As a mother of four children on the Autism Spectrum I can’t help but reflect upon what I have learned from them. My husband and I had many preconceived notions about parenthood before actually having our children. I thought that because I am a teacher, I would naturally be a wonderful parent.
Fast forward fifteen years, and here is what I have learned. There is no such thing as the perfect child. Perfection is just a fallacy that does not really exist. Everyone has some kind of cross to bear, my husband and I just have the advantage of know what our children routinely struggle within their daily lives just to fit in and get through the day. After all, what is normal anyway?
I have always lived by the notion that life will always be my greatest teacher. I didn’t know just how true this was until being given the gift of my four children. In addition to getting through the challenge of proper diagnosis, I have been on a journey to educate myself about my children’s strengths and needs.
I have learned to be proud of their accomplishments no matter how they may compare to those of their peers or how other people may perceive them. I have learned to be an advocate and fight for what my children need, whether it be in school, recreationally, or in the community. Team sports have not really worked out for us. However, this led us to discover some wonderful places and programs around Western New York that are very Autism friendly. The Baseball Academy of Western New York, Cradle Beach Camp, Kissing Bridge Adaptive ski program, High Hurdles, and SABAH have all enriched the lives of my children.
I have also learned that in order for my children to be accepted, it requires my husband and I to not only educate those involved about Autism, but to become the Cub Scout den leader, the religion teacher, the PTA mom and whatever else is required for our children to be accepted on some level in all areas of life.
National Autism associations are fantastic for researchers or for informing the public about Autism, but unfortunately, they are not beneficial to the families living with Autism.
There are families, like ours, who have several children afflicted with Autism, who are struggling to finance all of the therapies, doctors, and needs not covered by insurance. These associations offer no help whatsoever to individual families trying to help their children. Raising a family with multiple children on the Autism spectrum makes paying for college look easy.
I have learned that other parents of children with Autism are the most understanding and knowledgeable people to talk to. They are absolutely exhausted from doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of their child, but they are very strong people. My parents always told me that God gave me these children because I have what it takes to give them happy and fulfilling lives. I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
My children have taught me more than I could ever teach them. They have taught me patience, understanding, empathy, and most importantly, how to take life day by day and enjoy the little things that mean so much. Anthony, Alex, Juliana, and Drew, thank you so much for teaching me what life is really all about. You are strong, intelligent, compassionate children; and I love you all just the way you are.
By Deana Newberry
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.