When I started this blog a few years ago it was with one simple thought in mind – I needed an outlet to express the myriad of emotions I was experiencing as a mom to a young child diagnosed with autism. Writing has always been cathartic for me and I have been able to work out my own emotions, struggles and experiences for myself by putting pen to paper. Writing about our experience, our struggles, our wins, our highs and lows has proved beneficial for me personally and based on comments from some of you, it provided some understanding of what our world entails. It has become increasingly more difficult for me to continue writing about our journey. For a while I thought it was because I did not want to talk about the hard stuff, the bad days, the struggles, the frustration or to shed a negative light on how autism can impact our family. Then I told myself I simply did not have the time to dedicate to writing with everything else I was responsible for handling. When I started getting work published for a site that is geared towards parents of special needs children it finally helped me realize why I was struggling to keep up with this blog; the truth is that the goal of why I started Atypical Endeavor has run it’s course. I shared our story providing insight and education about autism and sensory processing disorder, what it is like for us as parents, how my son experiences things differently and more. Writing here has enabled me to sort out my own feelings as a mom while connecting with other parents who face similar challenges. I no longer need to share this part of our journey for one simple reason – there is no longer a question hovering in the air – there is no more wondering if my child will receive a diagnosis – it simply is what it is and I have accepted it.
I read a lot about acceptance versus awareness in regards to Autism. Awareness is good but acceptance is the true goal. The definition of acceptance is this: the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable. In reading that definition it struck me that I no longer need to spread my message here because I have finally come to a place of acceptance. If the entire purpose of this blog was to work out my own feelings than I have succeeded. This is our normal and we are okay with it. We don’t always like it, we have many bad days, we are frustrated a lot with the system, the process, the lack of support, the doctors, the schools, etc. but I have other outlets and support groups in place for those topics. I belong to quite a few parent groups both locally and globally and these other parents provide so much information, guidance, advice and support because they have been where we are, they are going through the exact same things every day and it’s a tremendous resource.
I will continue to write about autism on other sites and blogs in an effort to share our experience or to educate people. I will continue to fight for my own son every single day as needed whether that be for school accommodations, inclusion in social events or programs, access to therapies or doctors, or anything else that comes our way. We will do this as a family because it is what is needed. We will share our story with parents of a newly diagnosed child not to scare them or intimidate them but to let them know they are not alone, they have support, there are others who can point you in the right direction. For anyone who wants information, wants to hear about how my son is doing, wants to know about a new study they saw on the news, what types of therapies we are doing these days or anything else about our lives, just go ahead and ask me. I am a bit of an open book when it comes to this topic and am oddly thrilled when someone engages me in a conversation about it.
But here is the biggest lesson I have learned by finally getting to a point of acceptance.
Autism is a part of who my child is but it is not everything he is. Being an autism mom is a part of who I am but it is not everything I am. It is nearly impossible to avoid becomming consumed with being an autism parent due to the amount of research, work and time that is required to navigate the system. I assume this is true for most parents of a special needs child especially in the first few years. Regardless of their need, it is our job as their parents to learn as much as we can and to provide whatever support we can to ensure our children thrive. This reality is not changing for us any time soon. Yet, I am slowly coming out of the haze and realizing that being an autism mom cannot be all that I am, just a part of who I am. Just like being a working mom or stay at home mom should not define us fully, it can often times feel that these labels take on a life of their own. For me, my career was such a big part of who I was that leaving my role almost 3 years ago was staggering. Now after those few years and coming out of my autism mom haze (sort of), I am taking a certification program to become a coach, trainer and speaker in the field of leadership and self-development which are areas that I have been passionate about for many years. I am considering starting my own business in this field, integrating this into my former career somehow or forging a new path entirely. I don’t have all of the answers yet but remembering that there is more to me and more to our family than autism is a good first step. if nothing else, taking these courses will benefit me personally and teach me important skills I hope to share with my children. The needs of my family will continue to take precedence and I am well aware that with my older son Charlie, things will come up, we will be blindsided at times, there will be new challenges to take on and during those times maybe being an autism mom will be everything I am for that week, month or year if needed. Simply learning to accept that fact and knowing that “this too shall pass” is akin to giving myself a permission slip to go back to the business of living life outside the bubble again. Recognizing that I can control quite a bit but I am powerless to control every single thing that happens is a relief. I do not regret the time I have spent writing here or the time I have spent and will continue to spend learning as much as I can in order to help my son be his best yet I am excited to change focus and let myself and our family loosen the reigns even just a bit; Charlie will be better for it and we will all be better versions of ourselves as a result.
To those of you who have supported this blog, my writing and our stories over the last few years I want to sincerely thank you. Some of your notes and words have touched me more than you will ever know. For those friends I have met through this blog, I am grateful beyond words to have found you as you are my tribe in this journey. I will never stop writing, I guess at my core I have always been a writer. I plan to write as much as I can and hopefully some day soon will start a new site/blog that encompasses something entirely different. If nothing else, these last few years have certainly taught me that I cannot control everything, that sometimes life throws a lot at you, that we always have the opportunity to start over, try something new, change direction and will do this many times over during our lifetimes if we are lucky. It may take longer for me to reach my goals than it would have before autism entered my world which may be frustrating for my type A persona. But as one of my favorite quotes states “In an autism household no milestone is taken for granted and no achievement goes uncelebrated” which sounds like a pretty great way to celebrate my own journey as well.