Last night Richard and I had one of our conversations. It’s the conversation that starts with, “If only we’d known what we know now…” The conversation that continues with, “If only we’d known our friends, particularly the ones whose neurology we don’t share, the ones who are Autistic…” It’s the conversation that ends with both of us looking at each other and shaking our heads until one of us says, “We would have done everything differently…” And then the other joins in with, “Literally. We would have literally done everything differently!”
One of the biggest motivators I have for continuing to blog about autism is this idea that everything would have changed had we known what we know now. How different our lives would have been had our introduction to autism not been abject fear, but to adults who are Autistic. How different our approach would have been had we not reacted to the news of our daughter’s neurology with terror. How much money, time, energy, not to mention pain would have been avoided had we not listened to all those non-autistic people who greeted our daughter’s diagnosis with, “Here’s what you need to do…” “Here’s the name of a therapist/neurologist/homeopath/nutritionist/DAN doctor, call them now!” “You should try…”
I’ve written about all of this before, but since I typically blog Monday through Friday, many of you may have missed those posts, so here are just a few…
What I Wish I’d Been Made Aware Of When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With Autism
How Fear Drove Me To Pursue A Cure
We Are in This Together
A Fantasy For Parents of Newly Diagnosed Autistic Children
To The Person Who Googled “I Don’t Know if I Can Handle Autism”
What we were told about autism was WRONG. Everything we were told during those first few years after Emma was diagnosed have NOT proven to be true. Having an Autistic child does not mean the entire family will be dragged down. No one need “sacrifice” their life to support another, in fact, our lives are enhanced by each member of our family. Each of us brings something unique and special to the family. Having an Autistic child is not the same as having a child diagnosed with cancer, this comparison is incredibly hurtful to my child, to your child, it is offensive to all of us.
We have been told all kinds of things about our daughter by non autistic people. Not one of their predictions has come true. NOT ONE! Read that again. Nothing we were told would happen, actually has! Think about that. Being given an autism diagnosis for your child is like listening to an anchorman predict the weather a year from now. But we believed every single one of those pronouncements and then behaved as though each dire prediction was fact. If I’d known all the people I know now, the people I’ve interviewed, whose blogs I read, all the people I am fortunate enough to call my friends, who have changed my life and helped me understand autism and what it’s like living in a world that doesn’t accept them, growing up with parents who believed they were doing what was best for them, but who were being told the same sorts of things we were told… Had I known all those people when Emma was first diagnosed, our response to the pronouncements and predictions given to us would have been to laugh and walk away. Literally. We would have laughed and walked away.
We would not have hired the agency who provided us with round the clock therapists. We would not have shuttled Emma from one doctor to the next. We would not have spent all those nights lying awake, staring at the ceiling fearing what would never come to pass. We would not have lost all those years, years we could have spent actually enjoying and loving our child, but that were spent in fear, engaged in a war on her neurology. All those years when Richard and I felt beaten down, could have been spent embracing this amazing being who has taught us so much. The challenges any parent faces, exhaustion, sleepless nights, worry, these would certainly have been a part of our story, but the terror… the terror did not have to be a part of it.
So here’s the truth about my Autistic child:
She is a human being with desires, wants, needs, emotions and feelings, just like any other child. If I treat my (Autistic) child the way I would want to be treated, with unconditional love, respect, encouragement and support, I will have been a good parent. If I can be kind, patient, vulnerable and willing to examine my preconceived beliefs about what it is to be a human being, while making amends for my mistakes; I will have led a good life.
Emma and Nic ~ 2003