Before this weeks post I would like to thank Feedspot Today for their support of Rain Mom in their Top 40 Autism Parenting Blogs and for informing families searching for options on their journey with autism.
As I reflect over the years and years of loving and raising a son with autism, it never occurred to me to opt out. To say “I pass”, “not what I planned for”, “too much to deal with” or to walk away. So it has been a struggle when I find myself in certain situations where others have folded and moved on. So are there options for opting in and out of autism?
My first experience was with the diagnosing physician I wrote about in an earlier blog who told me to put Jonathan in an institution and get on with my life. I still grapple with how someone could callously discard a child, one they didn’t know or maybe a love they couldn’t begin to comprehend. That option never occurred to me. Until recently, when my father asked me if I had ever considered how my life would have changed had I taken that doctor’s advice. The question caught me off guard but as I reached for the answer, it hit me-empty. Life without Jonathan would have left me and our family with a giant void. So many experiences and lessons we would have never shared or learned had it not been for Jonathan.
Over time it became all too familiar how easy it appeared for those who didn’t have the answers to casually dismiss autism and my son, like it was a reasonable option.
Along the way, I became acquainted with so many parents and caregivers like myself, staunchly defending in spite of so many obstacles. Sometimes, autism was the lesser one. There is nothing more humbling or empowering than witnessing those who have been placed in seemingly impossible situations continuing to rise above. I think the ones that have affected me the most were those parents whose spouses couldn’t accept the role autism would play in their life. So they left. A friend of mine was one of those– her husband walked out, basically blaming her for their son’s autism. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and fear she experienced as well as others in her shoes. Yet she remained– stoic, undaunted and in pursuit of anything and everything she could find to help her son. To this day, some 20 years later I still marvel at all she has done and accomplished not only for her son, but the two daughters he left as well. Putting both of her girls through college all while caring for her son, who in addition to autism, has seizures and other neurological issues requiring tremendous support. She opted in, like so many others have and continue to do.
This isn’t about judgment, though I can see where some might interpret it as such, but more about options. We all have options, choices and opportunities. So is raising a child, teenager or adult with autism all three? What are our options, choices and opportunities and how do we make the most of them? Does opting out of autism mean letting go or giving up? Is it brave or cowardice, selfless or selfish, right or wrong? Can we or should we be both judge and jury?
The answers will be as personal and varied as our loved ones on the spectrum. Whatever we choose will affect us for the rest of our lives and the life of our child. But regardless of where you stand or where you land, autism will not waiver or opt out. Despite the odds, statistics or prognosis, for most of us the only option or choice we can imagine is to keep moving forward with love, hope and faith. Finding every opportunity to give our children the best future, without hesitation. Onward and upward.
Because for most of us, opting out of a life with autism, will never be an option.