The tests have been done. The evaluation complete. Diagnosis announced. Prognosis assumed.
Your child has _________…fill in the blank.
All of a sudden, you are forced to flip your life upside down to better understand it. Somebody took your rose-colored glasses and exchanged them for a pair of lenses that expose you to blinding light.
The life you thought your child would have suddenly begins to melt away like a sand castle battered by waves and it hurts. There’s an expert telling you what will or will not be true for your child. It may feel as though someone flipped to the last chapter of your child’s story and re-wrote the ending.
How do you cope with this?
Well, you have a decision to make. Let me illustrate with a story.
There were two shoe salesmen who both went to a country where no one had ever heard of shoes. The first salesman wrote home saying, “This is terrible. No one here wears shoes. I’m coming home.” The second salesman wrote home saying, “This is fantastic! No one here wears shoes! I’m going to make a fortune!”
Same situation. Same circumstance. Different perspective. Why?
Why did the first salesman give up almost as soon as he started? Why did the second salesman see so much opportunity?
The answer is the same – hope.
The first salesman had none of it and the second salesman had an abundance. Hope is a feeling of expectation – it’s an anticipation of a certain outcome. It’s the silver lining that allows us to go on in a world with so much trouble.
Without it, we are doomed. With it, we can do anything.
This is not some pie-in-the-sky-rah-rah motivational speech. I’m not promising you that you can reach the moon or do anything you set your heart to. I am telling you, very plainly, that if you do not have hope for your child’s future, you will spend your days depressed and in vain. When your child recives a life-changing diagnosis, hope is your antidote.
You can choose to look at your challenges as absolute roadblocks or perplexing mind-benders.
You can ask, “why me?” or you can ask, “now what?”
The decision to be paralyzed wiht fear or invigorated with perseverence is up to you.
But that’s the long road. Let’s talk about the steps to get there.
The first thing is to just go ahead and let go of the idea of normal for a while. accept that this is a season of transition, and a very dificult one. adopt a minimal schedule or even take a few weeks off to sort throught it all – if you homeschool, this is one of those times you need to cash in on the flexiblity it is so prized for. as for the information- your brain can only hold so much so decide what is most pressing right now. do that. then once you get a handle on thata bit you can add something else. for instance…
narrow down treatment options. decide on the course of action and only one. pursue that until comfortable and then add something new. basically you are going to have to drown out the noise adn choose only the path htat is right for your family righ tnow.
as for your child – try to stay postivie. grieeve this with your spouse and on your own, go to God but be your child’s strong tower. let him fall apart, of course, but at th eend of every confversation help him to find at least one thing to be graeful for. remind her that though she has no control lover what is hanneding to him, he has absolute control over how he chooses torespond to it. that is for you, too, mama. you can see this as a tragedy – which in many ways it is. grieve it, its ok – don’t bury it. but at some point you will need to see this as your new normal and embrace the fractured blessings that come with it.
When you have a child diagnosed with something – be it autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or whatever, you will no doubt hear some variation of these words along the way:
“But what is normal anyway? There’s really no such thing.”
The people speaking these words are usually doing so out of a good place – they want to make you feel included in a world that doesn’t understand your family. They want to connect with you. Oftentimes, they are attempting to soften some sort of blow. You know this because these words are usually spoken in conjunction with your child doing something very abnormal.
Let me be really blunt here…
There is such a thing as normal, and you’re not it.
It shouldn’t be. If you’re reading this, I think you already knew that. You know your life doesn’t look, feel or function like most of your friends’ lives. Your child acts differently. Your child has “special friends” known as therapists. You may eat differently. You have different boundaries than other families do. Your child may take a slew of supplements every morning in addition to a “normal” multi-vitamin.
You, my friend, and your family, are not normal.
Normal is dropping your child off at Vacation Bible School and then just leaving.
Normal is signing up for T-ball without a 30 minute “how to” briefing on interacting with your child.
Normal is going out for ice cream without inspecting every last ingredient in the treat.
Normal is not thinking twice about the sensory effects Christmas morning has on your child.
These things are taken for granted by “normal” families.
You, like me, dear, do not have that luxury. Denying it is not going to change it.
I could quote scripture here talking about the benefits of being counter-cultural, and how normal isn’t necessarily a good thing but I’m going to step down a level and quote Dr. Seuss instead:
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Friend, the only way you are going to find peace with autism is by embracing your new normal.
Your child (and by extension your family) is not normal. At least right now. So stop striving for it.
Stop reading parenting books that weren’t written for you.
Stop asking advice from friends who do not have the same challenges as you do.
Stop eating the same standard American diet garbage and trying to get a healthy kid out of it.
Stop beating yourself up because normal isn’t working for your family.
and move forward instead.
Do you strive for normal? How have you made peace with your new normal?
Photo Credit Steve Depolo via Creative Commons