Accept and Embrace The Challenge. By acceptance, I do NOT mean loving it. I hate autism for stealing my son’s childhood. But I am not in denial, because denial kept me from walking a path I ultimately needed to walk. Without the challenges that life gives us, how do we find out what we are made of?
Educate Yourself. We are so lucky today. Think University of Google. Can you imagine pre-internet days? Can you imagine getting all of your information from your pediatrician who went to med school 40 years ago and still believes in Refrigerator Mother Syndrome? Learn everything you can get your hands on – only then can you make choices. Learn the good, the bad, and the ugly. Pulling your head out of the sand empowers you.
Get Support. One person alone can be tenacious and hardworking, 2 people with the same intention will create power. We all need inspiration and encouragement. You never know what will come out of your support group. One of my favorite quotes is by Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.
Don’t Compare: Run Your Own Race. The other day I was hearing about how well a friend’s child, who had recovered, was doing. I started throwing myself a pity party. There will always be someone who has a child doing better than yours – and always someone with one who is worse off. There’s another part to this run your own race thing. Recovering your child is a marathon, not a sprint – pace yourself accordingly. You may need more water stops than your friend who is running with you. Sometimes we get burned out. It’s ok. You can always get back on the track.
Shore Up Spiritually. One sustaining force that can give us comfort and courage is our spirituality. It doesn’t have to be found in a church or a synagogue, it can be whatever belief system, ritual, or philosophy that speaks to your soul. If I had not had my church, Prince of Peace, in the early days of my struggle, I don’t know how I could have survived it. It’s watching Bill pick up his 13-year -old daughter, Theodora, who has CP, out of the wheelchair and take her to receive communion where I find God more often than in the sermon.
Recognize Your Gifts and Abilities. Don’t tell me you don’t have a talent. Everyone does. Learn to use it and be proud of it. If you don’t know what yours is, ask the people who love you – they will tell you. Mark Twain said “We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen we do possess.”
Live in Gratitude/Give Back. The more I have given, the more I receive. And the more grateful I am about the gifts I have, the more generous my spirit becomes. Giving to others is the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves.
State Your Intention. Live in a state of KNOWING your child will get better. Live in a state of KNOWING that you will accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. Put it out there! I keep a post-it on my desk with my intentions. Helping my child was number 1. Guiding and inspiring other families is number 2.
Trust Your Intuition. No One, and I mean No One, knows what is better for your child than you. And intuition works in so many ways. Learn to listen to that inner voice. It will never steer you wrong.
Live in the Moment/Laugh/Love Thyself. Don’t miss your child’s childhood or your own life. Laugh as much as you can. And love yourself, and others will love you. Passion goes a long way.
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson is the executive director of ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatmernt Today!), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide resources and fund grants for children whose families cannot afford the necessary tools their child needs to reach their full potential. You can read more from Nancy on her blog Act Today!.
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