Ever since my son was about 18 months ago, we knew he needed more than we were giving. Our journey with autism began several years ago, but it’s hard sometimes, in the moment, to recall just how much progress he’s made. As my son turned “double digits” on Halloween, I began to remember his birth and how he’s grown over time. When you raise a child, no matter what diagnosis they have or regardless of whether they have one or not, it’s important to think about the progress. Big or small, progress is progress. My son has 3 binders of IEPs, but they do not define his personality, his lovability, or his general awesomeness.
“Without a struggle, there is no progress.” ~Frederick Douglass
Now that my son has made it into double-digits, I can think back to how much we’ve struggled to make progress in his world. Ten years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful brown-eyed boy. He looked at me with those big eyes of his, and I fell in love instantly. I never thought for a moment that we’d need to struggle for progress, but four years later, he was diagnosed with autism and even before that, we fought to give him the help he needed.
Over time, he’s grown up and each day we still struggle, but his progress has been remarkable. He’s gone from having huge articulation errors and one-word utterances to speaking in sentences. He’s gone from constantly having bite marks on his arms to rarely exhibiting self-harming behaviors. We fail to think about these things when he has a huge meltdown, but in truth, my son has worked harder than most kids to communicate with the world around him.
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“Make measurable progress in reasonable time.” -Jim Rohn
Our nature as humans is to want change to happen immediately. To want perfection. Truth told, we are all perfect in God’s eyes. Although we want our son to make it in today’s world, in truth, our love for him matters more than anything. Has he made reasonable progress in reasonable time? I think so. New behaviors crop up all the time, but they result from stress and noise from the outside world. We still want to teach him ways to cope with his feelings, but the goal is never to change his personality. We can’t remove the autism from him without changing his personality, and the idea of doing so just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I love this kid no matter what happens. No one can take away the bond we share as mother and child.
“Some people say that kids with autism aren’t capable of love. That’s ridiculous. My son loves deeply. He just doesn’t communicate well.” ~Claire Scovell LaZebnik
I feel this is a good quote to end on. Not only does my son love deeply, but he feels other people’s emotions more deeply than anyone could imagine. He feels it so much that he runs from the room when someone gets hurt. He cries when something gets spilled. He would jump out of a moving vehicle to get away from the anguish of others. Does my son have empathy? Yes. A ton of it. Does he express it well? Sometimes.
In closing, know this: Your struggle as moms and dads and grandparents of children with autism is real. But imagine their internal struggle. If you have put all that you have into helping your child, he/she knows and loves you. Even if no words are spoken, our children know who loves them and who cares about them. Let that be you. The world can be cruel, but they can feel safe in our arms. Just remember–Reasonable progress in reasonable time.