April is Autism Awareness Month. As the parent of a child with autism, I’ve learned that I can focus on the things that are hard or embrace the lessons along the way. Every autism journey is different, and this approach is undeniably easier when your child (like mine) has high functioning autism. Here are a few ways in which raising a child with autism is – slowly but surely – raising my awareness as a global citizen.
How Raising a Child with Autism Teaches Me Global Citizenship
Autism sometimes reminds me of the culture shock you experience when moving to a new country or culture. You do something, expecting a particular response, and get an entirely unexpected response. Autism is a different way of looking at the world, and the same flexibility and observational skills that served me well as a third culture kid serve me well as a parent of a child with autism. And, because autism is a different way of experiencing the world, raising a child with autism is teaching me how to be a better global citizen by broadening my worldview. For example:
Raising a child with autism is teaching me to question my assumptions
I tend to find parenting fairly intuitive, but autism has challenged me and led to my making some pretty drastic changes to my parenting style. I remember wondering why parents were so tied to their child’s routine; with a child with autism I understand completely. Autism has taught me that, while the choices of others might not make sense to me, there is a reason they are making the choices they make.
Raising a child with autism is teaching me patience.
My child has a pretty high-performing version of autism, but even so autism makes their daily life hard in ways I never would have imagined possible. Watching my child struggle and overcome challenges has taught me to see that people struggle for a reason, even when you cannot personally see the reason. It has also taught me to be more patient with myself. If my child can be patient with their challenges, I can certainly find a way to cope with my own – and theirs.
Raising a child with autism helps me appreciate diversity.
It is easy to focus on the ways in which autism makes life hard, but the glimpses I get into the ways in which my child’s brain works differently are fascinating. I am grateful for programs that help my child with autism integrate into our 21st century world. I am also grateful for the ways in which my child’s unique perspective has enriched our family.
Raising a child with autism helps me realize how much I do not know.
We learn more about autism every year, but there is still so much we do not understand!
To be a true global citizen, you have to question your assumptions, be patient with yourself and others, appreciate diversity, and remember that there is a great deal you do not know. I know I have a lot of growing left to do in all of these areas, and I am grateful to have all four of my children to help me along my way.
What have your children taught you?