[This is a section from my book, I Am An Autism Parent, that I wanted to share with you here. You can download it for free by signing up at the bottom of this post or by going to the I Am An Autism Parent web site and signing up there. Thanks!]
“Dum spiro, spero.– While I breathe, I hope.” – Cicero
I have been asked numerous times by parents just receiving a diagnosis for their child whether there is hope, hope for something specific in their child’s future.
Is there hope she will grow with enough therapy and school to be considered no longer on the autism spectrum? Is there hope he will be in a classroom with his peers when he gets older? Will she be able to live on her own when she gets older? Will he go to college and someday have a job, get married, and have a family?
All of these questions are so poignant. I remember well the frightened place they peek out from behind. It’s almost impossible when your child is this young to have any perspective on the future at all. At age 2 or 3 or at any time really, you don’t know what they’ll be doing a week from now let alone years down the road.
But you want to know. You desperately want to know. You want anyone to tell you it will be OK. You don’t care if they are lying to you. You want your child to have a bright future, but you can’t yet conceive of what that might look like with autism. So you despair.
To be honest, a part of us always remains there. Our questions about hope do change, our perspectives evolve about what hope is, but our commitment to helping our children grow into the fullest expressions of themselves never changes.
We are ingrained with all the traditional stories of growing from childhood to adulthood. There are endless stories about ‘normal’ childhood filled with all the typical things kids do. But there are hardly any stories about our kids, and that scares us. We feel like we’re flying blind into the unknown.
The stories we do hear about autism are all the dramatic ones in the news, features, and documentaries. After all, documentaries are only done about people who fall well outside what has been declared ‘the norm’. No one does a film about Saturday afternoon t-ball games or a trip to the store.
We live in a sort of ongoing documentary. We are real reality. No one has or can write the story that will come next.
But this is the hope we think we want. We want to know how this story is going to turn out. We want to know that our kids will get the happy ending. It’s what all parents want, it’s just that most parents are making their way through well-charted waters. We’re just making it up as we go along.
All that unknowing, absence of direction, worry, fear, and complete lack of predictability feels like the opposite of hope. We simply want to know that even if we have to bust our asses to get there, if we do the right things, it will all work out in the end.
But here’s the thing I learned that is now saving me a lot of grief and pain.
Hope isn’t a specific outcome. Hope lives in what is here with you right now.
When hope is no longer tied to a destination, it’s free to become a way of being. It doesn’t have to live in some future you can’t predict or control. It can live right here, right now. It can live in your home and in your family.
What has happened is done. What will happen is as yet unrevealed. Spending too much time and energy worrying about either will not get you anywhere. Trust me.
The future will take care of itself somehow. Who knows whether it’ll be the future you originally wanted or dreamed of. Well, I take that back. It won’t be. It never is, regardless of whether your child is autistic or not. But I have discovered that the future has turned out far deeper, richer, and more meaningful than I could have ever imagined possible.
Focus on loving your child, your pride in them, and what you can do today to help them overcome the challenges in front of them right now. Enjoy your child and how they grow and learn and experience the world.
Believe in your child. Believe in the right now. Believe in your family. Believe in the talented people working with your child. Believe in yourself.
This is where hope lives.