5 Things You Don’t Know About An Autism Parent
This is a post in the new weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
Hi! My name is Lisa and I’m a secretary by day, grad student/blog writer by night and a warrior mom round the clock.
When my son, Norrin was diagnosed with autism in 2008, he was 2 years and 3 months old. He had the cognitive level of a 14 month old and the language level of a 7 month old. Norrin didn’t point, wave or clap. He had no language. Norrin couldn’t jump or imitate behavior. I remember asking the developmental pediatrician if Norrin would be able to speak; the doctor recommended the necessary Early Intervention services but offered very little hope.
As a parent, I needed the hope just as badly as Norrin needed the services.
It’s been four years since Norrin’s diagnosis and he has come a long way. He is a six-year old boy who jumps on his bed and talks up a storm. Norrin continues to surpass expectations and he has given me the hope that I needed.
Prior to the diagnosis, I knew very little about children with autism. And I knew even less about the parents who raised them. There wasn’t a single parent I could turn to for advice or support. But in these last four years, I’ve met so many inspiring moms and dads with kids on the spectrum. And I’ve learned just as much from them as I have from Norrin.
So if you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting an autism parent, here are 5 things you should know:
We appreciate the “little” things. It takes countless hours of therapy to teach our kids to point a finger, jump and communicate. We wait. We watch. We hope. And when we see our kids achieve something for the first time, we celebrate, we cry, we make a big deal over the seemingly smallest feat. Because we know the time and work it took to meet that goal. They are usually the milestones most parents take for granted but for us – every “little” thing is a big deal.
We are like any other parent (with a twist). We’re not really heroes and we’re not especially amazing. We’re just parents doing the best we can for our kids. We want what any other parent wants – we want our kids to be happy and confident. We hope that as they get older, people will appreciate them just as they are. We hope people will want to understand them. All we want for our kids is to have the same opportunities as any one else.
We are a community. We don’t always agree. There are multiple opinions on cause, cure and therapies that work. And as parents we are passionate in our beliefs. But we stand united when it matters most. We cry on shoulders of strangers. We comfort each other with hugs and kind words. No matter what we believe, no matter how much we disagree, we understand each other in a way that others do not.
We are experts. Very few of us are special education attorneys, teachers or therapists. And before autism impacted our lives, chances are we knew very little about it. Every parent is the expert when it comes to their kids, but an autism parent has to also become an expert in special education law, in teaching methodologies, in medications, in researching services and in advocating for our kids to ensure they have the services and school placement that will meet their unique needs.
We are the change we want to see in the world. It is only in the last decade or so that autism has gotten the attention, services and supports that it needs. The thing I admire most about the autism community is that where it sees a need – it fills the void. Often, it is parents of children with autism that open specialized schools and support, social and play groups. We work to make this world a better and safer place for our kids. We work to help them be understood and be seen. We believe that our kids have a purpose and deserve a place in this world. And when we see the world doesn’t know how to create that place – our life’s mission is to make one.