I’m a mom to an Autistic 6-year-old child. It’s a label I never thought would be placed upon my baby, but it’s our reality. Thankfully, it is not the primary or most important label I use when describing my daughter.
Since her diagnosis at 2 years old, my love for her has grown. I look up to her as a brave, inquisitive, and hilarious spirit more than I ever have. I’m proud of her. Autism hasn’t been able to take away her desire to love, learn, and grow.
Thinking back to 4 years ago, when she was diagnosed with Autism, there are some things I wish I knew, and if I could have a conversation with myself back then, here are the lessons I would share.
1. Be her number one therapist, teacher, provider, and supporter
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that I am her number one teacher, therapist, supporter, and provider.
I will listen to the experts. I will read the advice. I will take heed when appropriate. But I will not blindly follow recommendations if they don’t fit my child’s needs. I must do what I feel is best for her at the end of the day.
2. All treatment isn’t made equally
My daughter has tried it.
It took endless evaluations, 4 speech therapists, a round of ABA therapy, and 2 occupational therapists before I found the right mix of support for her.
Currently, I use Gemiini, an at home speech program for 20 minutes per day, twice weekly speech therapy, a digital iPad text to speech program to support her development and she is on the waitlist for occupational therapy.
It’s okay to give a treatment center a try and stop if she’s not reacting well to it or progressing as anticipated. It’s okay to watch her experience growth with a provider and still end services if they’re not giving her what she needs to move to the next level. I don’t have to do it for 6 months to a year. I can give it a try, but I’m not locked and bound to anything. The goal is to find what’s right for her as soon as possible and never forget that.
3. Continue to have high expectations
Autism doesn’t mean that I have to lower expectations for my daughter. I have high expectations related to her behavior, her manners, her education, how she cares for herself, and her future. I will never lower them. I will never expect less for her than what she can perform. I believe that continuing to push her and expect more of her is part of why she continues to progress daily.
4. It’s going to be okay
At the end of the day, after crying tears, spending hours researching, reading books, struggling through the emotions of having a child with Autism, I think about the joy. Her personality. Her progress. Her smile. Her sense of humor. Her inquisitive nature. Her girlie personality.
I see my daughter, who I love with all of my heart, and I know that it’s going to be okay.
As long as I continue to be her number one supporter, teacher, therapist, and provider, I will walk her through this journey step by step to help her get what she needs to live a happy, healthy, and successful life.
I am the mother to an autistic child, and what I wish I knew when my daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is how strong and brave she is and how her condition would continually challenge me to be a better mother and person.
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