While much has been done to raise autism awareness over the years, acceptance doesn’t come as easily. It’s not just about others accepting the differences of those with autism, but also accepting how autism can change the future. For me, it meant accepting and embracing how autism would change the future I had envisioned for my son.
When Jonathan was diagnosed the doctor rattled off a laundry list of milestones that would be unattainable due to his autism. He would never show genuine love, affection or say “I love you”. He would never marry or have a family of his own. He would never be able to drive a car. He would never be able to have a job or live independently. Forget learning to ride a bike, swim, roller blade, etc. His life would be limited due to autism and I should accept it.
I went through what I would describe as a grieving period, thankfully not a long one. I accepted the fact that Jonathan would not marry or have children of his own or drive a car given the severity of his autism. There are people without autism who aren’t married, don’t have children and don’t drive a car. Those I could live with and concede. What I didn’t accept was the suggestion that his life would not be fulfilling or meaningful.
True to form, I made a list of all the things I was told he wouldn’t be able to do and as the years went by I began checking them off. To name a few, Jonathan is affectionate and loving, knows how to swim, ride a bike, roller blade, goes tubing and knows how to make his own breakfast and lunch. He can dress himself and take care of most of his personal needs-except shaving. Helps with chores around the house and has held jobs at Old Navy, Cheesecake Factory, Jason’s Deli, Sardines and Tempest Oyster Bar. Jonathan always received high praise for his strong work ethic and kind, upbeat manner. Never underestimate, never assume and never give up-that’s my never list!
Over the years I have learned that possibility and potential do exist, for all of us, even those on the spectrum. Anything is possible and to never assume the potential doesn’t exist. I look back and wonder what Jonathan’s life would be like now if I had accepted the dim future others predicted. Thankfully, I did not underestimate my son or his potential. Autism does not define him but it has impacted his life in many ways, both positive and resistive. That being said, he has overcome obstacles and challenges, enjoyed successes and triumphs, all at his own pace. Jonathan continues to move forward to the best of his ability, achieving his potential for a future filled with possibilities.
Throughout all my years with him I’ve learned to never expect or accept anything less.