It’s so amazing to me how much you can love your children. It is even more amazing to me how much children learn from their parents, and how much we, as their parents, learn from them.
Having a child on the Autism-Spectrum Disorder is challenging, but also provides meaningful opportunities. Our son Bo was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 1/2. We started therapies within 4-6 weeks of his diagnosis and have been going strong ever since. Yes our family has had many ups and downs, but somewhere among the three of us there has always been a core strength that gets us through the difficult times. That core strength being a combination of our faith, honesty, and love towards God, and each other.
We always tried to be honest and direct with Bo about his Autism, and his autistic tendencies to script or perseverate on a certain topic, hand flapping or stimulatory behavior. When he hand-flapped, we said “no-flapping.” When he would script or “stim”, we would show him what he looked like or also we told him that “Mommy and Daddy want to talk to you, but you’re not listening,” or “You’re not with us. So please stop or go to your room if you need alone time.”
If he scripted a movie or show, we would tell him that “We aren’t talking about that right now.” He always wanted to be in character, and we would always tell him to “Be Bo, because we love you for who you are”. “Just be yourself”, we would say. We always felt being honest was the right thing, but sometimes, as parents often do, we would second guess ourselves whether he really understood what we were trying to tell him.
One morning Bo and I were on the computer doing a learning disk that one of our psychologists had recommended for Bo’s processing skills. This was not his favorite activity and there was a rhyming game that he just could not seem to comprehend, and wasn’t able to follow through on the instructions.
Wanting to help him I kept motivating him in different ways and assisting him. The more I tried to help, the more he got frustrated at me and at the computer. And then I started to get frustrated that he was unable to get the task done and for him being frustrated at me. Needless to say it was an ugly start to the day and we did not get to finish the game.
Later that night, on that ugly computer day, I was helping Bo brush his teeth. We always did silly sounds or vowels and letter sounds so he would open his mouth wide and I could finish up his brushing job. Reflecting on the day, and feeling like I failed him earlier that morning. I was determined that I was going to help him understand the rhyming game. So I started acting like the computer game. And waited for a response.Bo took out his toothbrush and looked right at me and said “Mommy just be yourself, I like you just the way you are.” “Just be Mommy”.
WOW!, as tears rolled down my cheek, I thought of how far we have all come in 2 1/2 years, when Bo could barely understand a question or word. He’s now 5 years old and telling me to be honest and to just be myself. What a smart little boy he is. How proud I am of him, and relieved that being “just Mommy” is enough.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.