Raising a Child with Autism: What I Wish I Knew Sooner

Today, we hear from Teri Book, a nurse practitioner at The Center for Autism  & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Teri shares what she’s learned as a nurse caring for children with autism, and also as a mother of a child with autism.

I have learned many things in my 12 years at the center, as well as from raising my daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at age 7.

The most profound thing happened on my first day at the center, when I met a mother who was also a nurse. She had a child who had been recently moved to a county program to help manage her behavior.20130425_0560

What struck me about this woman was how normal she was. For the longest time, I felt that it was somehow my fault that my child was different. I thought that if I was a better parent, or if I did things differently, she would be more like other children. In my heart, I believed that I was a lesser person because I couldn’t produce a “normal” child.

In this and other interactions over the next few months, I came to recognize how resilient parents of children with autism are. I began to realize that I belonged to a group of intensely dedicated individuals who face challenges on a daily basis. This began my awareness and appreciation that continues to this day for the strength and character of the parents I work with every day. Let me share a little of what else I’ve learned as a parent and professional:

  • Love means accepting
  • Be patient, both with one’s self and with others
  • One should be careful not to live their lives based on society’s idea of what it means to be successful
  • What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger
  • We are all much stronger than we realize when we are put to the test
  • Kindness is a minimum criteria, it is so easy to give but often seems in short supply

I appreciate others in a way I never would have without my daughter, parents I’ve met at The Center for Autism and the physicians and staff here. Today is a good day to be happy, no matter what your circumstance, because that’s all we really have.

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