When my son was first diagnosed with autism, I enrolled in workshops that would give me valuable insight into a condition I knew very little about, but I rejected the support of the autism parenting community.
I didn’t want to hear what they had to say because my only taste of it had been a bundle of negativity. I couldn’t cope with that as I had plenty of my own I could pass on. I wanted to hear stories of hope and stories of courage, and I feared that I wouldn’t find it there. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t want false hope or lies, but I needed to find people on my wavelength. Deep down, I knew that might be an impossible task given what my wavelength is.
I learned to find my own way and some of that was to my advantage. I relied on my own innate parenting skills to muddle through the challenges of parenting a child on the spectrum.
Along the way, I’ve learned an awful lot about myself, and I’ve also learned how to choose my battles wisely and increase my patience (some would disagree). Most importantly, I’ve learned that my way is not the only way (though some would argue I’ve not mastered that one yet).
As time progressed after Joseph’s diagnosis, I became more confident in my own knowledge. I didn’t necessarily believe everything I read and I felt more comfortable looking to the community for support and guidance. I saw that people had different beliefs and strategies for dealing with their autistic child. I saw that some believed their child was a blessing, whilst others struggled to comprehend why they had a child with autism. I saw people debate over what they perceived to be the correct use of autism and autistic, and I enjoyed reading different takes on the subject.
What I didn’t expect was that some people would view it as an opportunity to criticise and attack other people’s views and life choices. I’m not sure whether it’s because it’s easier through social media, but I doubt very much that the comments being made would be made face to face.
Our children’s autism journeys are unique, and we try and raise awareness globally by educating others that there are lots of different facets to autism. Why is it so difficult to accept that we as parents are unique too; that we do not all parent the same and we all have different experiences?
When I started writing my blog, I dared to push my head above the parapet and say the things I wanted to hear so many years ago when I was first looking for advice and help. I wanted to be able to feel comfortable saying that acceptance was hard and that there were days I wanted to kick the shit out of autism for the challenges it brought my son. I did not want to be vilified for owning up to those thoughts and I wanted others to know that they were not alone.
None of these thoughts make me love my son any less; they actually make me love him more, if that is even possible. Every single one of us wants what is best for our child, we just try and achieve it in the way that works best for us.
Let us learn from each other and accept and embrace our own differences, not just those of our children.
We are all striving for the same destination—let us gain strength from each other.