What Having a Child on the Spectrum Has Taught Me About Life

by Julie Phillips | Grants Manager with CIS of Mid-America

Spring is a time for new beginnings. So it was very fitting my first child was born in spring.  From the day he was born, I knew my life would never be the same. He had us on our toes from the very start. As he got older, we noticed more and more odd quirks. He never made eye contact, he couldn’t talk, he didn’t seem to feel any pain, etc. I continued to ask, well more like beg, for answers. Finally, at age 4, he was diagnosed with Autism. While this may have devastated another mother, I felt slightly vindicated. He was the same kid before and after that appointment, nothing about him changed, but now we had a diagnosis, a justification for every gut feeling we had since he was born. What I did not know that day is how much better our lives would become.

One of the first things I realized is I needed to let go the future. I had to stop imagining all the things he might do when he grows up, stop picturing him playing sports, or attending school dances. I know this sounds sad, and it was at first. But what replaced those hopes and dreams, was an immense appreciation for the present. It gave me an ability to truly take in each day as it comes and find joy in the smallest of victories. I am able to start each day anew, leaving behind whatever hardship the previous presented. When I tell things are fine, they really are because I know we get through anything one day at a time.

My son is 100% true to himself with a confidence we can all admire and hope to attain.  He is unwavering in what he likes and is more than happy to share that zest with others. He does not judge and is kind down to his soul. He has taught me to laugh more, do more of the things I love, and not worry about what other people think. I will be honest, I am still working on that last one. He has helped me approach each person I meet with kindness and compassion. I am more giving and get so much more out of helping other in need. I see the potential in everyone and hope to leave every life a little better than when I found it.

This new outlook on life also made me a better Site Coordinator. It allowed me to assess the needs of students from their perspective and not my own. It is crucial when providing supports to those in need to allow them to tell you what they need. If you jump in too quickly you may find yourself doing more harm than good in the student’s eyes. It is important to establish a relationship, build trust, and listen before you act. Being able to look for small victories, was valuable in goal allowed me to collaborate with students to set attainable goals to keep students motivated to succeed throughout the school year.

The students we work with face immense challenges but if you provide them a positive attitude, a zest for life, and a safe, non-judgmental place to share their story, the impossible feels possible. Remember to look at each day as a new beginning and appreciate the small gifts all around you. I promise you, it will not only change your mood but it was it will also change the way you interact with those around you.