Tuesday, 07 June 2011
Earlier this week, I spoke at one of our local Rotary clubs, about David's Gift. I love speaking at Rotary meetings. Rotarians are such warm and giving people and they are always a great audience.
But this time I noticed something different.
When I first started talking about David's Gift, I used to always start the talk asking this question "Can I ask who has heard of Asperger's Syndrome". In most cases about three or four people would put their hand up, but most didn't.
But this time, there were about 25 people at the meeting and even before I got to the podium, the discussion about Asperger's Syndrome and Autism had already started and almost everybody there knew somebody with, or some thing about, ASD.
When I told our story, I was amazed at how emotional many of the audience participants were. Many, as I found out later, were grandparents or aunties and uncles of children who have been diagnosed. After the talk I was approached by a couple of people to speak at other groups. I was quite overwhelmed at how, in this small club, so many people have been touched by Autism and ASD.
I started thinking about this 'phenomenon', because that is the only word I can find to describe it.
I wonder, just wonder, if perhaps these children - with their heightened sensitivity to life and their challenges in understanding our 'neuro-typical' world, are just here to teach us all valuable lessons.
I can say unequivocally that our lives changed dramatically because of David. How we viewed the world, what was important to us as a family, what was important to me as a human being. There is no room in an Autistic home for anything else but raw honesty, truth and love. You cannot survive as a family unit without it.
But through that honesty, truth and love are the lessons....
As parents you must come together to decide what is important in your lives and for all of your children, and then set about to create the daily structures that support it.
As a couple you must decide, above all else, to put unconditional love first, last and always! It is imperative that you create a safe place to allow each other to express the gamut of emotions that you are going to feel on this journey, with understanding and compassion.
As an individual you need to understand your personal beliefs and how they impact on your emotions; Acknowledge any limiting thoughts you have and how they challenge you; Discover your strengths and accept your weaknesses... a journey that can be just as painful and as difficult as actually parenting, but essential because of it.
The person that I am today - every belief, every thought, every action and every reaction is a direct result of having David in my life. Raising him challenged me, stretched me, confronted me and finally allowed me to discover who I really am, what I believed in, gave me the skills to live a life with such purpose.
I was asked a question last night about aggression. And it reminded me of a comment I heard at a teachers conference I spoke at, when one of the teachers said "All ASD children are aggressive'. It made me bristle with anger.
ASD children become aggressive because they are highly sensitive to something and often cannot express just what it is. And often people - those in care of these children - make judgments rather than understanding that there are no 'random' acts in the Autistic world. Every action has a reason-always. Just because we neurotypicals don't hear it, feel it, understand it or can't relate to it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But when we understand it, we can also understand why and how everybody on this planet reacts differently to things because everybody's perception is different.
And when you begin to walk down the path of understanding for all, your world cannot help but change.
I believe that every autistic child comes here with that same gift for their parents and perhaps, just perhaps, they have also come here to challenge us all. Perhaps this 'phenomenon' is just about the rest of us finding out what is really important! Stuff happens in our lives.... it just does! But the gift is in the lessons you learn and about how you are willing to deal with them.