It isn’t Autism Awareness Month. We left it behind a couple of months ago. Yet this post is about acceptance.
Mohit will soon be 29. He’s taught me life’s greatest lessons.
Perhaps the biggest one is ‘true acceptance.’
My journey started with denial or non acceptance.
“It can’t be.” “Why me?” “What have I done to harm anybody else?”
“Why should my beautiful child suffer?”
All these fall in the category of non acceptance.
But life is a hard taskmaster and eventually after days and months of grief and crying, I accepted Mohit had autism.
I would call it ‘qualified acceptance.’
I was still desperate to find a cure.
I imagined a ‘normal’ boy would appear, once I managed to shatter the autism mask.
“Oh yes, I accept you. But I want you to be a certain way. I want you to behave differently. I want you to be normal. And I’m going to fight tooth and nail so that you become ‘normal’
I found resonance in this passage titled: From the mind and heart of an autistic soul.
I am not speaking but that does not mean I am not communicating or have nothing to say. You sit me in front of the puzzle and if I put the right pieces in or muster the word you are looking for me to say, I get to hear loudly, ‘you did it’ with wild smile and cheers. I might get a cookie or some candy.
I sit in a classroom with loud noises and lights that have a hum that maybe I only hear. If I react to this stimuli I am shunned and punished. I play apart from peers and I am grabbed by the hand and told ‘sit in the circle with so and so and do not get up.’
And then there are those who talk about me more behind closed doors. We cannot have him here. He needs this or that. He needs to get with the program. And then there are those who want to make their supposed prophesies. He cannot do this. He will always struggle with that. Never was there much time spent to truly know me. Never was my strengths and passions explored and validated. And when they say I have progressed it really means they have suppressed me or I have conformed to those supposed ideas of what they said I must be but which I am not nor need to be.
– Dan L. Edmunds, Ed. D
What a poignant explanation of qualified acceptance!
I’m not been judgmental here. How could I be? I did exactly the same, several years ago.
Except, at that time I didn’t know I was doing it.
Luckily, after many years, the realization dawned that autism is a way of being.
Mohit is who he is. All my students are who they are. Autism isn’t something I can peel and throw away.
When total acceptance comes, it revolutionizes your life.
This is what you’ll feel and experience:
1. Calmness and reduction in anxiety
You will stop chasing the ‘cure for autism.’
You will stop running after the next shiny thing and slow down.
It’s not possible to remain calm and tension free all the time.
But you will become aware when it arises and revert quickly to your state of calmness.
Over a period of time, it will take you less and less time to revert to your calm state.
In that state of acceptance and connectedness, you will see improvements come your way.
Result: Reduction of anxiety
2. You’ll stop pushing from the outside to let things emerge.
You will not push your child to achieve goals.
Instead, you will provide your child with tools to achieve his own goals.
There is a vast difference between the two.
As a result of this, you will see a downward trend in your child’s anxiety too.
You’re supportive and pro active. You do not prompt to achieve a certain result. You let things take their time.
You realize it’s about the process and not the product.
Result: Your child will become an active partner and take his responsibility to keep the engagement between you both going. Your burden will lessen.
3. New opportunities come your way
As you let your child ‘emerge,’ you will understand his learning style and new ideas will strike you.
When Mohit’s art work emerged, I found a teacher, Sandeep Paradkar, who came into our lives to help Mohit further his art skills. This resulted in participation in art shows and other collaborations related to his art work.
Result: Unfolding of your path. You will feel you are being led to what your child needs.
4. You don’t have an agenda- you go with the flow
You may have long term goals to achieve.
For example: My focus for Mohit and my students is independent living (as much as possible), meaningful friendships and relationships and suitable/supported employment.
The basis of this is respect for the autistic individual and dignity for their lives.
At SAI Connections, we work on deeper thinking and problem solving.
Without giving instructions, can the individual solve problems?
The frameworks and activities are based on this.
Dr Gutstein, founder at RDI Connect, has laid out wonderful life goals and authentic objectives. I find these totally respectful for autistic individuals.
Result: Both you and your child become dynamic thinkers and solve problems as they emerge. Neither of you follow a script.
5. You will meet people on the same path as you.
I find interesting connections happening all the time.
There is a wonderful Whats app group I’m a part of – Energetic Connections.
The talented members of this group follow their heart and have come up with wonderful results for their children or students.
The group provides solace and inspiration when we all need it.
Result: Connection with like minded people.
True acceptance involves submission to life.
Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capituation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission- a power that comes from within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquility and peace even when the world goes through turbulence after turbulence.
– Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
Dear Friend, in accepting your child fully and totally, you will accept yourself fully.
Your autistic child did not come to you by chance.
Your journey is not an outward journey. It’s a journey within.
Like me, you will not achieve it in one shot. It’s not an easy journey. But it’s worth it.
You will fall several times.
But don’t forget to pick yourself up and keep moving.