“It’s a Family Thing”
We were sitting in the waiting room of yet another therapy appointment. It was a nice office, very spacious and nicely accommodated the many siblings who had to tag along for the ride. The waiting room was filled with puzzles, books, toys and various activity areas for the kids to play with. It even had a toy train that traveled the vast waiting area from one end to the other. I sat watching my kids overwhelmed with such mixed emotions. Surprisingly, they didn’t complain about spending so much time in waiting rooms, but I just couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that it just was not fair. While other kids were at soccer and piano practice or playing outside with friends, my kids were in waiting rooms. Always in waiting rooms!! I felt that in some way, they were missing out on a piece of their childhood because just like their brother, they couldn’t be normal kids either. They were siblings of a special needs child and that changed their lives too. Where was the balance?? At the time, finding a balance seemed impossible! But we did eventually find it.
It’s important to know that a diagnosis of any kind is a family thing. It changes life for everyone. Try as I might, I couldn’t “protect” his siblings from that part of life. Early on, I was determined to do everything that I could to “fix him”!! We spent hours (and $$) at therapies, classes, Dr. offices, school meetings and SO MUCH MORE!!! It was beneficial at least in part because I wanted to learn as much as I could, and I did learn a lot! But it took a huge toll on the family as a whole. We were all exhausted! None of us could keep up with the massive onslaught of “stuff” to do, including Cameron. It was too much and I became aware of the need for balance. We changed strategies and began to focus on one thing at time.
As we cut things out, a wonderful thing happened… Our family became real life therapy. His play time became a great opportunity to work on occupational skills. Family get-togethers became speech therapy. Sure, the road continued to be bumpy, but without even knowing it, we worked together to help him grow and learn and in turn we better understood each other. “Family” became home base and everything else was secondary. I worried if I was giving up on good things, because each activity did have good things to offer. But all these years later, it has worked out and he has exceeded my expectations.
If I could offer one tidbit of advice to those who are on the autism journey it would be this….. don’t lose sight of the family!!! Don’t underestimate what the family has to offer each other!! You are not letting your child down by choosing to miss an appointment in order to go on a date with the hubby. It’s ok for the other children to get a night out at the expense of the one. Your child’s best chance at success is at a slow steady pace with the family intact!! Choose your family over the competing voices of the experts!! This is not a sprint but a marathon and patience in the process is paramount for lasting success.
What have you done to help maintain balance within your family? How has it been a challenge? What advice would you offer to others?