Thursday, February 6, 2014

It isn't by mistake....

A friend of mine and I were having a conversation today about how every experience in our lives has been brought about for a reason and nothing happens by mistake. (I love conversations like these!)
When you think about it: every person that you meet, every new opportunity, ever heartbreak along the way (yes, even those), every place you go and how you spend your days is not a mistake. They are each molding and shaping you along the way and changing you a little bit. (For the better!)
It’s really liberating and maybe a little scary to think that you can accept life as it comes and find comfort in the fact that it’s part of your journey.
This isn’t about being complacent or not accepting responsibilities for your own choices.
You can use life to grow and help other people along the way  with your vast wealth of experience!:)
I’ve touched on this before but it bears repeating.  If good and really lovely things are coming to you, accept that without ever doubting that you deserve it! Enjoy blessings completely and luxuriously and relish in being so blissfully happy.:) You don’t have to hold on tight and be afraid that it will go away, just enjoy it. Soak it in. Be thankful! Be grateful. This is the absolute best way to ensure that your days are going to be predominately filled with sunshine.:)
When hard times come, look at it as a test. Life is quite the teacher! There’s still ways to find the positive when life seems to be overwhelmingly negative. The first personal experience of this that comes to mind is that I was abused for years. And I learned from it. I can truthfully say that because of that awful experience I am even more profoundly aware of what love looks like, feels like and how love treats you. I am gentler with my children because I am determined that they will always have a happy home environment. I constantly strive to show my husband how much I appreciate him and how thankful I am for the loving way he treats and leads his family. So much light came out of a horribly dark time in my past.
I read once that life will present the same lesson to you over and over until you learn it. Then you can move on.:)
One last thought on this…just like every person that you meet and interact with is a part of your story, part of your are a part of theirs. Pretty humbling thought, isn’t it?:)
You’re making a bigger impact on people than you realize. Rock it.:)

Be kind, we are all on this journey together.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our journey through Autism

"Colin, can you look at me?" "Colin?"
And then there's a brief moment, when those big brown eyes focus on me. He's engaged, he sees me and lets me in. There's so much light in those eyes that I love so much.
The focus doesn't always last long. You can see a physical shift, his eyes haze over and he disconnects.

My son having Autism isn't an easy journey, for either one of us. But it has taught me so much. Colin is very, very smart. He's so funny, and quirky. He melts my heart with a little cock of his head to the side and a smile.

Finding a way to reach into his world, to convince him to join ours, is the challenge.

I'll never forget the day that I drove Colin 3 1/2 hours away to be assessed and diagnosed by a team of doctors. I was alone and scared, and knew in my heart before I went with him what they were going to say: your son is Autistic.
I had been around a few parents and children  who faced the same challenges enough to recognize the "warning signs". Colin rocked back and forth and flapped his hands and fingers, he wouldn't make much eye contact at all. He didn't play with toys. He was non-verbal.
After interviewing me and studying Colin the diagnosis came quickly. Colin had Autism. They also wanted to do tests for Muscular Dystrophy (later ruled out...he was 22 months before he walked for the first time, obviously another big concern).

I came home with mountains of paper work to fill out, and lots of tears in my eyes as I wondered how I could do this. I didn't know how to be Colin's advocate. I didn't know what questions to ask, how to fix it. Don't we all, as parents, want to fix it for our children? I was overwhelmed with the idea that Colin may never lead a "normal" life. I didn't want him to struggle. I was frustrated. I wanted to scream that we had been through enough already. My pregnancy with Colin and his delivery were not easy, dotted with lots of physical trauma throughout my pregnancy, at least three times that I can think of that I was told "this may not be a viable pregnancy", and me having seizures during delivery, where I delivered him with a knot in his umbilical cord.

I remember in the days to come after his diagnosis, I looked back at the stacks of papers and tests given to me and I kept seeing all of the deficits pointed out.
All of the things marked that Colin "can't" do.
He scored as mentally retarded, although the doctor was kind enough to assure me that they have to go by standardized testing and he felt confident that with the right help my son would overcome that label soon enough.

I did what I knew to do, and started taking the appropriate steps to enroll Colin in therapies and programs to help him. Change is so huge for any Autistic child, and there were a lot of days where I'd have to drop Colin off with his teacher and paste a smile on my face, hug him and tell him to have a great day, while he cried and reached for me just until I could get out of the room and then break down into tears again. This was so much more than an average child's reaction to their Mama leaving them at daycare. This continued with every new classroom, every new the beginning, change was so traumatic for Colin that if I drove a different route to school he would bang his head against the back of his car seat and yell.
I'm so thankful that I met several people at his school who gave me a lot of hope for Colin. They truly care for him, and see in him what I do. That Colin is going to do some really great things. That he's much more than a statistic, much more than his Autism diagnosis.

One of those people became a life line to me, and I'm so glad to say that she's still working beside Colin every day, cheering him on and helping us both greatly!

Colin understands. During one moment of great eye contact we held hands and I asked him to please, let me hear his voice. It seemed like forever that he stared into my eyes so intently. He heard me, and he was trying.

It's been nearly three years since Colin's diagnosis, and still there are days that are overwhelming. There are times that we opt-out of social gatherings or have to leave early because Colin will have panic attacks being in a room with too many people, or in a strange environment.

I try to keep a happy balance of striving towards Colin having total independence one day, and of celebrating tiny little moments of progress that I might have otherwise taken for granted. Colin called me "Mama" this week. He hasn't said that since he was 2 1/2 years old!
I couldn't have been more proud of him. He, after all, is the one doing all of the work. I'm just doing my best to guide him.

My sweet boy, with his innocence. He's happy, and kind, and loving. He is going to be an amazing man one day, and he's already an amazing son and brother. I'm so blessed to be his Mama.

If your family has recently started a similar journey, or if you want to be a support to those who have, please check out Autism Speaks. They're a great resource for information.
And most importantly, don't forget to love these children just as they are. Who they are is pretty awesome.