WHO AM I?
I'm mom to 8 yr old Vedant, a charming young boy who is on the Autism Spectrum. I'm also a blogger at www.braindroplets.com
where I share stories about our family's journey with Autism.
WHEN DID WE COME TO KNOW ABOUT OUR SON'S DIAGNOSIS?
My son was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3.
HOW DID WE COPE WITH OUR CHANGED SITUATION?
It took us a few years to come to terms with our son's diagnosis. It began with denial, followed by guilt, depression, and then hope. Ever since we have made peace with our son's Autism, life has been much easier. We have realized that the diagnosis does not change the fact that Vedant is our son and that we will continue to do all that we can , Autism or not, for a better future for him. We make every effort to give our son the opportunities that every other child has and not hold back because of his challenges. The more we try to lead a life of hope and courage, the happier we are with our situation and enjoy our child rather than stress over him every time we look at him.
WHO IS THE MORE HANDS ON PARENT?
Although I would want to say it's me, because being a stay at home mom I get to spend more time with Vedant, his dad is actually the one who is more hands on. He also has more patience with our son and he is the one who keeps emphasizing that we need to be his strength and not his crutch. He loves to play with Vedant and spends almost all of his time engaging with our son in the most innovative ways possible.
WHAT ARE OUR CHALLENGES? HOW DO WE OVERCOME THEM?
Autism comes with a plethora of challenges so it's hard to list all of those but for us, the most challenging is the fact that our son has severe speech delay. His inability to express himself and communicate has made it very challenging for us to know what is going on with him or in his mind. This has led to a lot of frustration on both sides.
Vedant would have meltdowns because he was not able to express what's bothering him and we would get stressed because we were mostly clueless. We have been working on this for quite some time.
The first thing we worked on was to learn to understand his cues. We observed him closely all the time to understand how he reacts under a certain situation and what that implies.
We also worked with PECS, social stories and a communicative device that would give Vedant additional ways to communicate. Vedant has come a long way from where he was a few years back.
We have also encouraged him to use speech as much as possible by presenting him with situations where he would be forced to speak, like asking for food, water, a sensory toy or even tickles. It's been a long road and there is a lot more to do but with every day, we are learning and making little progress.
HOW DO WE MANAGE STRESS?
Stress is part of the Autism package. There is no denying the fact that every parent of an autistic child deals with a lot of anxiety and worry. I would be lying if I said I don't think about my son's future and even his everyday and worry every now and then. However, as time passes, you also learn to live with your new normal. You learn to live in the present and not constantly worry about the future. You plan for it but constantly obsessing about it only spoils your present as well so now we make conscious effort to enjoy our son and do all the things a regular family does as much as we can, within the boundaries of our son's limitations.
We still have days that are rough and hard to handle but then who does not? We cannot change our son, we cannot change our diagnosis. What we can change is our attitude and that is what we try to do. It's also important to surround yourself with people who love you and understand your challenges instead of judge you. I have a few lovely friends who support me on my rough days. Getting a pet also helps. We have a dog and the unconditional love that a pet brings in your life can be such a stressbuster!
The bottom-line : enjoy your child. Help him reach his potential but don't try changing the person that he is. You will only be aiming for failure and disappointment. The sooner you learn to accept your child with his unique abilities, the sooner you will have a happier , less stressful life.
WHAT DO WE DO FOR FUN AS A FAMILY?
My son loves the outdoors. He loves to go to parks, play in water, get on rides and roller-coasters and sit on swings. So, a lot of our fun happens outdoors. My son also likes nursery rhymes so when we are home, we like to sing and dance on those.
AM I GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY?
No. Vedant is and will be our only child. He needs a lot of our time and attention so we have decided not to have another child.
OR WOULD I ADOPT A BABY?
I would have loved to adopt a girl. However, with the challenges that Vedant has, I feel like I might not be able to do justice to another child so we do not plan to adopt.
3 LESSONS I HAVE LEARNT
Today is a gift
When the future does not really hold as much promise as you had expected it to, the best thing is to not think too much about what lies ahead. Autism has taught me to live in the moment. I really don't like to think far out into the future. We've chosen to enjoy what lies in front of us, take each day as it comes and celebrate the little things that Vedant is able to do, the little progress he makes. We live in the moment, for the moment, for Vedant. We try not to worry too much over things we cannot control.
Not to judge others
My ability to connect with someone else's pain has increased manifold after my son's diagnosis. I don't rush to judgment that often anymore. I try putting myself in other's place and see things from a different perspective...I really do. This is a change I'm very proud of. I've been a victim so I cannot afford to be the culprit. When people judged my husband and me every time Vedant had a meltdown or a behavior, I know how it felt. So, I try not to judge people anymore.
Autism taught me patience and how! I wait for his meltdown to pass. I have been waiting for him to reciprocate a Hi. For the past 4 yrs I've been patiently trying to teach him the color red, and am still working on it. I'm still waiting for him...very patiently... to talk to me, to bring home a friend or to ask for a toy. I've learnt to wait, to be patient and to keep trying because if there is one thing that Autism teaches you, it's endurance. I'm definitely a more patient person now.
WHAT DO I WANT TO TELL OTHER PARENTS?
From meltdowns to memories, from therapies to thrills, it's all in your hand. Try to make each day special because if there is one thing you can do, it's help your child make the best of everything he has. Enjoy your child, work on his limitations, push him and challenge him to reach his maximum potential but don't try to make him the person that he is not meant to be.
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