When you have a child with autism, so much of what you do is notice their deficits.
When my son, Jack, was first being diagnosed, I spent days, weeks, months, noticing what he did differently from other kids. I saw the way he didn’t speak like the other kids. I saw the way he obsessed about certain things. I saw the way he wouldn’t interact with children.
When I am trying to get services from the school, I comb through his records to find what he can’t do. I list his behavioral abnormalities. I document what he has trouble with. I create papers with bullet points of how he is unable to access the curriculum.
Sometimes, amid all of this, I forget to notice what he can do. The simple act of attending a birthday party the other day brought the beauty of my child back to me.
I truly believe it is a joy and a gift to raise a special needs child. Jack has taught me so much. Through him, I have learned to look at the world differently. Parenting Jack has taught me to see the joy in his successes in a way I sometimes don’t do with my typical kids.
All three of my kids attended a birthday party last weekend. They knew the birthday girl and her little sister, but none of the other guests. Yet, as kids do, they fell in and happily played together. The difference with this party is that all three of my kids fell in—including Jack.
Jack, following the lead of his big brother, played interactively with all of the kids in a chasing game. He stood in line to participate in the obstacle course the party girl’s mom had set up. He patiently sat with the other kids to eat cake. He didn’t necessarily act like all the other kids the whole time, but he successfully interacted and had fun.
I left that party feeling high. It’s not that I want Jack to “pass” as typical. But I saw him being able to find his way in an unfamiliar social situation and enjoy it. While I’m happy my other kids had fun at the party, seeing Jack have fun with the other kids lit me up.
This is one of the purest gifts Jack has given me. He has let me see a small success and really feel it, really revel in it. Having a child who struggles has helped me notice little victories.
And those little victories are amazing.