When James was diagnosed at 2, I experienced feelings of enormous relief that I could now finally access specific support services that would help him. I felt the same way when Tom was diagnosed. At no point has it ever occurred to me that I’m trying to “cure” or “fix” my boys. They are not broken. They are both the same beautiful, perfect little boys I held in my arms the day they were born.
What I am trying to do is to help them to understand themselves – the way they think, the way they feel – and to equip them with the skills to function happily and healthily within the world. I am trying to teach them to advocate for themselves and to claim who they are proudly and on their own terms. It’s not about fixing what is broken, it’s about helping them to manage in life.
In our house we focus on therapies that help us to manage issues as they present. I aim to have no more than two therapies going at once for either boy – one is better. I am discerning about what kinds of therapy we access and the quality of the individuals who are running these services. I’ve learnt through hard experience not to rely on a qualification or a referral from a medical practitioner or a web page, but rather to ask others who have completed therapy programs with the specialist concerned what their experience was like. I’ve also learnt to trust my gut instincts with therapy and therapists, and to try to tune in to my children and their responses to the therapy being offered. We are blessed to have the best specialists and therapists for our boys. We are so grateful for them!
Whilst therapy is beneficial, my children need to just be kids too. They don’t need to have a schedule so crowded with therapy that they don’t have the time or energy to play with the other kids in our neighbourhood. They need to have time to just ‘be’ and enjoy the things in life that make their hearts sing. We all do, don’t we? We all need to allow our children and our families the time to stop and smell the roses; to play and explore freely; to simply just be together and enjoy one another; and to have fun and find the joy in everyday things.
I love my children as they are. They are not broken. They do not need to be fixed or cured. They don’t ‘suffer’ from autism. They are individuals with Autism. Autism is part of who they are but it doesn’t define who they are. They receive support and therapy to help them to operate happily and healthily in the world – to function, to help them manage.
Like all parents I question myself constantly. Am I doing enough? Should I be doing something different? Is this the right decision? These questions are valid and understandable. But at the end of the day, if we love our children as they are, without condition and with acceptance and appreciation, we probably have the best chance of raising happy, healthy, functional children who will bring beauty, colour, spirit and uniqueness into the world around them.