Saturday, April 11, 2009
Challenges of autism also yield big rewards
By The Buffalo News
I will always remember that day. It was late August and summer weather was still trying to hang on. It was sunny and mild but very windy. I blamed the wind for the chill I was feeling; but in hindsight, it probably was not the wind that was making me shiver.
My husband and I drove in complete silence the entire 30 minutes it took to get from our home to the University at Buffalo Center for Children and Families. Both of us were lost in our own thoughts about what lay ahead.
We were going to hear from the experts what we already knew in our hearts to be true. They were the four words we most dreaded: “Your son has autism.” They were spoken to us seven years ago.
Our lives were forever changed that day. At first I spent a lot of time trying to make deals with
God, like “please take this autism from my child and I’ll do anything you ask.”
But change, in and of itself, does not have to be a bad thing. It is how we embrace it, how we move forward from it, that makes our lives better or worse because of it.
The challenges we face raising a child with autism are great. However, if we spend too much time thinking about those challenges, they can become overwhelming. And if we don’t embrace the challenges, we will miss out on all the rewards.
The rewards are some of the most amazing experiences I have had in my life. Whether it is when Ryan is doing his homework and smiles at me because he knows he got the answer correct, or the first time I took him to the playground and he played appropriately on the swings and slides. No longer did he just sit on the ground throwing the wood chips about.
For me, the biggest reward has been watching his relationship with his siblings blossom. It is very difficult for an autistic child to develop social skills. Ryan is fortunate to have a brother and two sisters who each, in their own unique way, have helped him grow into the silly, lovable young boy he is today. They have taught him important skills he never could have learned in a classroom. I know they, in turn, have learned much about the importance of patience, tolerance and acceptance.
Because of Ryan, I am a firm believer that God gives us our children for a reason. It is not just because of what we, as parents, can teach our children; it is also what we, as adults, can learn from them. Ryan has pushed me in so many ways to be a better person.
There is a saying, “God only gives us as much as we can handle.” It reminds me how strong Ryan’s soul must be to have taken on the challenges this life has handed him. His obstacles are far greater than any I have ever faced. It is because of Ryan I find strength and courage to rise above my own personal fears.
What started as a day that felt as though our whole world was crashing down around us has turned into a journey that has blessed us with many rewards.
This is for all the families out there who have recently, or will very soon, receive the same devastating news my family received seven years ago. Always keep your heart and mind open to what your child may be trying to teach you, and cherish the rewards you will find in your child’s successes. This is also for Ryan, who is our hero every single day.
Please share this news with friends, family and also with your contact list on Facebook and MySpace.