Someone asked me what advice I would give to parents who just got an autism diagnosis for their child. I have lots of information I can give them, but so does everyone else. All you get when you get a diagnosis is information. You are buried in handouts, books, professionals telling you stuff, and all sorts of random people giving you advice.
So I’m not going to offer any practical advice here. Instead, I’m going to pretend we’re in a locker room getting ready for the biggest game of our lives against the most powerful challenge we’ve ever faced, which is essentially true. We could all use a good pre-game speech.
Listen up, everybody.
You got an autism diagnosis. I know you feel like someone just dumped an avalanche of rocks on you and then threw the mountain on top out of spite. You are angry. You want to go kick something’s ass. You don’t know how you’re going to do this. You want to blame somebody. You want vengeance to rain down upon whatever brought this on your child and you.
You will become too exhausted for this anger, then you will despair. You will plead and bargain with any deity you can think of. You will become too exhausted for anything at all. You will think you can’t do this.
And you will be wrong.
Right now the odds are piling up against you like water in a tsunami coming onshore. You will never run low on people telling you how hard this is and how desperate it will all get. No shit. Life is hard. Anything worth doing is hard. And when something is this hard, there will be times when you think you cannot possibly make it. You will think there’s no way you can get up off the ground again let alone kick ass and thrive.
But you are strong.
People and institutions will try to kick you down. Some will succeed. But decide right now that you are going to get up every time — every, single, damn time — no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much your body and your will refuse to cooperate. Decide now that you will not quit, no matter what it takes. Promise this. Swear it to all you are and upon every fiber of your being and every last thing you hold dear in this world. Swear that you will give everything you have to this mission that is now your life’s work.
You are scared now, likely more than you’ve been in your whole life. I hate to break this to you, but the fear will certainly get worse. You will swing between every extreme emotion like a pendulum on amphetamines. The lows are awful. The highs are transcendent beyond words. This is your life now.
And you are going to make it. I promise.
At some point, everything will go to crap. You will reach the point where you feel broken and undone. It will happen more than once. No, no BS today. This is how it is: It may happen every damn day. You will want to quit. You will be sure you’re a failure. You will not know what to do, where to turn, or how to even begin climbing out of the mess you see your life has become. If I’m scaring you right now, I’m sorry. I really am. You need to know what you’re up against. We’ve all been through this valley of shadow again and again, and so will you.
But I’m saying all this now so you’ll understand something absolutely fundamental. Every autism parent has been through this. But look around you. Look at us, all of us. What do you see?
We. Are. Still. Here.
And you bet your ass we are not about to quit. We may get so tired we can’t even stand, but we are still here beating down every wall, taking on every challenge, tearing apart every obstacle because we believe. We believe in our children. Somehow, someway every time we end up in that valley of shadow, we believe we will keep finding our way to the promise at the other side because that is who we are. And somehow, someway, we prove ourselves right time and time again.
Whether it feels like you’re just yelling at an unbreakable wall, keep going. No battle we fight is in vain. Even if all you do is knock a little dust off that wall, there will be less wall there than there was before. It does matter. It all matters. Push a stone an inch or throw it through a window. It all makes a difference.
When you find yourself at the bottom of that valley, face down in the dirt, with the weight of everything bearing down on you, remember. Remember the promise you made this day.
And remember that we are still here. And we will face each and every challenge together.
Now, go. Shake the earth so that no one will ever forget everything our children are and can be. Shake the foundations of anyone and anything that stands in their way.
Today is your moment. Not tomorrow or next week. Today. Right now. Go yell it out your window. Better yet, go outside and announce it to the world. A new era is dawning in our lives. Claim your power. Our cause is just and right. Call out to the world that we are here and our children are amazing. Shout that we are coming to change the world, and together we are unstoppable.
Our children look to us to make their world a place where their light can shine. Let’s go make it happen.
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