The soundtrack of my life has been choreographed to songs by Dennis DeYoung (with and without Styx). Other than the beautiful voice and harmonies accompanied by DeYoung’s phenomenal keyboard playing, what always attracted me to his songs were empowering messages. There is a Dennis DeYoung song entitled, “Don’t Wait for Heroes” that comes to mind regarding the situation that many Autism and/or special needs parents face. Parents are being told in various ways that their child’s future, and in turn their future, are dependent upon the “experts”…yet the future that is painted for them by said experts is far from rosy.
As the song goes,
“Don’t wait for heroes
Think for yourself
Make your own choices
You know it’s easy
To follow the crowd
But my advice is
Don’t wait for heroes
Believe in yourself
You’ve got the power
Winners are losers
Who got up and gave it
Just one more try”
The power lies in your hands. You already have it in you to do what is best for your individual child and family. Whether it’s a therapeutic approach or a career path that you are debating, look inside yourself, decide what you really want to do, then take action to educate yourself on how to do it. Don’t underestimate your intelligence, skill or ability to learn! You were given a myriad of opportunities to grow and succeed, just look for them. They are there, even if they are obscured by some clutter. Move the worn out sneakers, old banana peel and ninth grade test on which the teacher made it clear that in their expert opinion was you were just not good at math. Under the clutter of doubt is the magic wand known as confidence…grasp it with both hands and persevere.
I have noticed that quite a lot of Autism families, ours included, enjoy Harry Potter. While the texture and imagery of the stories are certainly reason enough to be captivated, the seed for Autism families’ affection for these stories can be found at the beginning: a young neglected and abused boy, seemingly powerless, has a wonderfully gentle giant swoop in on his birthday and inform him that he has magical powers. That’s some pretty potent stuff for Autism families and indeed, all special needs families. That said, true magic doesn’t exist in a book, rather in a word: confidence. It has been my observation that a child’s special need is often not the biggest challenge for the parents, but rather a lack of self confidence. If you tell yourself, “I can’t do it”, you’re right, you can’t. That which you put your attention on, you will make happen.
As I’ve walked this Autism journey with other families, I have tried to help any way I can. It is satisfying to have those moments when I feel like I have helped. That said, I have also experienced frustration in what I’ll call the advice cycle. I have parents who will come to me for advice, and I will give the best advice that I can formulate for their situation…the parents in that moment will agree with the alterations to their situation that I have suggested. Then, sometime later (usually after a crisis), they will contact me again for advice, and I find out that they haven’t changed a thing from the previous time I advised them. There is a saying that states the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. These parents and I both participated in this cyclical insanity.
As my friend, Corbie Mitleid [inspirational speaker, intuitive, and author], has been known to say, “God, just hit you in the head with a clue brick”. Whether someone attributes the message, to God, the universe, Source, vibration, etc., the situation is clear, when a person keeps doing the same thing, regardless of the message being sent. They are ignoring their internal GPS, and the urgency of the message accelerates.
“Congested traffic here…try another route.”
“Road construction! If you maintain this course you WILL be late!”
“Hey, you, driving the blue 2006 Dodge Caravan, wearing a red (coffee stained) t-shirt and worn out sneakers with a piece of gum stuck to the left shoe, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DRIVE OFF A CLIFF!!!!!”
I used to lay awake at night worrying about various Autism families that I know, trying to figure out a way to help them, but the fact is they are only going to do what they decide to do, and my daughter still has a long road ahead of her, which I intend to walk as much of it with her has I can. With that “clue brick”, I have changed my approach. I am writing this blog, not only as a means of creative expression, but in hopes that I can plant a seed of self confidence for other Autism/special needs parents. Hoping, they can get some clarity and help from it…I still answer questions (as time allows), but don’t make myself crazy over it…I am compiling a comprehensive list of resources (to be posted soon), in order to give families the knowledge (thus the power) to make the optimal decisions for their own situations. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the comments on this blog.
It is not my intent in the post to nitpick…rather, I want to bring attention to the need for people to listen to their internal messages, that help keep their bodies and minds healthy. This is inspired in part, from previous post, in which the person commented about struggling with wanting to help everybody. Parents, who have been in the special needs trenches for a while, often have the compulsion to help everybody who contacts them, right at the time of contact. One lesson that I’m hoping to share with other help-a-holics, is to assess your current circumstance and when necessary have the confidence to lovingly say “I really want to help you, but I’m overloaded at the moment, so I’ll have to get back to you.” I recall at a workshop that I attended, one of the attendees told another (an Autism mom) that he intended to talk with her once a week. The Autism mom’s programmed response was to agree, however, later, she told him that she would love to stay in touch, but her focus needed to be on her child, thus she could not commit to once a week calls, instead offered that he could call when he felt like it, but to understand if sometimes she’d be too busy to talk. I was so proud of her. I understand the pressure that we put on ourselves, fearing that someone will think us unkind or no longer their friend. Additionally, it is my hope that if you are someone seeking advice, and the person from whom you wish to be advised has to put you off because of their own current situation, understand that they still want to help, but on terms that are feasible for them. In the interim, you can use the delayed response as an opportunity to try to clear the clutter from your mind, be open to your own inspiration and possibly devise a solution that had never before occurred to you.
I understand if seems implausible to suddenly be confident, when self doubt has been a daily experience, thus I suggest until you feel strong enough to create your own confidence, siphon a little from the inspiration of children. The smiles that appear when they reach a goal, especially one that has been challenging for them, has its own magic and that magic is easily shared. I still recall the rush of excitement when we were able to transition our daughter into big girl underwear. She was six years old, not a toddler like most children, but all the struggles and false starts created a buildup of energy that in that moment released in a volcano of enchantment.
It has always been my belief that we are put on Earth to help each other. Though that is still my belief, I have altered it to include the caveat that helping others not be at the determent of my own family. I am done assuming that everyone needs me to help…I have abundant confidence in you, dear reader…I know that you have the wherewithal to chart your own course, expertly navigate it, send me the occasional post card from your journey and indeed, you will be your own hero.