Updated: Apr 7, 2020
*Most authors for this blog series have chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect the confidentiality of their children while still sharing their story. Documenting our stories helps us process our experience, sharing our story helps us connect to others with a shared experience, and reading others' stories help us not feel so alone. Welcome.
"Acceptance is the slow, rambling ride that takes you from terror to contentment."
There is a photo of my twin teenage Autistic boys a woman who does not know me or my sons took. The picture captured the essence of Autism, and my boys, perfectly. I hope these words will help explain it further.
In this picture, they were at their first dance ever. They chose not to dance. Sure, there have been dances held at their middle school before, but they have never expressed an interest in going. Here, they are comfortable, they are content, they are not dancing, and they are eating broccoli. Raw.
A diagnosis of Autism is a hard thing to accept at first. Although you know something is going on, and you have a good idea of what it is, when the diagnosis comes it is soul crushing. It is a rollercoaster wave of emotion, dropping your heart one minute and struggling to climb the hill the next. Most children are so young, you will wonder if they will ever speak. If you will hear them say, “I love you Mom,” or even “Momma.” Then, you go into overdrive, finding therapists, teachers, and schools, jumping headfirst into the world of IEP’s and behavior plans.
This story is about the next phase: Acceptance.
This is about growing comfortable with Autism. It is about figuring out what the triggers are and growing comfortable with giving warnings (5 minutes ‘till time to get dressed). Knowing which 5 foods your child will eat and ensuring that they will be available at every restaurant you go to. Planning a strategy for when you run errands, working the timing around favorite shows. Acceptance is the slow, rambling ride that takes you from terror to contentment.
At first, I grew more afraid with every self-injurious behavior, every meltdown, every obsession. Now, I am secure in the knowledge that only the Chocolate Covered Yellow donuts will do. I revel in the smiles when I get the peanut butter to jelly ratio just right. Understanding that the smell of bleach will drive him insane so doing the whites in the laundry while he is at school.
So when my sons are at a dance, and they choose not to, that is ok with me. I get it. And while I am learning to push them out of their comfort zone (thanks to Temple Grandin and her latest book, “The Loving Push”), I am confident that I know my sons, and Autism, well enough to know which battles to choose.
I am just thrilled that they chose to go to a dance with other teens! The tools they have in their arsenal allowed them to retreat into their world, which at this time was the fireplace, with their broccoli, when they were overwhelmed. It sure beats the head-banging, arm-biting, flailing meltdowns.
I am beyond proud that my boys know how to calm themselves. I hope that next time, they choose to dance. I want them to dance. I yearn for the day that I can dance at their wedding(s).But I accept this for now, as this is where they are. I choose to meet them there. And to slowly, carefully, with as much love as I can muster, draw them out, bit by bit, until they can meet me at least halfway.
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