This post is from Kerry Magro, Social Media Coordinator at Autism Speaks. This post starts a new initiative on our site called "In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum" which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism.
During my time as a speaker and self-advocate for the autism community I’ve had a lot of heart to hearts with individuals. A few weeks ago when I was away on travel my heart sank a bit when a mother came up to me defeated. During our conversation she told me about her son who has autism. She told me so many things about her son. His difficulties in school compared to his peers, how he was regressing and overall was just having a rough time. Then she dropped the bomb on me when she said the words…
“I just don’t think my son is ever going to get better.”
She started to cry which made me almost do the same. The emotions in that room were very real. You know, these conversations are always the hardest. I’ve always responded to these messages but this one in particular really hit a chord with me. I know there are other parents who are in the same boat of this mother. With that I just wanted to say,
“I hope you live each day to it’s fullest with your loved ones. Some days are going to be tough but everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that make them who they are. Just know at the end of the day, no matter how dark things can get at times, you are never alone in our community. I’ll be there for you as I know many people at Autism Speaks would be there for you too.
Make sure you also take time to embrace your loved one's abilities and make sure they never go unnoticed. Individuals with autism are people just like anyone else. They have their own unique traits that make them who they are.
And finally, always understand that the best way to help your loved ones will always start with unconditional love and acceptance. It truly is the universal treatment that we will always want and need; autism or not. We aren’t always going to have the answers but being there for one another can make a difference.”
I wish I told her this at the time. What I did tell her though was that I would be there for her. Isn’t that what we all want? Someone to be there for us? I ended up giving her my email and we’ve been talking ever since. And you know what’s great now? Her son has been getting A’s in a few of his classes this semester! She has been honest with me that life isn’t perfect but the turning point for her was when she started focusing on the person and not on the label of autism. She takes the good and the bad and tries to make the best out of each day while helping her son progress.
I couldn’t be happier that even though there were many tears at first that there are now a lot of smiles too. I know I had my challenges growing up on the spectrum but being able to help this family has meant the world to me. Sometimes simply saying "I'm here for you" and listening can have a lasting impact.