I spoke at a conference recently where a number of parents with young children with developmental disabilities attended.
“What is one thing you would tell parents of a newly diagnosed child?” was the final question during the Q&A period, and it’s one that I am asked frequently.
“It gets better,” I said, “It really does.”
A young (exhausted looking) woman in her thirties came up to me after and asked me what “It gets better” means.
Today I celebrate Matthew’s 26th birthday, and am reflecting on what “It gets better” means:
1) I enjoy being with Matthew. Whether it is the years of therapy and intervention or just plain maturity, he easier to communicate with, and has a good sense of what is socially appropriate and what is not. He still needs a fair amount of reinforcement, but in time I suspect he’ll need less and less.
2) I have matured. I no longer worry about being judged, or about being stared at, and I’ve learned not to be offended when I am judged or stared at. I get that my son’s behavior can be stare worthy, and that people are curious.
3) I love that my two younger sons think it kind of cool to have a brother with autism. “It keeps me grounded,” my 19 year old son, John, told me recently. “I’m more patient than most guys my age.”
4) I love it that Matthew counts on me less, and on my husband more. If you have a child with autism, you know what I mean!
5) I’ve learned that not every problem is solvable, and that I have to accept that. But I’ve also learned that there are obstacles that can be overcome –creatively.
6) I’ve learned that Matthew is WAY more capable than I ever dreamed he would be.
7) I admire Matthew so much. There are times when he is lonely, upset, or frustrated, and instead of lashing out, he sits with his feelings and then rebounds with a joke, or an idea, or a plan.
8) I am so touched that when he calls home, and my husband answers, Matthew says, “I’d like to talk to my mother.”
So HAPPY Birthday, Matthew! Your mother loves you.