Not every day is difficult. Some days are exceptional. And those are the days when I sit back, relax, soak it all in, and love everything that my life has given me.
I owe that to Autism.
When I look at my son, there is never any anger. There is never any regret. There is never any pain. His smiles are ever-present, and his laughter lights up any room he happens to be in. Ryder has no words, but his beautiful face tells a brilliant story every time he looks at me.
He is autistic. And I am so grateful for my son. I owe that to Autism.
Thursday, April 2 is World #AutismDay. World Autism Awareness Day shines a spotlight on autism as a growing global health crisis. WAAD activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder and provide information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. By bringing together autism organizations all around the world, we all will give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help.
Autism is hard. But I think becoming an #autismmom may just be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Six years ago I never would have believed that I would feel this way. But here I am, almost two years from my son’s diagnosis on September 12, 2013, and I feel so grateful for the gift that I have been given.
Even before Ryder’s diagnosis, we had days, weeks, and even months of challenges; from seizures and extended hospital visits, to never-ending temper tantrums and sleep disorders. While most of these are common with children on the autism spectrum, Ryder also suffers from a rare neurological disorder that kept us close to BC Children’s Hospital for the first three years of his life. It was unbelievable to me how quickly life changed for all of us. I constantly questioned how we would get through it, and I cried myself to sleep a lot.
I was exhausted. I had so many sleepless nights and early mornings because I had to work and support my family. We had the challenge of my ex-husband’s health as well, so there were days that I felt like I was raising three kids instead of two, and many of those days I really was; after a brain tumor and subsequent stroke in 2012, he was unable to take care of himself on his own.
For a long time, I felt like we were surviving on auto-pilot. Life was just happening in front of us, and I was just trying to make it through one more day. I didn’t know any one who was, or had, gone through the same kind of suffering as we were, and I felt like a burden to my loved ones. It was so difficult to ask for help. So I rarely did. I was going through my own silent depression, but was unable to recognize it as anything but stress. I was in pain, and had no one who really understood.
Most times I felt that if I could just do better, Ryder would get better. Back then, I didn’t know how wrong that really was. I spent hours upon hours doing research online, calling Doctor’s, and studying scientific studies and documents. I looked into naturopathic methods of ‘curing’ autism. I pretended no one would notice he was different. Now, I feel like a fool.
The truth is, Ryder is a miracle. His diagnosis may have changed my life, my daughter’s life, his Dad’s life and the life of those close to us, but he’s also taught us so much about a world we may have never been blessed to see otherwise. We owe that to Autism.
Because of him and his diagnosis, I have found levels of patience and compassion that I never thought possible. I’ve learned REAL kindness, I’ve learned total acceptance. And I’ve learned that happiness is defined by the love in our lives, not the tangible things that we own.
Ryder has taught me all of this, and he continues to teach me every day. And I owe that to Autism.
I have come to really understand the power and meaning of what true friendship is. My friends with neuro-typical children are friends with their neighbors, and the parents of their children’s friends. I am friends with all of the above plus multiple therapists and organizations I’ve recruited for my son’s daily therapy, and an entire arsenal of online supporters: fellow Autism moms.
Along our journey, friends have come and gone, and today I can honestly say those close to me accept me, my family, and my son without limits or boundaries. I am a better friend because of Ryder, too. I know the unique pain of suffering for your child, and would do anything for any other person suffering as well. I owe that to Autism.
Autism has taught my daughter and me the importance of family, and each and every day we recognize the love that we have for each other. With a hug, a high five, or a family tickle match in the middle of the living room; a day does not go buy that we aren’t telling one another how special and important we are to each other.
Sadie is 13, and her love, patience, and compassion for her little brother amazes me more and more as each day passes. She’s growing up to be responsible, respectful, and mature…something every parent hopes to instill in their children. Strangely, I owe a lot of that to Autism.
My handsome and intelligent son has taught me to love unconditionally and without fear. I show my emotion with every smile, frown, and tear; and I embrace every opportunity to say ‘I love you’. I take absolutely nothing for granted anymore either; I live in the moment, not in the past. Sadie and I experience true happiness in every moment that isn’t typical, and we are able to recognize those moments because we know what sacrifice and pain can be.
Because of Ryder, I have learned that life cannot be measured by personal success or money. Instead, we measure our success by the slow and steady progress and milestones our little man is achieving. We don’t celebrate where we live, the kind of car we drive, or the dinners out we sometimes treat ourselves too; we celebrate when Ryder gives us kisses, makes eye contact, or grabs our necks to pull us down for a loving hug. Those moments are what truly define our success, because those are the moments that really matter. And I owe that to Autism.
I am still learning to take each moment as it comes; to ride out the choppy waters, shoulder the tough days, and to hang on to the moments with family and friends that really are the reason for getting up each and every day. But Ryder makes that all easier.
Sadie and I have learned that normal isn’t normal and that it’s ok to be different. We have our difficult days, our silent meltdowns, our exhaustions, but each day that Ryder is here is a gift that I wouldn’t exchange, give back, or refuse to accept all over again.
Because Ryder IS a miracle. And I owe all that to Autism.
So next Thursday, April 2, on World #AutismDay, please take a moment to celebrate the wonderful children in your life that have been diagnosed with Autism. Visit a local charitable event, sign a petition, donate to a non-profit autism society.
Celebrate the gift I am lucky enough to celebrate each and every day.