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My son with autism is overcoming his challenges, finding his strengths

Sandy Petrovic is a registered nurse, an author, a public speaker, an instructional advisor/tutor in a college academic support center, and the mother of a son on the spectrum. For more about us and the book we co-authored from each of our perspectives (Expect a Miracle: A Mother/Son Asperger Journey of Determination and Triumph) click here

Oh sure, there are times in our journey together that I wish had never happened: the daily struggles we endured over challenges that most people never even consciously considered; the social rejection David experienced when he wanted nothing more than to be part of the teen group; the years that he was bullied and lonely; the panic attacks and near-depression that he endured as a result of snowballing life stress.

But David has now come to terms with his autism and has embraced his uniqueness; with therapies, faith, and life-altering realizations, he has learned what he needs in order to function, thrive, and be happy. Dave has learned how to utilize his gifts and strengths, and he has made a true impact because of his autism, not in spite of it. He is an impactful teacher with a unique style. He strives to encourage youth to go for their dreams, citing himself as an example: “If I could do it, so can you.” He is a motivational speaker who has spoken in multiple states on numerous topics, and he has even presented a TEDx Talk. David is an author, an actor, a cum laude college graduate, and is discerning the Catholic priesthood/diaconate. He also has other dreams which I have no doubt he will someday achieve.

Oh sure, there are times in our journey together that I wish had never happened, but it’s all about perspective. A story I fondly recall is this: I tutored David throughout high school biology and tried to make intangible or abstract concepts “see-able” by utilizing concrete illustrations he could relate to. In exemplifying the genetic pathways of X-linked characteristics, I traced our family’s red-green color blindness, present in my father and other two sons. David, with a passion for the beauty of nature and vivid color, was astounded and dismayed to learn of his brothers’ inherited traits. His statement? “Thank God I’m not color-blind! Thank God I only got autism!” Clearly everything is relative!

Oh sure, there are times in our journey together that I wish had never happened, but isn’t that true of every parent’s experience in raising any child? As David says in many of his presentations, “I have autism, but EVERYBODY has SOMETHING.”

If only I had a crystal ball to see David’s outcome while he/we experienced those tough times and struggles…I would have had far few sleepless nights…

But if the power existed to take away David’s autism, would I have opted for that???

An emphatic, “No way!!!”

David’s autism has brought so many blessings to our lives!

·       The people we’ve met!

o   Special educators and therapists who changed our lives and futures

o   Other amazing persons and families who we bonded with and learned from

o   Whole segments of the population we would never have been blessed to know otherwise!

·       The paths we’ve taken!

o   David’s autism impacted both our career choices

o   We have been given the opportunity to benefit so many people through our experiences, educating others and providing hope, ideas, and inspiration.

·       Unsurpassed joy in the victories!

o   NOTHING has been taken for granted

o   No victory is too small to be celebrated!

·       My husband and I have been humbled and fulfilled as parents

o   David has taught us so much about the human spirit!

o   We have learned what is truly important in life

o   We have a deep appreciation for what we have

·       And autism has made David…DAVID!

Yes, we are still on our journey. We still encounter challenges as David breaks into the professional world, and we are still transitioning him to independent living. But we relish these challenges and are confident that David will master them in his own time and in his own way, with the help and support of family and mentors—much as he has handled every other hurdle in the past—and just like every other young adult must figure out.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.