As a parent, the day your child is born is usually remembered as the best day of your life, as well as the scariest. Now you have the responsibility of another little human being's life and it is directly in your hands.
If you are like me, you find yourself saying, "I hope I don't mess this up. This little person is depending on me for food, shelter, love and support." Most of us do a pretty good job as parents, though never perfect. After all, how many of us are perfect human beings, right?
All of these things begin to matter even more when you get a diagnosis for your child such as ASD, ADD/ADHD, Down syndrome, a learning disability, anything that will make your child's future uncertain and their path to independence unknown.
Yes, I say unknown, because though the path for a secure, independent future is not always guaranteed for special needs children, it is also not entirely as impossible as many professionals and parents used to believe.
All you have to do is look at two of autism's famous spokespeople, Temple Grandin and Donna Williams, who are living independent, happy lives as two professors, writers and autism advocates helping empower parents and their special children to be all they can be. Both of these women's families were told to institutionalize them, as there was no hope of them ever learning enough at school to become independent, contributing members of society.
Well, they showed the world, and I think of the parents of special needs children of years past as my own personal heroes. They didn't look at their children in the way society viewed them -- broken, incapable, violent, dependent. They saw hope, a spark of intelligence, and persevered in educating their children and encouraging them to be all they can be in society.
In Donna Williams' case she fought for herself to be understood, to be accepted, to live life in a world that was often hostile, but not impossible to exist in. As a parent of a special needs son with autism, I heard from some what he would probably not be able to do. I decided early on that he would do whatever he wanted to do, and that I and the rest of his family and support network would be tools to help him reach his goals.
There is no need to think that, with autism and other anxiety related issues, my son cannot go on to do a job he loves, have friends and even live independently or semi-independently. It's all in how much he is encouraged and given opportunities to explore what he loves to do.
I'm sure many of you have heard the jokes that people with autism are often surgeons, computer programmers, or accountants. Many are writers and actors (like Dan Ackroyd).
It's important to let kids try out things that interest them. As they get older and you get an idea where they are functioning, have them try out courses. Do not limit them because of their disability. There are so many great opportunities for schooling online if attending school on a campus is hard.
I see my son becoming a tour guide or a bus driver with his impeccable sense of direction. I see my son becoming a lawyer. The sky's the limit as far as I am concerned with our kids, and I never let my son feel otherwise.
He talks constantly about one day when he will marry and have children and drive his children places. I hope all of those things come to pass. They may, they may not. But I think the harm and crime would come if I let my child feel limited because he has some limitations.
We are giving him all the supports we can to get the help he needs to become the best he can become. We are doing what I promised him when I first held him in my arms after he was born: "I will love you, protect you and keep you safe. I will give you everything."
And everything is what is open and is possible for him to do. I wish your children a wonderful voyage of self-discovery as they age, and you as their co-pilot helping steer them in the right direction.
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