This woman, the one who inspired this post, she and I grew up together. Between the two of us, we are raising a netball team of girls! Our first daughters were born one year apart – hers in the Northern hemisphere, mine Down Under. We chat about everything – making girl’s hair; how girls can be high maintenance; fussy eaters; how our girls are too young to watch Barbie; how little sleep we’re getting! It was during one of these chats that she casually mentioned about her daughter’s autism diagnosis. This mom is a 9-5 professional who has juggled work with her family and studies. I recall her returning to work five weeks after having subsequent kids and I have no idea how she could face such tough demanding periods with autism in the mix!
Last week, I was trying to make sense of it all. I wanted to know what her typical day looked like – the joys, the challenges, the lot; so I asked her and she agreed to share on the condition of anonymity because of her type of job.
Here’s what she said.
A sudden weight on top of me is my routine Saturday morning wake-up from Sina, my 5-year-old daughter. Then comes the “Hi Mommy”, but only after a prompt to verbalize the morning greeting. This is different from my 4 and 2 year olds that usually scream “Hi Mommy and Daddy” right from the door, but it warms my heart just the same, if not more.
Sina was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism just before her 3rd birthday. She had been receiving Speech Therapy for about 9 months prior to this, with minimal improvement. In addition to regression in her verbal communication, she also had significant regression in her social interactions with her peers at school and with our family. Autism is a complex brain disorder that affects a child’s ability to appropriately communicate and respond to his/her surroundings. It affects the way a child relates to people around him/her.
A beautiful girl in and out, Sina has taught me never to underestimate her abilities.
Mental images of a bleak and helpless future that crippled me with fear and sadness when she was first diagnosed with autism have been completely replaced with hope and resilient optimism. I have the same high expectations of her as I have of her siblings. She may learn or express things differently, but that is the beauty of her uniqueness.
The best thing a family can do for a child with autism is to believe in the child’s abilities (no matter the severity of autism). This creates a positive attitude and outlook and fundamentally changes how one relates with the child. As simple as this sounds, I truly think it is extremely important. With this attitude, I am able to think that Sina is able to do and achieve anything. With this attitude, I don’t say “if she can”, rather, I say “when she can”. With this attitude, I know she can excel in life; I try to equip her with the tools to do this, just as I would for my other children. With this attitude, I know she will excel in school; I try to find the best way to teach her to learn. With this attitude, I truly believe there is no limit to what she can achieve. My goal is to have her completely believe this too!
Guest Post by A Mother of A Child With Autism.