Someone recently asked me, “If you could give a parent whose child had just been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder just one piece of advice, what would it be?”
You might think this would be an easy question. After all, we’ve been there. We’ve lived the moment you can hardly breathe. We survived the reality of a kick in the gut, even when deep down, before they even said the words, we knew that we knew that we knew, what we were being told was true. So, it took me a bit to respond.
Once I got past the lump in my throat, the one that comes back every single time I’m asked to mentally go back to our diagnosis day, this is what I said: “Breathe and love on your child. When the dust settles, those will be the two things you realize you did without thinking…well, you may have needed to remind yourself to breathe, but that’s okay. Loving your child is the easy one. Keeping his/her needs forefront will allow you to see what you need to do in your situation. Every child is different. Realize that what worked for one child may not work for yours, and know that that is okay. You will find what works. Breathe. Love. Never Give Up.”
I have thought through this more times than I can recall since that conversation and the thing that hits me most is that this is true not only for parents of kids on the spectrum, but for all parents. When our neuro-typical teenager reminds me of myself in my teen years, I remind myself to breathe and love him. When our middles pull junior high shenanigans, I remind myself to breathe and love them. When our littlest little spouts off a bit of sassiness that even turns our spectrum boy’s head, I remind myself to breathe and love her. This is what parents do.
It reminds me of a graphic I saw on facebook earlier this week.
Bert and Ernie (two favorites of the Janssen Family) were sitting on the beach. Superimposed on the picture were the words, “All a person with autism needs is love, acceptance, understanding and someone who believes in them.” While I agree this, I think you could easily delete “with autism” and it would be just as true. See, we are all people first.