Every morning when I wake, every night before I go to sleep, and several times throughout the day, I count my blessings. While raising a child with autism is often overwhelming—even to the point that recent research shows that parents of children with autism display symptoms of post-traumatic stress similar to those experienced by soldiers returning from war—my daily routine of trying to focus on praise instead of problems has been therapeutic and has helped put our lives into perspective. As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I count our many blessings.
•Other than issues related to his autism, Alex is remarkably healthy. Thankfully, he has never been to the hospital since he was born, has never been very sick, and has never even had a cavity. I’m also especially grateful that Ed and I are very healthy so that we can be at our best to take care of Alex.
•Alex has always had a good appetite and been willing to eat a variety of food. Since he must avoid glutens (most grains) and caseins (all milk products), his diet could be quite limited were he not willing to eat most vegetables, fruits, meats, and rice in various forms, including rice milk, rice flour baked goods, and rice pasta. In addition, we are fortunate to have a nearby health food store and a grocery store that carry gluten-free and casein-free foods that he enjoys.
•Although raising a child with autism can be expensive, particularly when insurance will not cover certain therapies, we have never had financial worries, which is a great blessing. Whatever Alex needed, we had the money to pay for it. In addition, Ed and I are fortunate to have jobs that allow one or the other or both of us to be home with him at all times. This has permitted us to home school him throughout his education, and we feel he has benefited from one-on-one instruction tailored to meet his needs.
•Every time I hear Alex flush the toilet, I am thankful. After years of toilet training him, we began to wonder if he’d ever toilet independently. The relief in knowing that he can manage this basic task of staying clean and dry round the clock on his own, along with the time I save in clean-up and doing laundry, always makes me happy.
•Even though he sometimes drives us crazy telling us things repeatedly, we appreciate that Alex can speak and tell us what he’s thinking and feeling. Often his comments entertain us with his unique perspective. Nothing is sweeter than hearing him tell me every night before he goes to bed, “Love you.”
•Despite his motor delays and language difficulties, Alex’s phenomenal self-taught abilities to read and use the computer have helped him to learn and entertain himself through the years. In addition, the Internet has provided a means for me to connect with other parents of children with autism as well as to easily research ways to help Alex get better. While autism tends to isolate, the Internet connects us with people around the world, as I’ve discovered more recently by writing this blog. I’m thankful to all those who have supported me in writing “One Autism Mom’s Notes”; I truly appreciate the encouragement.
•The expertise and understanding of special professionals who have worked with Alex have helped him tremendously. His wonderful doctor has worked with us, often using somewhat unconventional approaches to make Alex healthier, and his pediatric dentists along with their kind hygienists not only have kept his teeth healthy but also have made him enjoy going for regular visits. His occupational therapist and private speech therapist helped him overcome early developmental delays with their patience and encouragement, and his current music therapist does a fantastic job of improving Alex’s language and social skills. Moreover, I like that he calls Alex “Dude” and “Big Guy”; he is exactly the right person to work with Alex at this point in his development.
•Music—whether it be pop, rock, country, or his beloved jazz—always makes Alex happy and content. When Alex is happy and content, we are, too.
•I’ve been told that God never gives us more than we can handle, but I’ve wondered at times if God overestimated me when He gave me a child with autism. Nonetheless, through the trials and the triumphs, He’s walked with us and guided our paths. Through it all, I’ve learned to trust God and developed a faith I never would have, had it not been for the testing. As Pastor Joel Osteen often says, “God has you in the palm of His hand,” which reminds me that I’m always in a good place, even when things around me seem to be difficult.
•Along with my faith, my greatest blessing in life has been my loved ones—the family and friends who have supported us, prayed for us, sympathized with us, and rejoiced with us. Although they didn’t always know exactly what our life entailed, we felt their love, which gave us strength. I could not have asked for a better husband than Ed, who loves and supports me through everything, and more importantly, has become the perfect father for Alex with his compassion and patience. Finally, Alex is not only my beloved only child but also the one God sent to teach me the really important lessons of life: faith, hope, and love. I am truly blessed!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1