When one of my sons was 2 years old, he would spend the majority of his time sitting in the sandbox dropping rocks from his tiny hands in such a way that they would bounce off of his stomach and drop to the ground. He could sit there for what seemed like an eternity watching the pebbles and sand sift through his chubby fingers and drift down to the earth below. Any chance he got at picking up stones or wood chips, just to let them drop from his fingers, was a chance at pure happiness in his mind. I watched him carefully trying to figure out what captivated him about this action. I was dumbfounded, agitated and somewhat embarrassed about this peculiar behavior. None of the other toddlers in the daycare seemed to play with rocks in such a bizarre manner.
It took a very long time to come to terms with the diagnosis of Autism in my twin sons. I denied it wholeheartedly in the beginning. I found myself searching for new pediatricians in hopes that one would tell me “oh, don’t worry, he doesn’t have Autism.” After consulting two different developmental pediatricians, the answer still came back the same… Autism Spectrum Disorder. Not knowing what this meant at the time, I was left devastated by this news. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like with twins who both had neurodevelopmental disorders. I feared they would never learn to speak and would be stuck in their two-year-old bodies forever. Thankfully, I was wrong. Very wrong.
My children have taught me more about ASD than any textbook or seminar could ever hope to achieve. They have shared with me the insights and inner workings of their minds through watching how they interact with the world around them. It has been fascinating to observe their growth and it has been nothing short of a party every time a milestone has been reached. They work at least twice as hard as their peers to master skills that seem to come so naturally to others. Life takes more effort, more time and more patience. Parenting takes more creativity, problem-solving, trouble-shooting, organization and attention to detail than ever imagined.
The benefits of having children with ASD are enormous. I know my children extremely well. I have had to spend the better part of my waking hours supervising, prompting, encouraging, listening, watching, modeling, shaping, reinforcing, and supporting their development. I have had to be an active participant in every step of every task ever achieved. Admittedly, some days have felt like “Groundhog Day” but this has taught me patience and perseverance. Having children with ASD has taught me to slow down and live in the moment. Rushing is not possible. It has also given me perspective. Thinking about the world through a world of sensory upheaval and social chaos would make anyone stop and take a deep breath. Having children with ASD means that life is not what I expected it to be. Having children with ASD means that I will carve a new path and set new goals rather than cling to the old “idealistic” goals. I have learned how to embrace humor. I have learned to appreciate the moments I get to sit down with a cup of coffee. I have learned how to pay attention to the environment that surrounds us. My children have taught me that our world of communication is full of confusion, double-meanings, sarcasm and figures of speech and that body language doesn’t get a parent very far in a candy store.
Children with ASD continue to grow, learn new information, accomplish new skills and mature over time. They just do it at their own pace. This came as a great relief to me. Looking back, my son is nothing close to what I expected of him when I watched him dropping rocks on his round belly… He is so much more! And I am the lucky one who gets to be by my sons’ sides as they find their way in this world.
If you are struggling to deal with the diagnosis of ASD in your toddler and would like some therapeutic support to help you figure out your first steps on this journey, please call me at 204 415 7656. I would be happy to help you understand your child from an Autism perspective.