Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Autism Awareness: What have I learned in the past year?

Last April 2, 2014 Autism was so new to me.  It was very fresh. I was so lost and confused.  I was heartbroken and very worried about Max's future.  Will and I had little knowledge about Autism and we didn't know how to help our son.  I have over the years as a teacher taught some students on the Autistic Spectrum, but I had never thought about having a child of my own with special needs.  And honestly who does?  How can you prepare for that?
Christmas 2013 - Max was official diagnosed January 2014.
Fast forward a year.  I am still learning everyday.  I want to continue to learn as Max grows and enters different stages of life.  One thing is certain I am more confident as a Autism Mom.  I am not angry or upset, but have the deepest joy and love for Max.  He is amazing just the way he is.  He has led us into his world, and I am so lucky he has.

10 things I have learned in the last year in not particular order:

1.  You have to take suggestions of how to "treat" a child with Autism just like that - a suggestion.  We have been approached by so many people telling us about the latest treatments: Natural oils that cure Autism, do not vaccinate, not allowing him to drink cows milk, taking red dye out of his diet completely, etc.  Some suggestions have been wonderful and we are grateful for them. But we don't use all suggestions because we have to do what we feel is best for our child. 

2.  Vaccinations do NOT cause autism.  It has been proven over and over again.  Then end.

3.  Early intervention is KEY.  I have said this so many times but if you notice something doesn't seem right developmentally with your child or you have a gut feeling that your child isn't thriving socially talk to your pediatrician.  Early intervention can start as early as 18 months.

4.  Find a support group.  I don't know what I would do without friend and family, but sometimes you just need to talk to someone who has a child that is dealing with the same issues your child is.  I love being a part of the Giant Steps community.  I love being able to connect with other Moms to share stories, ask questions, and get advice.
Max's first day at Giant Steps November 2014
5.  Take time for yourself.  Everyone needs a break.  Everyone needs time to be alone and not be in charge.  I go to the gym, I zone out on my ipod, and I watch bad television.  But it helps.

6.  Be honest with your feelings.  There are really tough days.  There are days where Max has had tantrum after tantrum that last anywhere from 5 minutes to 45, didn't sleep the night before, has only had chocolate milk to drink all day, and won't put on anything but a diaper.  Oh and to top it off has watched the same Thomas the Train Episode on repeat.  This is a frustrating day.  And it is okay to be frustrated.  It is okay to cry, to be mad, and upset.  Validate your feelings.
7.  Progress is progress.  Max is about 18 months to 2 years behind his peers.  It is hard to see other friends with children the same age as Max doing things that Max can't do yet.  But on the flip side it is so rewarding to see him accomplish even the littlest thing.  Max is working on full sentences with commands at school right now.  He says "I want choco-milk."  Or "I want bread."  This is huge progress.  Socially Max says "Hi and Bye" and waves to people who are entering a room.  I love progress because it can be little or big but it is moving forward, it is a step in the right direction.

8.  I used to be so scared to take Max out of the house.  I hated taking him anywhere because I didn't want people to stare at him while he was having a tantrum, or crawling on the floor watching the wheels of the shopping cart, or repeating the same word while flapping his hands.  I was embarrassed.  And that was the wrong thinking.  Max isn't embarrassed, he doesn't know any better, and you know what he is happy crawling on the floor.  I needed to change my thinking.  Max deserves the same experiences other kids have, and if that means a few tantrums and people saying something rude or staring at us, so be it.
9.  Talk about your child.  People are curious.  It is human nature.  I am open to telling people Max is Autistic.  I am not trying to excuse a behavior, I am hoping it makes people aware.  People are different.  Children are different.
"Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one's journey is easy. It's how they handle it that makes people unique."
10.  Laugh.  A lot.  Oh do I laugh a lot.  Max has said and done the funniest things.  He makes jokes, and wants to make you smile.  He is a fun kid.  Entering his world as been the BEST decision I have made as a mother.  I love his laugh, and I hope he continues to like mine.
Autism Awareness Month April 2015 - I hope you all Light It Up Blue for Max and for Autism.
Thank you for your love, support, encouraging words, and prayers.  It means so much.
Tiffany Strong

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