By Tracie Posehn, LPC-Intern, one of Dr. Kay’s outstanding counseling team members.
Thanks Tracie for this very heart warming look at autism.
Each of us is unique.
Five short words which make such a statement of truth if one takes the time digest. We enter the world with similar characteristics in a global sense: head, body, limbs, eyes, ears and hopefully, 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. For a few, even those parts don’t always show up as expected. Hearts are filled with joy, hope, angst, fear, wonder . . . the list of emotion extensive. Weight and length are measured and the start of a lifetime of comparison begins. Parents begin to hear terms such as percentile, milestones, normal and abnormal. The infant is watched for signs of distress and when all looks good, out into the big wide world he goes. For some, this transition takes longer than others, but eventually, days turn to weeks, weeks to months and the awe of new skills and mastery start to surface. Parents share anecdotes and begin to plan for the future having survived the first year, enjoying the calm before the storm of the “terrible two’s.”
But, one day, something seems different. Parents’ instincts notice, but the mind pushes these thoughts away. Maybe it’s a coming flu? Or tiredness? Or something one just can’t put a finger on – yet something has changed.
First-time parents may not know what to look for, and more-seasoned parents can tell you that no two pregnancies, let alone children, are the same, and that surely it’s just a phase – kids go through them all the time. Yet as time passes, subtle differences become less subtle. Eye contact and social interaction decrease while objects tend to hold more interest. As play dates come and go, that “something” is still hanging on, and a parent determines it’s time to check with the pediatrician. Autism is diagnosed and the parent feels emotions from all sides: What does this mean in the moment? What does this mean for the future? How did this happen? Now what do we do?
You do what you’ve always done, and what you would continue to do with or without a diagnosis. You love your child and value the amazing qualities that make your heart sing. You broach the challenges with information, strategies and support, just as you would with any other child. You find out what makes your child smile, what makes her heart hurt and you feed her soul. You may have to let go of one set of dreams, and replace them with another – dreams that your child has for a future – building upon strengths and natural talents. You have the opportunity to see outside of your own vision for your child, as so many other parents remain focused on who they want their child to become. You have the opportunity to embrace a life journey outside of the status quo and see the beauty of unique. Granted, a period of adjustment and even grief may follow the initial news, yet ultimately, the child developing before you has the same basic needs as any other child: to be accepted for who he is, encouraged to face challenges and learn from mistakes, have the opportunity to fail and to succeed – to be loved for all his uniqueness.
Normal is a perception, not a state of achievement. All stars shine in the sky. The most vibrant may stand out at first, obvious above the city glow, the norm; the expected. But if you get away from all the hustle and bustle of society, to a quiet place in the country, and allow your eyes to adjust to the natural beauty of the night, you’ll find a different kind of radiance. You’ll see stars with unknown names, in random patterns, making their own kind of magic. One view no better than the other, just different, and at times, a brilliance that’s little harder to find when you’ve become accustomed to the standard and expected.