Try to identify and not compare. Man, that’s a hard one! This is something I have been practicing while on my own path towards healing. I was thinking about this concept yesterday, and how it can be applied when reading about different family’s journeys on autism pages or blogs.
Think back…Have you ever read a post, or listened to someone speak and found yourself shaking your head in judgement? Ok, maybe you didn’t physically do it, but were you doing it on the inside? I hate to admit it, but it’s part of being my authentic and flawed self, so I must. And by the way we all have flaws. It’s called being human.
I used to be extremely judgmental. I still catch myself being critical of others sometimes, but not nearly as much these days. It has required quite a bit of effort on my part. I began working on healing myself from the inside out three years ago, and it was suggested to me that I start paying attention to when I was nodding my head instead of shaking it. At first, I was a bit shocked, there was way more shaking than nodding going on. When I resisted the urge, and started nodding instead I found that I was more available for learning, growing and healing.
There were many reasons why I started a blog. I felt I had a story to tell that other people (parents, families, teachers, friends etc.) could either relate to or learn from.
We were also in the middle of some serious issues at home with our oldest son, Jim, and I thought I might spontaneously combust if I didn’t find an outlet for myself. It had been a long ten years and the days seemed to be getting longer by the minute at that juncture.
I wanted to share a side of autism that isn’t always talked about or highlighted. Jim is a profoundly disabled individual. I wanted to talk about self-injury, aggression and property destruction. About my thirteen-year-old son, who is still not completely toilet trained. I wanted to let readers know that these are very real issues that some families of autistic children must contend with on a daily basis. And I was hoping that someone with a child, who had similar behaviors as Jim, would stumble upon my page and know that they are not alone. I wanted to be able to help, because there were so many times that I felt completely helpless.
I wanted to share a message of hope. Autism had dictated nearly every facet of our lives for a very long time, and we reached a point where we decided not to let it any longer. We knew we had to accept life on life’s terms, but there were still plenty of areas for improvement that we had the ability to change. We made some very drastic changes and began to create a life that took all of our needs and some of our dreams into consideration. The result has been a much happier life for all of us.
I was tired of feeling isolated. I wanted to find support and understanding from others in the autism community. I had begun to think outside the box and was curious to see what others were doing and teaching.
Since starting Homebound and Healing, I have become connected to an amazing and knowledgeable network of people and their children. We support each other through successes and failures. We offer advice to one another. We laugh and cry together. Most of these people I have never met in person, and I probably never will. But I look forward each day to reading about these children, and I think about them often throughout my day.
Whether or not the children I am reading about exhibit the same behaviors as my children, does not influence my decision to follow their journey. I connect with these families because we share a common bond – autism has greatly affected our lives. I may follow a family whose child (or children) does not have any of the same issues as my own, but I may just relate to the way they share their stories. I may be drawn to and appreciate their sense of humor, positive attitude, or authenticity.
I might be reading about a child who is verbal, yet has major sleep disturbance issues. I don’t focus on the fact that the child is verbal. I focus on the sleep disturbance and how that affects the entire family unit. I identify and don’t compare. I know exactly how that family feels. I remember feeling like I was bouncing off of the walls for years with my children’s sleep problems. If there is something from our own experience that I can share with a family going through a difficult time, I try to help. Sometimes I may not have anything to say, but I can choose to select a button on Facebook showing that I like, love, am sad, am surprised or angry. It’s as simple as that. It allows me to tell these families that they have touched me in some way. That I get it.
I would encourage you to follow different blogs and pages. Identify with something in each of our journeys, rather than compare. Find inspiration and hope from us, instead of feeling discouraged. The end result here should not be to get upset over what we read, but rather to relate, learn and support. All of these children and families will reach milestones in their own time. Each one of our families is unique. We have our own strengths and stories to share. When we identify we unite, and that is how we all move forward, help others and heal.
Thank you to the many families whose pages I follow. You are a constant reminder to keep pushing and that I am never alone. Not to mention this is some of the best and cheapest therapy I’ve ever gotten!
*The photos used in this post are of children from the following pages: Homebound and Healing, Walking with Drake, A Piece of Oakley, Mason’s Autism Journey and It’s a Tink Thing.