8 Ways My Son With Autism Helped Me Grow

 

Miracles happen every day when we least expect them. And this summer has been no exception.

Out on the soccer field, my boy kicked around the ball with his friends, as they all tried to follow the coach’s directions.

 

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While making a turn, his teammate crashed into the turf. He held his knee and grimaced in pain.

From the other end of the field, my little man rushed to his aid.

As I stood with the other boy’s mama, I witnessed him helping the boy up. Like a wounded soldier, his friend leaned on him and hopped back across the field to the coach.

In my son’s life, this is no small miracle. To put action to compassion and reach out in empathy is astounding for a child with autism.

The other soccer moms and dads erupted in applause. Because they knew. This was a special soccer league for kids with autism. And having their own children on the autism spectrum, they appreciated what a huge leap in my little guy’s development this was.

The mama of the boy with the hurt knee was thrilled and thanked my son profusely.

My boy pointed to his own knee, at the scar from years ago when he tripped on the sidewalk and bit the dust. “I got hurt on my knee, too.”

He got it. He really, truly experienced empathy, understanding his friend’s pain at such a level that he had compassion on him and helped him out.

And, I am still beaming, teary and thankful for this miracle in his life and thankful for all that autism has taught me.

8 Ways Having a Child With Autism Helped Me Grow:

1. In thankfulness.

I’m learning to appreciate the little things. Things I would have overlooked in my more typically developing children. Like saying hello to a new person without being prompted or learning to swim after three years of lessons. These things are huge in the life of a child with autism.

2. In patience.

Because you can’t hurry things up for a child with autism who does things so methodically, no steps can be skipped.

3. In humility.

Yes, I was one of those mamas. Who wondered if that screaming child in Target needed a little more discipline. Nope. Not anymore. I totally get it now.

4. In gentleness.

Caring for a super sensory-sensitive little guy who covers his ears at the slightest amplification in my voice is like having a tool to measure my own level of frustration. It helps to know when to tone it down.

5. In respect.

Having worked at a school for special needs, I saw the children for part of the day and then could go home and recharge. I had no idea the amount of fortitude it takes to be a full-time caregiver of a child with special needs until I had my own. It stretches you beyond what you thought was ever possible.

6. In flexibility.

Perfectionism dies when it’s very clear that I’ll never attain it. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing we can somehow attain a measure of control in our lives, but I’ve had to learn to let things go in order to have a greater measure of peace.

7. In grace.

When you have a firstborn who has one temper tantrum (just one!) in the entirety of her toddler years and then have a boy who has ten in one day, you realize that some battles are not worth fighting. You learn that your child’s heart is more important than his behavior.

8. In love.

Not that I love perfectly, but I’ve had to learn to love on those days when I’m tired and frustrated and don’t feel like dealing with a meltdown. To not take it personally when I get yelled at and called the worst mom ever. And to not let my love for my child to diminish no matter what. At the end of the day after stories, prayers and a kiss on the forehead, may he know that he is loved.

 

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5 Responses to 8 Ways My Son With Autism Helped Me Grow

  1. Toni July 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Yes times 8. My 13-year-old is not autistic, and none of the myriad professionals I sought help from over the years suggested it, but I have felt for many years that she was on the spectrum. I have learned these exact same lessons through her and I completely understand your joy at your son’s show of empathy (been there). Our life is a lot easier now that I understand her better and can parent accordingly. I have grown immensely as a human being because of her. Thanks for your post, which might help others understand autisic behavior better and the joy and strength it can bring.

  2. Chanda Marie Griese
    Chanda Marie Griese July 8, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

    That is so encouraging that you have had the same experience with your child, Toni! Joy and strength are some more ways to be thankful…

  3. Ariella August 26, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Thank you so much. You may be proud!

    What I learned from my son H. with autism is this: Even though he has autism, he can sympathize with those who suffer in situations where he himself has suffered. He has sympathy but no real empathy. Empathy presupposes that you can sympathize with people who experience something you have not experienced.

    (I have two sons with autism)

    I love all the ways your son helped your grow! Its so nice and good to read.

    • Chanda
      Chanda August 26, 2015 at 8:43 am #

      It’s good your son with autism is able to have compassion on those who have suffered like himself. The terms sympathy and empathy have been confused often. According to Dictionary.com, you feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t. I used the word empathy for my son because he had an understanding of his friend’s pain because he’d also experienced the same kind of pain. Empathy is considered to be more understanding than sympathy and therefore may be harder for a child with autism. At least it was for my son. I am thankful for this gain in his maturity. Thank you for reading my post and may our children with special needs continue to help us grow in more ways.

  4. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 7, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    What an absolutely beautiful post brimming with love. You are a remarkable mom of an equally remarkable son.

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