Do you ever stop and think about what it means to belong? Why is it that we all have some innate desire to fit in, no matter where we are or who we are? As mother's, isn't this one of the things we worry about the most, whether or not our kids will "belong" in play groups, among friends, in school, in society? I remember spending so much time worrying about this with my first few kids. I just wanted them to fit. But fit into what? What is it that is "normal" for us to belong to?
As I go through this journey of raising a special needs child, I find so many of these questions coming to mind. I know that when we go out in public that we get looks and comments. His speech, or lack thereof, is enough to illicit all sorts of responses. For a long time, I felt the need to explain. Whether it was the wal-mart check out girl or the boy at the park that would look at us strangely, I had to suddenly jump in with his medical history to make it okay. I don't do that anymore. I don't have to explain away anything and I have come to the realization that he doesn't need to fit either-at least not in the traditional sense.
When we were searching for the right school and program for Sam, we were told by educators and therapists that he needed to be educated with "normal developing" children so that he would try to be like them. They warned me that if I sent him to a school with autistic children, he would only become worse and learn their bad habits. I'm so glad I listened to my own instinct. I am thankful that I didn't seek to make him belong and fit into a mold that society finds acceptable.
Sam attends an amazing school. In his class, he is one of 8 boys. These boys range from 12 years old to 3 years old and on various points of the spectrum. But mostly, these boys are his friends. Even with the social challenges they all face on a daily basis and in their own sweet way, these boys have given Sam something he has never had-a sense of belonging. He loves his friends. He talks about them daily and when they are together, unless he is playing his chasing game with them, you'd never know they are all best friends. They each do their own thing, in their own way. Their lives are quite parallel, in many ways, but they all know they belong. It's amazing. Sam's world is beautiful. The world of autism humbles me every day and I am in love with these special children-all of them who face greater challenges in a single day, than many of us may face in a lifetime.
I still remember the moment when I "thought" autism might become a part of our life. Sam was 13 months old, he had never babbled, he hardly even cried. He didn't want for anything, just sat when I put him down, went to sleep when I put him in his bed, ate when food was placed before him. I was reading a book and it suggested that based on his lack of babbling, he could be autistic. I was flooded with fear and dread. Anything but autism was what I felt. How could I possibly lose my sweet baby to the world of autism. It was their my search began-not a search for answers mostly, but a search to reassure myself that anything but autism could be wrong with my baby. For several years, I got the answers I wanted. He didn't stim in "typical" ways, he was "too" social, etc. But that nagging never went away. It wasn't until about a year ago, that I couldn't ignore it any longer and I sought answers-regardless of the outcome. By then, I was ready to accept whatever we needed to. For me, his final diagnosis, coming in March of 2010 when he was 5 1/2 years old, was not something I mourned. I had already been through all of those emotions. At that point, I was ready to accept it and move forward.
And the longer I am on this journey, I am so thankful to know this little person and all his unique ways. His world is different, but he still belongs. He belongs to me, he belongs to his siblings, he belongs to his dad and most of all, even if the outside world isn't ready for his oddities, he belongs to them.
Thank you for letting me share those thoughts tonight. They have been banging around inside my head for several days now. It started when he tried so desperately to play a football game with 2 boys at the park, and they didn't know how to act or what to say. It was seeing the looks on their faces, looks of confusion and discomfort, that made me realize another part of this journey. I hope the day comes when the world will have full understanding and appreciation for children who are different and will be able to embrace them, in all their uniqueness!
Here is today's download. I will be back tomorrow with pictures of my completed room and my goal for tomorrow's cleaning project! Read the post below if you want to join in!
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