God made me a people pleaser.
I always want people to be happy and I don't like conflict very much.
Then God blessed me with Charlie. A boy, well now a young man, with autism. When I received the diagnosis back in 2004, I fell hard. I didn't even understand fully what this autism was. I had no idea what my son's future would be like, neither really did the doctors at that point. For the next few years, I am being honest here, I felt judged. I had comments about my parenting, even a family member said to me, "you know with your 'issues' that is why he has the autism." I had people going up to my son talking to him as he screamed during a tantrum asking if he needed help (like I was hurting him). I wasn't very positive at this point. I didn't feel encouraged. In fact, I felt overwhelmed. I felt no one understood what I was going through. I felt people thought I was dramatizing this. I didn't know who I could share my hurt with really and feel safe.
I look back now, almost 13 years, and I see in so many ways how God helped me through those times. Let me share some of them with you.
- God listened to me. I prayed so much during those earlier years (still, do, but at that point, I was searching for so many answers). God listened to me. He heard my cry. I felt his arms around me and would envision him hugging me. I prayed more in that first year of diagnosis than I had when my husband had cancer or other struggles that were in my life. It is ok to cry to God and ask for help. It is ok to ask God why. It is ok to say you are mad. God wants all of us. He wants us to be real and come to Him with anything and rest in Him, rely on Him, and most importantly trust in Him.
- I made new friends. During those first few years, I was on autopilot trying to just learn what autism really was and learning what my son's struggles were and figuring out how to help him. What do I do first? In those years he put in my path so many great people, some I am still friends with today. I use to say that I was in the "autism mom club" but never really joined. I always loved finding other moms that had a child 4+ years older so I could see what they were doing and how they helped their child. It encouraged me. God placed those ladies in my life purposely to give me strength and encouragement to keep going. We exchanged things that worked and also things that didn't. The hardest part with this is sometimes moms/dads compare their children to one another. I used to hear at times, "well Charlie doesn't have the same issues as ____, he is not as severe. My son has way more issues." That was discouraging. I don't think we ever need to compare or ever make another parent feel they don't "get it." We all have different journeys and we need to encourage each other no matter where you are on that journey.
- He moved me in a direction to help others. I have a Bachelor's in Psychology so my background and college were always gearing me in a service field. God placed Charlie in my life and in order to help my son I learned so many things. I studied and understood IDEA. I helped volunteer my time talking to parents for hours over the phone about their child's IEP and helping them in their meetings. I read and read how to help kids with autism. I watched Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists work with my son in sessions and would do the same things at home. There was a point where my son was 5 and still not potty trained, nothing worked. I heard ABA worked for potty training, so in order to help my son, I took the courses just to help him. In the meantime, I realized I wanted to finish the intern hours and while doing that I got hooked. I wanted to help more than just my son. I wanted to help other kids too now. I was able to finish and got certified as an Assistant Behavior Analyst. I am also now a Principal of a Special Needs School. God gave me these new opportunities only because of my son and how I was helping him. I am so blessed by where I am at now and thankful he has me helping other families. He is using my struggles to help others. Thank you, Lord!
God always places different people in our lives to encourage us. We have to be open though to notice who those people are. I love to encourage others now, to let them know it will be ok. This too shall pass. I love to share where my son was years ago and where he is now. Those stories are so full of hope. Let God encourage you today, talk to Him in prayer. If you need some encouragement today let me know and I would love to encourage YOU!