You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
The doctor said, "Your son has autism" as he wrote prescriptions for an MRI and EEG to rule out any brain tumors. I remember staring at my son and thinking what does this mean. My husband quickly asked the doctor, "Will he go to school? Will he be able to go to college?" I was numb.
My other child at the time was just about to turn 9. We had already started both of them on 529 savings plans for college before this awful day came. Shortly after we heard the words, "Your child has autism" my husband and I asked each other should we still put money into Charlie's account? No one had clear answers at the time but most of the people we asked advice on this said probably not.
Charlie wasn't talking at the time and as you can imagine with his lack of language he would have tantrums a lot (screaming, flopping on the floor, turning tables over, or throwing things). I remember we kept putting money in both of child's accounts monthly but months later, we slowed down putting money in for Charlie simply because the therapies and all the other things he needed ate up most of our salaries at the time. We had to make a choice at that time.
We have been on this "autism journey" as I call it now for over 13 years. My son is now 16 years old. He has come a long way and we will continue to work every day.
Yesterday I did something I thought would never be a part of our journey, we toured a college with Charlie.
Yes, you heard me we toured a college, not just any college but the University of Central Florida. One of the biggest schools in the country. I was a little skeptical, to be honest, that this was a possibility for my son. You see colleges all over the country are really looking at what they are offering with inclusive education. UCF is doing a great job in including our kids and making them a meaningful part of the community. I left there really in tears. I felt hopeful.
The Down Syndrome Foundation of Central Florida offered a College and Career Planning day for students and parents. The parents were in one room and then the students went to tour part of the campus and learn more life/independent living skills. I was nervous to have him go on his own with strangers, but I knew I needed to do this for him. He went and came back a little different, a little more independent. He loved it. He said when we met up with him again at the end, "I just need to work on my social skills more, but this was fun!"
I left there and realized I had stopped dreaming because of fear.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of how would he be able to make a goal
Fear of letting go
Fear of him not being safe
This was limiting him and limiting my dreams for my son.
Here are 3 reasons to dream:
1. It frees you and makes you smile
When you dream, doesn't it always put a smile on your face? It does for me. Dreaming gives you HOPE. It gives you something to look forward to. It is not our job to figure out if the dream will actually be a reality, it is our job to just simply dream!
2. It helps my son to see how to think positively
My son struggles with negative thinking a whole lot. He sees many things through what will go wrong instead of what will go right. If he sees me positive and looking forward in a positive manner, my hope is that it will encourage him to think the same way. It is a choice to think negatively or positively. I keep choosing to think positively. It makes you feel so much better.
3. It pushes you to do great things
When you dream you are looking forward to things that you hope will occur. You look forward to things that you would like to achieve. You put positive pictures in your mind of what could be. Things that CAN be done, things that you would like to have happened. Again, it is a choice. I can choose to think daily how Charlie will never be able to go to college like my daughter did. I can choose to think he can't do certain things, but I will keep choosing when those thoughts come up to dream instead. I will choose to think of things and work on things with my son that is positive and skills that he will be able to do later in life.
I HOPE you can dream too, no matter the challenges you are having. Sometimes dreams can be really small things that others take for granted. For example, maybe your dream is that your child will hold a fork/spoon. Maybe your dream is that your child will speak his/her first word, or your child will have calm hands. Dream BIG! There are no limits of what they can achieve. Don't stop dreaming!