I always thought that when I became a parent I would spend my days loving my children, helping them to thrive and to progress–helping them to become the best version of themselves they can be. I thought I would have a dual role, as mother and as teacher.
What I have come to realize in the years since Conor was diagnosed with Autism, and more recently again when his younger brother Jack was diagnosed, is that in fact my Autistic sons are MY teachers. I have learned, or should I say re-learned, a lot about life since they were born. They have taught me so much with how they view the world, how they live their lives, how they show love to us and their big sister. They have taught me:
Love Has No Words – Both my boys are non-verbal, yet with a heartfelt look from either I instinctively know how they feel, that they are happy, that they feel love, that they love. You can scream your love from the top of your lungs but that real look of love needs no words: It transcends all barriers.
To Be Kind – neither Conor nor Jack show any malice at all towards anyone or anything. They are always kind. If I drop something, Conor will almost always be the first to pick it up. If I bang into something, Jack will waddle over and rest his tiny head against me as if to say, “It will be okay, mammy.” Conor always shares his toys and sweets with his sister Hailey; he never stops her or baby Jack when they want to have some too. He just smiles and lets them.
Different Is Not Less – They have taught me the real meaning of “different not less.” They are different but no less amazing, lovable, sweet or kind to any other boy their ages. They are different and that is what makes them beautiful.
The Value of Real Friends – Neither of my lovely boys have many friends of their own. It hurts my heart from time to time when I think of them this way. But then they help me realise that the few friends they do have are very “real” friends who adore them just as they are. They remind me that you don’t have to have a million friends to be happy; just a few real friends and I know I am lucky and loved.
Opinions Don’t Matter – Conor and Jack are completely oblivious to anyone’s opinions of them. You can catch Conor busting a move in our local shop when his song comes on the radio; he is just happy to dance and it doesn’t bother him that people stop and stare. He makes me so proud with how brave he is. Jack has no filter for opinions either. He is happy to carry a shoe around with him in his right hand for most of the day, or wear a little cloth on top of his head because it makes him feel happy. He is oblivious to what is considered “normal”–he is his own version of normal. I am so proud of both of my boys and they remind me to always be myself because those that matter won’t mind and those that do mind don’t matter.
Celebrate the Small – In the past I would wait for “big” events in my life to celebrate achievements. The boys have taught me to celebrate the everyday small steps of progress. What many people take for granted in their lives will usually be a massive struggle for my boys to overcome. I always celebrate the achievements, no matter how small, because I know the heartache and persistence it took for my boys to achieve a new goal.
Live a Happy Life – Conor and Jack are their innate selves. They do not know any other way of existing and they are happy just as they are right now. I see them smiling to themselves from time to time; a walk outside in the fresh air can bring them such joy. They make me realise that we should all be happy to be alive! You only get one life; you only get once chance to live your life. Why not make it a happy, positive experience? I have faced a great many challenges since having my lovely boys; I have seen them overcome so much since their births, yet they do not look back. They look forward and are happy to be alive, living a life full of fun, full of hope and, most importantly, full of love.
I am and will always be thankful for my three beautiful children and my very special teachers: They have taught me the real meaning of what Life and Love are all about.x
Amanda gave up her law career after her first son Conor was born with special needs, later retraining as a Special Needs Assistant so she could help him and her youngest son Jack. Amanda and her family live in Co. Mayo in Ireland. She spends her days now carrying out therapies, preparing visuals for her boys to communicate and doing her best to be a good mom to all of them, including her oldest child Hailey.
Through her writing she helps to provide an insight to what living, loving and raising children in a Special Needs Family can be like for so many people today. To learn more please visit her website littlepuddins.ie or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thelittlepuddinsblog.