Saturday, January 24, 2015

How REWARDING Is This Life We Live?



I was recently contacted by and old family friend, who explained that she is in school currently studying Special Education and needed to interview a parent of a child with special needs. She sent me a list of questions but the following one question stood out the most to me...

"On Being A Parent Of A Child(ren) With Disabilities..."
- What are the REWARDS?

This question stumped me.
Ive been asked a MILLION questions about having a child with Autism, 
But never before have I been asked what the REWARDS were.
I jumped right in and was honest but brief.
Because in that moment, on that day, Autism was not rewarding in the least bit.



This was my Response:

Honestly off the top of my mind there are not many “rewards” per say, but we have tried really hard to find some good in everything, which can be difficult but it helps! But I believe that having a child with disabilities has taught me to appreciate the “small” things in life. Something that may seem so little or unimportant to most, is HUUUGE to our family. For example: You child making eye contact with you, your child responding to their name, or initiating play with you. To us when things like this are done, we celebrate like they are huge, because to us they are!! 

Another “reward” is being able to help other newly diagnosed families! Through my blog, support group and social media I seem to get calls weekly from friends, family or acquaintances asking if I could help their friend or family member who has a child that was recently diagnosed, and they feel so lost and confused. I love being able to help other mothers who are lost like I was. Luckily I had six years of experience working in a self contained special education classroom, before Recker was born, so I felt blessed to have the knowledge and training that I did when he was was officially diagnosed. I can not imagine how difficult it would have been to learn of this diagnosis and all these words coming out to the doctors mouth, (DDD, AZEIP, IEP, IFSP, ABA, BIP, etc..) seems like a foreign language. Well that is the reality with most families who are newly diagnosed. I can never be more grateful to the teacher I worked for, she taught me so many extremely valuable things that i still use and implement in my home. Because of my knowledge and experience I love sharing and helping others in anyway i can, and they need.


After submitting all my answers, I jumped onto an Autism Support Group I started last year to ask the same questions to everyone in the group. These are several of their responses from a group of  incredibly wise and strong women....


"The way I appreciate the simple things in life. Continual expansion of my capacity to love. The empathy I've developed for others. Learning to laugh in the good and bad times. I feel like my heart has grown 3 times in size with my 3 babies. And the depth of my eternal perspective. Keep in mind I had shoes thrown at my head today, a picture frame and a CD player.... So I get it being hard for you to answer that question. Gives us patience and understanding of others who have struggled with similar situations. Not judging a mom or child by whats on the outside. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Humility, and appreciation." -AB

"I feel being a parent to a child with a disability has made me a better parent. Not that parents of a NT child aren't good parents. It's that I am more aware. More involved. More determined to find answers or help or try something new. I know being a parent to my Carter changed the path I was headed in my parenting." -SD

"I think I would wholeheartedly agree with all of these comments. Some lovely and very true sentiments. Additionally, I take nothing for granted. Every word spoken by both my child with autism and my other without, is cherished. Also, my capacity for love is endless as well as being able to handle hard things. The sacrifice and work we've done for my son has helped me know I can face a trial, I'm tough and will always fight." -GM

"I appreciate the milestones even the small ones, so I appreciate little moments in life that make it that much sweeter. I'm am rewarded with a smile or body language that can tell me so much more than words. It makes my heart melt" -LJ

"I have been humbled. I appreciate the small steps towards something to be achieved instead of the huge accomplishment of achieving it. Finding the joy in the small things. He has taught me that it is ok not to be perfect. He has taught me that I can't do things for the glory of everyone else saying I did a good job, that I have to do it for me. He has taught me to love unconditionally, and appreciate the what the world gives me. He has taught me to be thankful and aware of my blessings. The education I have received by being his parent far outweighs the education college degree that I have-that is the reward. God entrusted me with him, so I have learned that I am enough even when I don't feel like I am. I listen to other parents compete and brag about their child being the quarterback or the valedictorian or going to the prom, etc......he has taught me that those things are not really important-that being the best you can be today is enough. He has taught me that it doesn't matter what others think of me, I can be content with myself for who I am. I love my son, as he has really taught me what is important! He is my reward!" -TB

"Gives us patience and understanding of others who have struggled with similar situations. Not judging a mom or child by what's on the outside. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Humility and appreciation." -JF

