Fitting into a Defined Box - or Not

As I sit here in attendance of the Future Horizons Autism and Aspergers Conference in Charlotte, NC, I reflect on the years of being a mother of an autistic child and the enlightening things I have learned through the difficult journey of raising our son to the wonderful adult he has become. I hear the stories of challenges and trials from young mothers and recognize that they are at the beginning of the journey. I am wanting to gift them with the vision of each of the many days to come of trying to fit their child into the box. This box is the expectations of family, relatives and the neurotypical population. This box defines the standards of appropriate social and academic standards. It contains the proper behaviors and attire acceptable to the world. Yet, to fit our special child into this box, we must continuously correct, re-direct and reprimand. Our role as a mother becomes far greater than loving and guiding. We become manic to find answers, solutions, new treatments, tools and research that will help us help our child. While all of this is good and what we as moms do, we ourselves must evolve through the tsunami...and ideally we figure out that we benefit our child if we evolve sooner than later. As I heard Temple Grandin speak, I recognized she was stressing how important it is for us to look at our atypical children for their talents, not for the way they look when they are performing their talents. We need to accept responsibility for the fact that at times we moms must take a big chill-pill. Our manic actions of reinforcing the need to finish homework seems crazy 15 years later. That is not to say that homework is not important. It is to say that if we become manic about it ourselves, then something could be wrong with our expectations. When my son became about 17 years old, I realized that he had spent more of his life being corrected than he had being praised and praise is significant to any human being. So, what's the lesson? Balance is everything. To find peace, you must balance stressful times with the nonstressing activities. Do whatever creative things you can think of that allow joy into your family's life. Be able to look in the mirror and see yourself, not your child, when you stand side by side. Figure out what you are doing that, while it may be helpful, it may be harmful as well to either you, your family or your special child.