by James Hunt
This post is from Catie, author of the blog Diary of an Imperfect Mum, which I discovered late last year.
Here she tells us what raising her autistic son has taught her.
As it is autism awareness month I started thinking about how autism has affected our family. What could I contribute or share with the world about our experiences with autism?
This is really difficult as autism certainly does impact our lives in many different ways so what can I share?
My son's strength and resilience, his humor and his trust, inspire me everyday to be a better person.
As with everything, when I stop focusing on the autism and focus on my son it becomes easier.
Life lessons my autistic son has taught me
Persevere: it amazes me how the big lad just keeps going. Learning to ride his bike, using a knife and fork, climbing the frame at the park, learning to swim, it may take longer but he gets there. It makes me ashamed of my failed attempts at painting, playing piano, learning dutch...
Prioritise: Pick your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff. As a perfectionist this is difficult but I am learning what is really important in the scale of things and sometimes choices have to be made e.g. academic versus social progression, special v 'normal' school, trying something new v eating pizza again.
Expect the unexpected: just when you think you know how the big lad will react he surprises you. His reaction can not be predicted. I can tie myself in knots trying to protect my child but the unexpected response is sometimes a blessing. I have learned that I cannot plan for every eventuality. I can not always be in control.
Take time out for yourself: after a long day at school the big lad needs time out. For him this is usually playing on the wii. I am learning to take time for myself but this remains a challenge. It is too easy to ignore our own needs and prioritise others but I am learning to step away from the iron.
Keep a positive attitude: my son approaches every new challenge with a smile on his face, full of fun, enthusiasm and mischief. A positive attitude helps you cope more easily with the challenges life throws at you. It makes it easier to avoid worries.
Accept help: at big lad's last review meeting there were ten people present. Over the last 4 years he has seen many therapists, psychologists and Drs. He accepts the help without question. We are learning to open up and ask for help too. Asking for help is not weakness, it is a strong person that acknowledges their vulnerability.
Forgive & Forget: The big lad is incredibly loyal, a friend is a friend, no matter what. Give people the benefit of the doubt and accept them for who they are. No judging, no recriminations. Everyone makes mistakes.
Love Unconditionally: I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming, all encompassing, crippling love that you feel when your child is born. There are times when I feel that the strength of my love is being tested by the big lad. As the saying goes, you always hurt the people you love the most. But being a parent has taught me the real meaning of unconditional love: choosing to love someone for who their really are positive and negative points.
Be yourself: there is a massive amount of pressure on us to conform, to follow the majority, to fit in. It takes a huge amount of courage and self belief to go against the majority to stay true to yourself. Autistic children have no falseness about them. He is not striving to fit in, to be normal, he is only striving to be himself!
Challenge yourself: step outside of your comfort zone. Do things that you didn't think you could. Try new things. But mostly challenge those stereotypes and don't be limited by others expectations or beliefs.
You are stronger than you think!
Catie is a mum to two gorgeous boys, a wife, teacher and Expat (living in Holland). She writes the Diary of an Imperfect Mum, a parenting and lifestyle blog with a twist.
Catie writes features about her family life, parenting, craft ideas, reviews and quotes, and has a passion for photography. She readily admits that she does not make the perfect crafts, cakes or always get things right. she is an imperfect mum ,and here warts and all with her craft kits and recipe boxes, trying her best to make life fun for her kids.
Catie also has one son with autism, so uses her blog to introduce people to the boy and the family behind the diagnosis, and to promote a better understanding and therefore acceptance of autism.
Editor's Note: Thanks very much, James and Catie, for sharing your perspective and we invite you to come back to this site again soon. This was a very nice contribution.