As many readers are now aware, I am the parent of an autistic child. My own son is 20 now, so we have made it through the early childhood and elementary years journey all the way into adolescence. My feeling is that having an autistic child teaches the parent many lessons. The following are some of the lessons I have learned through having an autistic child.
Communication is More Than Talking
Initially during his early childhood I was pained and dismayed that my child was unable to speak. It seemed that he would not be able to go through life without this skill. I could not really imagine having a nonverbal child, yet that was the situation that I had. My son underwent many years of speech and language and behavior therapy and did ultimately develop some rudimentary speech. Ultimately, I branched out from only focusing on the narrower goal of speech to focusing on the broader goal of communication. I purchased a talk- type device called DynaWrite for him and he was able to type his communication into a computer like device with a synthesized voice. Hence, the "talking machine," as we call it, is his voice for more complex utterances.
I learned that language includes four aspects: talking, listening, reading and writing. There is certainly more to communication than speech and my son often writes and types his language.
Go With Your Instincts
Another lesson that I learned from being a parent of an autistic child is the absolute value of my own instincts. You have heard it all your life: Go with your gut. This could not be more true when it comes to making big decisions for an autistic child. If something "feels" wrong, then understand that that is intuition guiding you as a parent. When my child received a diagnosis of autism, I felt confused and lost. Today, however I know that when I made decisions all along the way I was guided. Intuition is a form of non- linear intelligence and should be respected. As parents, we know what to do. Trust yourself in making decisions for your autistic child.
Develop and Hold a Vision
Throughout the years of therapy and the often depressing meetings and doctor appointments, I continued to hold a vision for my child. I am not saying that I was fully convinced of my vision; the opposite is true. Often, my vision and goals for my autistic child seemed like pipe dreams. I urge all parents in this situation to have bold goals for their children. Although he is not fully recovered, I am now seeing the realization of some of my vision for my autistic child that I developed a full decade ago.
Having an autistic child has taught me these lessons in life. However, I believe these lessons apply to many life situations and goals, not just autism. Perhaps helping an autistic child improve helps us improve as human beings in the long run.