing out expectations, because unmet expectations will sink you. We should be disciplined, learning our child's therapy goals until they are completely integrated into our daily lives, yet also be completely flexible and able to deal with whatever happens.
If you do it at all, if you do it right, it will change you. Accepting that might be the hardest of all. Becoming a better person is not a painless process, but you will be a better person for it.
Gaynell Buffinet Payne