Here are some things you will not find in your research on autism:
You will not learn how this diagnosis will affect your marriage or other members of your family. You will not be told how it may fundamentally alter your perceptions of what is "normal," how it may change your view of human beings, how it can force you to question small talk and why we behave the way we do, how it will transform your outlook on life, how it will change you, how your life and everything you assumed to be true, is no longer what you thought.
Having a child with autism may cause you to feel things you never dreamed possible. You may know moments of joy and moments of despair you could not have imagined. You may find yourself going to untold lengths in the hope of helping your child. You may feel distracted, unable to concentrate. Your work and career may suffer. You may learn what it is to be sleep deprived. You will come to know what it means to feel desperation. You will know sorrow in a way no one can prepare you for. You will know happiness in a way no one can prepare you for. Sometimes you may feel both sorrow and happiness within the same day, within the same hour, within the same minute.
You may spend money you do not have on yet another treatment, yet another doctor, yet another specialist, yet another therapy, yet another intervention, all the while rationalizing that if it helps, it will all be worth it. You may contemplate doing things you would have scoffed at before your child was diagnosed. You may find yourself trying things that defy logic and have no medical basis. You may listen to implausible, anecdotal stories and think -- we will try that next. You may dream your child is speaking to you in full, complex, beautifully self aware and revealing sentences. You may wake from those dreams believing for a few seconds they were real and not a dream. You will pray that you might dream again. You will welcome sleep, as you never believed possible. You may ache with sadness because your child is crying and in pain and your presence brings them no solace. That ache may become unbearable when your child hits themselves in the face, bites their own arm or hand, punches their own legs or stomach. You may question every maternal instinct you have.
You may feel ecstasy from being hugged, unprompted. You may feel the exquisite joy from having your child reach for you, ask for you or look at you. You may know the joy that comes from seeing your child work so hard at something that does not come easily to them. You may celebrate when they use the bathroom unaided, drink from a cup, sleep for more than a few hours without waking you, try a new food or simply acknowledge your presence. You may feel a gratitude you would not have believed possible. You may cry from happiness when they say a word, any word, even if you are the only person who can understand what the word is. You will know what it is to appreciate commonplace things -- eye contact, the correct use of the word "me," "you" and "I," physical contact initiated by your child, a word, any word spoken or a smile.
You will feel a fierce love for your child that seems to come from a place that is not of this world. You will know what it is to love unconditionally and you will understand what that really means.
What have you learned that no one was able to tell you in your research of autism?
For more on my daughter, Emma's journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.Emma'sHopeBook.com
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