This has been a challenging week. We started school, and my sweet boy in true Asperger/Autism style didn’t want the change. He struggles with all change, but the back to school change is a pretty big one for everyone. My boy’s autism isn’t his only struggle with back to school. He also struggles with pretty serious separation anxiety and a sensory disorder.
Every morning he is “sick” and I have to peel him off me at the door like a bad facial mask on my arm. It’s pretty exhausting for me, and pretty stressful for him. And his sensory issues make everything at school too loud and sitting still very hard. So we have already had a note home from the teacher because of his behavior, and we haven’t even made it to the second week yet. Sigh.
As I was bemoaning my struggles to a friend this week, she taught me a few things. First, she told me that she had her own special needs kids—two of them—one that I wasn’t even aware of. She also taught me that it takes time to assume the mantle of “Special needs Mom,” one that I hadn’t accepted until our conversation.
She said it took a long time for her to stop caring what other people thought of her family, because they had unique challenges and unique needs, and she didn’t need to apologize for them or feel embarrassed. They just were the way they were, and it was OK.
As she spoke, I realized I had been doing the same thing. I was apologizing for my child to strangers—whose opinions I didn’t really care about. But I just cringed having anyone think badly of my child. As I thought about it, I realized I had been teaching my son to be embarrassed when I apologized for him. So I stopped immediately. I also realized that I AM a Special needs Mom. I never gave myself permission to wear that hat.
Instead, I kept expecting myself to keep up with the PTA events, and the church callings, and the ‘room mom’ assignments, and wondered why I felt so overwhelmed and my house was a disaster. Having that epiphany let me give myself permission to make my family a greater priority. So I quit the PTA VP position I held. It was very liberating. I handed over the extra projects to another mom. And I realized how stressed all the extras in my life were making me. So I’ve given myself permission to let them go.
I also asked for a Priesthood Blessing as I sobbed because of the strain of the whole blessed mess of my life. And the Lord gave me some very encouraging words. He let me know I was my son’s mom for a reason. That it wasn’t an accident, but that God had paired us up long ago because He knew my son would have special challenges. And He knew I would have special talents that would bless my son’s life. What a beautiful, confidence building, revelation.
God is so good to me. I can’t tell you how much that insight strengthened my soul, and gave me renewed purpose. No longer do I need to kick myself to be everything for everyone, because I have a special assignment. As a Special Needs Mom, my special job, assigned by God, is to help my son overcome his challenges the best I know how. And I have it on good authority that I can do this, and be confident as I lean on the Lord because He will support me in this huge assignment.
I am so thankful for the power of the Priesthood, and the power of good friends. There is strength from both sources greater than I realized. So I am taking the time to take care of myself, which I haven’t done in a very long time. And I am focusing on my family more fully.
I will miss some of the social aspects of the bazillion extra things I have been doing. But the peace I already feel, with my burdens beginning to be lifted, is so precious. I already feel like a better mom. There is already greater love in my family and more peace in my heart. I look forward to taking the time to read my scriptures more and getting to know my God better.
Because this sweet boy I’ve been blessed to help become a man will need me to be a strong mom—not a distracted one. Today I begin again, more dedicated to what really matters. And it feels SO good!
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.