My 13-year-old son has autism. I’ve said often over the last ten years that I hate autism, but rarely have I said that autism has been a good teacher. So, I’ll say it: I have learned much from autism. I am a better parent and a better person because of autism.
1. Autism has taught me compassion and empathy on a level I never understood before. Watching my son wrestle with his anxiety and knowing he does not understand much of the world around him causes my heart to ache more deeply than I knew was possible
2. Autism has taught me patience. I have never been a patient person, but I almost never lose my patience with my son.
3. Autism has taught me humility. After raising older children that excelled at almost anything they tried, I had become somewhat conceited. I have found it very humbling to sit in the office of school administrators and beg for the help my son needs. I have found it very humbling to have to explain my son’s behaviors to strangers. I see now that I was arrogant, and humbling is exactly what I needed. I am thankful I have been humbled.
4. Autism has taught me that “one size fits all” does not apply to parenting. Children with special needs sometimes need special parenting.
5. Autism has taught me a lot about hard work. Autism has moved me to pursue every avenue of help for my son that I can. Autism has called me to be much more involved in my child’s education and has often meant I had to study and fight for the things he needs.
6. Autism has taught me that hard work pays off. Early intervention was intensive and exhausting, but the gains we saw were huge and well worth all the time and effort we put in.
7. Autism has taught me not to let my guard down, because although MOST people are kind and can be trusted, not ALL people have pure motives. People with special needs can be easily victimized, so a parent must be diligent and watchful.
8. Autism has taught me that people with special needs have a lot to offer. I used to be intimidated by people with special needs. I now know they are just people who might take a little longer to respond or need a little more help to get things done. But they are people and their lives have as much value as mine or anyone else’s.
If you have someone in your life with a disability, search for the lessons you can learn. As you help that person to be the best they can be, you will likely find yourself becoming better and stronger as well.
Related post: A Letter to the New Autism Parent