When we first told A about E’s autism diagnosis and what that all entailed, we tried to focus on the good. What made him special. What his strengths and weaknesses vs. her strengths and weaknesses are. So it was kind of cute when she started referring to it as “optism or optimism”. E would be melting down somewhere and she would say, “That’s my brother, he’s just two. He has optimism.”
I went to an Autism Conference last month and one of the speakers there, Autism Daddy*, did a presentation on Autism Perks. It got me thinking to what my Autism Perks are. It’s so easy and completely understandable to get caught up in the negative. Sometimes focusing on the perks give you a little boost. Seeing the good in a hard situation.
1. Behavioral Experts on speed dial. When I had A, I was at a loss of what to do most of the time. I wanted a handbook on her. How do I change her awake times from night to day? What behaviors should I let go and what behaviors should I worry about? How do I get her to eat this food? There were so many questions, and people would tell me, kids don’t come with a handbook. You have to figure them out through trial and error. Hundreds of dollars of Amazon Books later, I have her about halfway figured out. With E though, I do have a handbook. Well, not an actual handbook, but something even better. A whole team of experts at my disposal. Yesterday I had an appointment with his Developmental Specialist, and we trouble shot his sleep issues. By the end of the appointment, we had some good ideas worked out and we tackled some of his self-harm issues. I’ll put them into play to see if they work, and if they don’t I’ll text her or see her again next week. I literally have five people with masters degrees helping me figure out E. It’s awesome. Also, equally awesome that they get just as excited about his milestones as I do. When I’m in tears over something amazing he has done, they are too. It really does take a village, and I’m so happy to have them at my fingertips at all times.
2. You know the Cheers theme song? “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name” Well, that’s another perk. Everywhere I go, people remember and know my name. We stick out thanks to E’s fun outbursts. They’re not always him screaming, just things that draw attention. Today he grabbed my wallet out of my hand and threw it to the back of the line when I was paying for food at a restaurant. People are nice though. They all know me and E and A. I live in a city, but I get to enjoy a small town feel. Costco, Once Upon A Child, Kroger. They all know my name. It sounds cheesy, but it gives me the sense of community. It can get lonely going through the monotony of the day over and over again. When people remember you and know you, it makes life that much friendlier. So thank you E. Thank you for throwing my wallet to the back of the line. We made some new friends when they helped me pick up my change, and credit cards.
3. Guys, I have mad muscles. Like I am insanely strong. I pick up my over 50 lb. suitcase when I am traveling and place it by myself into the overhead compartment with one hand. This may not sound amazingly strong to you, but I didn’t used to be able to do this. You know those people who ask the cashier to scan underneath their cart because they don’t want to lift up the heavy items? Yeah. That’s not me. Not with my strength. I pick up all the stuff from the bottom and put it on the conveyer belt like it’s no big deal. Because really, it’s not. For me. Lifting E all the time when he won’t walk, or when it’s not safe for him to walk, or when he is having a tantrum, it builds up my strength. It also can throw out my back, so I have to be careful, which brings me to the next one.
4. Handicap sticker. Man, this is a lifesaver. And honestly, it probably would not be that big of a deal if I didn’t have E. Which I guess is the point of it. After severe back pains from holding him all the time in the parking lot while he tried to get down and run into a car or having to turn around by the time I got into the store, because he was already worked up from the walk, I am so glad to be able to park close. At first I felt guilty using it because I thought well, he’s not in a wheelchair and I can physically carry him. However after many sleepless nights filled with back pain, I warmed to the idea.
5. Before I had E, I would always bring headphones with me on my flights. I hated being stuck without them if there was a crying baby. Now, I am immune to it. My sister and I were on a flight but not sitting together. After the flight, we were getting off the plane, and she told me she had not really been able to sleep because of the crying baby. I was shocked. I had not heard anything. When I do hear a crying baby, I am so happy. It means it’s not mine. Hearing someone else deal with it just makes me feel like I am not the only one who has a baby or toddler that screams bloody murder at the grocery store. Also, after 2.5 years of it, there is almost comfort in the sound. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far, but almost.
6. Last but not least. Free babysitting. This is the best. Time to just do whatever I want. When I had A, I remember my friends who had kids who were in school and just imagining the day that I too could go to the grocery store by myself. Or maybe just read by myself in my room for a few hours. I just longed to do something by myself that was just for me. I felt so lost in motherhood and wanted some escape sometimes. I thought of hiring a part time babysitter, but financially it was not really an option. With E, it’s definitely more intense, the time that I spend with him, but those respite care hours that I spend by myself, I just feel really lucky that I have the luxury of time off during my week from being a mom. I feel recharged after, and just a more effective mom because of it.
There are many more perks that I could list. But I wouldn’t want to brag too much. 🙂 All in all, I’m pretty grateful for the good and the bad in my life. I feel pretty lucky to have the family that I do.