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What I've Learned from Autism

Nine years ago, my son was diagnosed with autism. Here's what I've learned since then:

  1. I may never be an expert on autism, but I am an expert on my son’s autism.
  2. Dr. Spock was right – we have to trust our instincts; we know more than we think we do.
  3. It’s important to pick your battles. It’s very important to pick your battles carefully.
  4. Our son is a bright, funny, caring, outgoing, handsome kid whose brain is literally wired differently. He’s not just his autism. He’s so much more. A big part of our job as his parents is to make sure other people see that, too.
  5. A sense of humor is indispensible.  Enjoy the funny moments and don’t be afraid to laugh at them.
  6. When it comes to our children, my husband & I may not always be “on the same page,” but we do try very hard to at least be in the same book.
  7. What works for one kid may not work for our son. That’s one of the many things that make autism so frustrating.
  8. I estimate that we’ve spent roughly $45,000 on speech therapy just so our son can argue with us about cleaning his bedroom, doing his homework, and the necessity of having a little sister, as well as proclaiming to all within earshot that his are the worst parents in the world.  It’s still a very good investment.
  9. Very seldom does anything good come from “If only . . .” or “What if I had . . .” Avoid them.  Focus on the here and now and how that will affect the future.
  10. I can’t always assume that his teachers, his therapists or his doctors have seen the same information or research I have. No one’s going to get offended if I share.
  11. I can’t take care of either of my children properly unless I take care of myself.
  12. There’s nothing wrong in asking for a help when you need it.
  13. After our doctor's visit in which we were finally told that yes, our son has autism, we took the kids to see Finding Nemo. In one scene, one of the characters tells Nemo's dad, "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo." This is probably some of the best parenting advice I've heard.  We have to do our best to keep our son safe and healthy, but if we don't encourage him to try things he's never done before, then he will ever know what all he is capable of doing and he'll miss out on so much.  Who knew an animated fish could be so smart?

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