Sunday Family Stories - Heather's Hubby on #Autism Part 3 #autismawarenessmonth

My sweet and darling hubby has been taking us on a journey through his life the past two and a half years since Liam was diagnosed with Autism.  If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, I highly recommend that you go back and read them before starting on this final installment:

Today, after a lot of laughs, some tears and a few bouts of anger, I am more at peace with life.  Over the past couple of years, I have learned some real lessons. 
The first is to really appreciate the little wins.  It is him using ‘I want’ for the first time.  It is him making eye contact even for those few fluttering moments.  It is being excited that he can put his own truck together.  Things that seem small to us are usually huge to him and positive reinforcement really seems to help to lead to further progress.
The second thing I have learned is that I have a remarkable amount of patience.  This is especially true when I take a step back and remember how far we have come (see the first lesson).  Interestingly, I had a student in this morning who I gave the, ‘if it was easy, you would not appreciate it’ lecture to this morning.  It is because of the struggles that the ‘wins’ mean so much.  So to keep my patience, I remind myself to keep my eye on the prize and remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint (can I get any more clich├ęs in?). 
The third lesson I have learned is that no one cares for your kids like you do.  It is important to remember that teachers, therapists and other professionals serve multiple masters.  Yes, I believe that they do want what is best for my child but they can only do it within the parameters of their organizations.  If you really want something for your child, you have to be willing to, albeit nicely, fight for your child.  Sadly, in the therapeutic and education realms, the squeaky wheel does seem to get the oil so much more frequently.  You need to be engaged and willing to call out people when necessary.  Further, you also have to really support the ones that go above and beyond.  I hate fundraising but for my son’s teacher, I will raise whatever money she needs because I know she will maximize its benefit.  The support we deliver to her goes a long way to enhancing our son’s life.
Fourth, you have to make time for yourself and your relationship with your spouse.  It is so easy to get caught up in your children’s world even without the autism diagnosis.  Add in autism and your life can be consumed with theirs’.  When that happens, your stress level rises and causes you to not be able to be the parent you need or want to be.  It is imperative that you take time for yourself and take time with your mate.  I have learned that having a child with autism requires a lot of balance in your life if you are to remain sane in the situation.  I am still working on this aspect and it seems to be a constant battle but I acknowledge it for what it is.  That acknowledgement alone has helped tremendously.

Overall, my life is a good one.  Three great kids, a loving and incredible wife (this is her blog) as well as a job that I could not have more of a passion for.  Have I had to make a large change in my life? Most definitely; I will not be the researcher guru of the field I wanted to be.  Then again, as a result of working less, I have a better marriage and I believe I am a much better dad.  I also believe that I am a better professor and mentor to my students.  Do I act balanced?  I am getting there…slowly but surely.  Did I think autism in my household would change my life for the better?  Of course not (especially at first) but over time, perhaps autism has caused my life much more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be.  The pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together to create a beautiful picture.  When I look back to what I wrote just over two years ago and compare it to where I am today the funny thing is that I was so worried about what I couldn’t teach my son - that I never considered what he could teach me.  It is funny how life works like that sometimes.  Where I once dreaded the journey, today I have come to relish it.