These and many variations of the same, are comments I often hear
- “You are so lucky that DC can travel”
- “You are so lucky that you can take him places”
- “You are so lucky that…… blah, blah, blah….
Luck does not have very much to do with it! DC’s accomplishments took a great deal and many, many years of hard work. Now I do understand that all the work in the world may not always make a difference and I am certainly not saying that the parents who are having a more difficult time of it did not or are not putting in the work – but seriously, why is it always about luck?
How many times have I heard that same line? “You have it easy, DC is such a good kid.” – Why are we made to feel as though we should apologize for our children making strides and accomplishments? Isn’t that the goal? I have also had other parents tell me that they are made to feel as if they have nothing to contribute because their children are just not ‘difficult’ enough by someone else’s standards. Or the line that I love the best – “You just don’t know what it’s like”. I have heard that one many times from parents of autistic children as well as parents of NT children. No, maybe I don’t know exactly what your life is like but I can certainly say the same to you.
When DC was four years old, his school speech therapist informed me that he would never speak. He speaks. He is verbal. Conversation is difficult, but he is verbal. Would he be able to speak now if I believed the nonsense that this therapist was spewing? No, I went out and found him a private speech therapist while continuing to fight with the school system.
I can take him places because I TOOK him places. I am a single mother – have been for a good 23 years. I took/take him everywhere. If I did not, he or I would never have left the house. It wasn’t always successful, many times it was an out and out disaster. Most times we were both in tears by the time we left but we kept at it. Did I let it bother me or deter me from taking him shopping when the check-out man at the Health Food store saw fit to stop the entire line while DC was wigging out (we didn’t have the official “meltdown” word way back when) and I just wanted to pay and get out of there before I burst into tears? When he found it necessary to give me his opinions – in front of a line of waiting customers – about what vitamins and/or supplements I should be giving him to calm him down? <Insert colorful metaphor>
Should I have stopped taking him out when he would grab food off of other people’s tables when we walked through a restaurant? (I always offered to replace the food or drink he may have touched before I could grab him). No, I learned that I had to hold both of his hands and tell him over and over again that he should not touch other people’s belongings, until he learned and until I felt that I could trust him not to. That took years.
Should I have just given up and just stayed home when he had ‘meltdowns’ and frightened the other children repeatedly in his gymnastics class, birthday parties and a number of other places? I don’t think so. Keep in mind that Autism Awareness/Acceptance was not even an idea back then. There was next to no information, guidance or support. We were pretty much on our own. IPads? We barely had the internet.
I could go on and on…….. and on…and on… but I won’t.
Why are we not allowed to celebrate the accomplishments? Why should I be made to feel as though I should apologize that he is a happy guy?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about any of the work. This boy has worked just as hard if not harder than me. I am quite positive that many people are in the same boat and we will be in this boat together forever. Everyone has their challenges and we should respect those challenges, even if the challenges are not visible. We can’t just take everything at face value.
DC is 24 years old. He is a happy guy. He has a good life. He is the joy of my life. But even with all that he has accomplished the bottom line is, he will never be able to live on his own without full support. He will never be able to take care of himself. He does not understand safety. He does not understand many many things. He has no siblings. Even though his father and I have taken steps to be sure he is provided for, and have designated guardians in the event that anything should happen to both of us, those people are all my age or close to it. He will long out live all of us and realistically I should be looking at people his age, but I really do not have any options in that age group – again, he doesn’t have brothers or sisters. He will probably have to live in some sort of group home type environment with strangers and no one to look out for him. Dependent on strangers. At the mercy of strangers. This is devastating to me. It is what keeps me awake at night. It breaks my heart already.
He deserves to live the rest his life just as happily as he lives now; and that is the one thing I can not promise him.
How lucky is that?
**** I have written and rewritten this post many times over the last few months attempting to reduce the high on the hostility meter to at least a mid-level reading. I hope I was successful.