"In addition to the above, I would add that I have been able to see the world in a different perspective and am (possibly) more aware of the needs of those around me. I have met a great group of kids, families and adults through this process that I never would have other wise. I have learned to appreciate simple things and know that we all have our own path (even if it is leading to and from the same places - pre-mortal life/post-mortal life)." -KP

"Where do I start? I find joy in every small gain she makes. I have compassion and love for parents and children that have bdeal with disabilities that I never had before. I feel my older children are more kind and aware of others with disabilities, and they also have gained so much patience from having Juliet as a sister. I feel like my husband and I have grown closer because we are a team and we know we really have to rely on each other to get through this. I'm actually glad you asked this because we just moved and Juliet has been having a really hard time adjusting to the new house. Lots of screaming and whining for no apparent reason and I've been going crazy. So it's good for me to remember all the positive." -JF

"So so happy to read all of these wonderful comments this morning! This may sound really dramatic, but the thought has crossed my mind that my two have actually saved my life. I was on a very self-destructive path. I had a horrible body image issues and eating disorders, but in my journey to "help" them I have had to choose to change the way I think about myself, the way I eat, the way I live my life everyday, because they don't have that capacity and I have to create a healthy environment for them. It has really been rewarding to see how much my husband and I have matured spiritually, emotionally, and mentally by being their parents. It rocks our world and forces us everyday to see the world through new eyes. I know I would not have been able to change without them." -JM

"The reward can be as simple as the everyday lessons learned." -SB

"So so happy to read all of these wonderful comments this morning! This may sound really dramatic, but the thought has crossed my mind that my two have actually saved my life. I was on a very self-destructive path. I had a horrible body image issues and eating disorders, but in my journey to "help" them I have had to choose to change the way I think about myself, the way I eat, the way I live my life everyday, because they don't have that capacity and I have to create a healthy environment for them. It has really been rewarding to see how much my husband and I have matured spiritually, emotionally, and mentally by being their parents. It rocks our world and forces us everyday to see the world through new eyes. I know I would not have been able to change without them." -JM

"Get a glimpse of the pure love of Christ. Experience charity daily." -KW

"It's given us to look at people honestly, and evaluate their actual skills and abilities, and respect those skills and weaknesses within their own personal status. It teaches us to see that peoples weaknesses have nothing to do with us, which in turn helps us to allow them to be themselves and accept them. It teaches us to place appropriate expectations to each individual's needs." -NF

"Hands down EMPATHY for others and their struggles, seeing absolute beauty or appreciation in the small things in life that are often over looked (a hug from a toddler, a child asking his own mother for help, watching my daughter without an ASD try to be like me, a rare -time stopping- random- I LOVE you without needing anything in return from my tween who is afflicted with ASD, listening to my primary class give EVERY.SINGLE.DETAIL of their lives and feeling grateful for their ability to do so), feeling an incredible amount of responsibility and thankful that God thought he could mold me over time into someone capable of helping/raising my children (with and without ASD... but especially with... since most of the time I question my own abilities). Seeing the wisdom and passion that everyone on here has for their own children and being able to be influenced positively by wonderful women like you. Oh and a thicker skin and better sense of humor!!! You HAVE to be able to laugh sometimes... Way better than burning down the house! LOL" -AP

Did you notice any recurring themes and words while reading these? Almost every single one of these women mentioned one or more of the following in their answers...

EMPATHY
PATIENCE
APPRECIATION
HUMILITY
GRATITUDE
PERSPECTIVE

Its very easy for anyone of us to list all of the CHALLENGES,
 but how refreshing it is to hear of the 

REWARDS  

We are receiving from raising a child with a disability.


I'll be the first to admit the majority of my days are not surrounded by these "REWARDS."
But is that because I am not looking for them? 

Am I focusing all my attention on the negativity that is constantly going on in a whirlwind around me, that I'm unable to recognize the rewards or blessings of this life we are living. 

It is not an easy thing to sit and think about. Especially for those families who are newly diagnosed (or it still feels new--even after years), it can seem like there will never be an upside to this terrible thing that has invaded our homes, that has torn through our hearts and minds like a tornado, this thing that has "stolen our child." To those who are feeling this way, I promise things get easier, It may take awhile, but I promise you'll find your sliver lining somewhere, someday. 

Do the hard thing, count your Rewards.


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