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We All Begin In The Same Place by Colleen Lindstrom

We all begin in the same place.  In this place, we hold a tiny baby in our arms, and hope that they will be healthy, happy, and challenged by only the most manageable challenges in life.  We all begin there. From that place, we each go on our own journey with our children. Early in the journey, we all become familiar with the term Autism. We learn the markers, and watch our children like hawks as they develop, knowing better than to compare them to other children their age (because everyone develops at a different speed), but doing it anyway (because we are seeking a barometer of “normal.”) We know that early intervention is key when it comes to diagnosing and managing our young ones who fall somewhere along the autism spectrum, and because we don’t know specifically what causes Autism, we know that each of us has equal chance finding ourselves walking down that road with our own children.  This is unsettling.

At some point there is a fork in the road. A smaller group travels down the road with children who are on the autism spectrum, and larger group of us travel down the other road. For families that do not have children who have been diagnosed with a form of Autism, the world of Autism sounds very foreign and scary. We do not deal with how Autism affects a child or a family on a day-to-day basis. We may know families who are walking that road, but we are not one of them. Still, we know the statistics; we know that approximately 1 in 110 children fall on the autism spectrum. We can be sure that at one point in the lives of our own children they will interface with another child on the autism spectrum.

So how can we parent in a way that teaches our children to be compassionate to those with challenges? I am thinking about this a lot in my own life right now.  I have two friends with children who have recently gone through extensive testing to find out that indeed, their children fall on the autism spectrum. I want to be supportive, I want them to know that I recognize that this is a difficult challenge and one that I know they had not anticipated nor wished for, I want them to know that this diagnosis does not affect my love for them or their children, I want them to know that I am here for them. I know that children, especially as they get older, can be cruel. I want my children to know that there are all types of people in this world, and that each one of them is beautiful and deserving of love and kindness. So, how am I going to do this? The only way I know how.

Like anything that I am interested in helping my children learn about, I am committed to talking about it.  Talking about the things that are difficult to explain. Saying what needs to be said, and then working with it.  Here is the fact, there are many different types of people in this world, nobody is just like you, and just like you want to be loved, everyone else wants to be loved, too.  So, it is both that simple, and that complicated.  As children, and as adults, it’s okay to ask the questions. If you ask them with an honest heart that holds the highest good rather than a judgmental mind, you will not hurt or offend.  This may seem like a simple thought, but really… if we are going to be supportive of our community of mothers, bearing in mind that we all started in that same place – holding a perfect child and hoping for their future… it’s the best we can do, and we owe it to each other.

If you are a parent of an autistic child, how do you feel best supported by other parents? If you are a parent who knows a family with an autistic child, how are you supporting that family?

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