I was inspired to write my own set of resolutions after reading a list from the parent of a young child with autism. As the parent of an adult with autism, mine are similar but different. Hindsight is 20/20 and after years of dealing with some of the same issues as the young parent, I have a different idea of what is important right now, in my son’s adulthood. And, instead of 20 resolutions as she did, I have only ten–I’m too tired for more!
10. Always use Spell Check. And Grammar Check. I advocate, I write, I email and network on behalf of my son and his peers. But often, “civilians” have a view of those of us with family members with intellectual challenges as being on a sub-par intellectual level as well. In order to be taken seriously as an advocate, I must sound intelligent. And using my Spell and Grammar Check will help. Being less emotional, even if an issue strikes an emotional chord, will get my message across better.
9. Be true to myself and my values. I came into parenthood with a core set of values and beliefs. Just because I have a child with autism doesn’t mean I have to abandon who I am and what I believe, no matter what other parents tell me is right. And it’s taken me over 30 years to be comfortable with that.
8. Trust myself and my gut. This has never been more important than now, in his adulthood. I trusted myself to know what was best for him when he was 7 and it is perhaps more important NOW.
7. Take my son out in the community as much as possible. We always took Our Kiddo out, whether to the store or baseball games or to a favorite restaurant, when he was a child. There was never a problem, but now that he is an adult, there are some people who are uncomfortable with seeing an adult with autism out and about, even some parents of young children with autism. Too bad. I am not intimidated and will continue to be out and about with him in our community.
6. Trust Our Kiddo to know what is best for him. We don’t always give him credit. He has opinions, likes and dislikes and has shown us quite a few times he knows what he needs. Because of the severity of his autism, we often sell him short. We shouldn’t.
5. Be open-minded. With no real known cause of autism, I am still looking and trying to be open-minded as to what caused Our Kiddo’s autism. Every year, I hope there will something that makes sense to me and every year, I am disappointed. We still try new things with him–new techniques or even a new medication. Sometimes, something new works so we continue to be open minded and try new things. I have had this resolution every year for about 25 years.
4. Be an example. Try to live my life as an example of what can be done, even if you have a child as a disability. Let parents of young children know life doesn’t end with your child’s diagnosis and you can have a good life. And you will be able to laugh. A lot.
3. Keep up with my own profession. I have learned I need a break from disability in order to be a good caretaker for my son, as well as an advocate for others with disabilities. It is so wonderful to be able to share my Art and to not think about autism or anything connected with it, for a short period of time–I am refreshed and recharged when I return home.
2. Pray my own version of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the Serenity to be Cynical when I need to be, Trusting when I should be and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
1. Practice and live the Girl Scout’s Song. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold.” I have some Golden Gal (we’re too young to be THE Golden Girls!) Pals–fellow members of the Sleepless Sisterhood. They know who they are, even if they need a nap! Parenting someone with autism is not for wimps and these are the strongest, funniest and brightest ladies I know. I treasure their friendships and love them like sisters.
It is those supports I wish for you all for 2016–new friends who can understand what you go through when your closest family members cannot and old friends who know you so well they agree to disagree with you and still love and respect you. Happy New Year!