I've been doing this parenting autism thing for about eleven years now, knowingly for sixish, and have had knowledge of my own autism for about three years. It's been one heck of a learning curve.
In that time, autism has taught me that it's never static and always changing. Yet, whole days, weeks, months, and even years go by that seem like Groundhog Day, where the routine rarely seems to vary. In that rigid routine, though, is a constantly evolving hub of skills, understanding of the world, and hard won accomplishments- sometimes so tiny, we have to squint to see them, but they're still there.
Autism has taught me that there are many ways to slice an apple, pizza, sandwich, toast, etc., but only one correct way. Any other way than the right way will result in mutiny.
I've figured out that it is, indeed, possible, to be asked the same exact question 1,583,923 times in a day and then get asked again because echolalia.
I've learned that no amount of worrying will ever fill my bucket of fears, there will always be more things to consider, examine, and worry about some more. Because of my own autism and comorbid of severe anxiety disorder, I get the extra fun of perseverating on topics such as "what will middle school/high school be like?" "have I taught him x, y, z?" and, my personal favorite, "what's the future going to be like?" Because thinking of something like that while you're pacing and slightly manic at 3am just adds a little shot of fun to it all.
I've learned that things like milestones, time tables, and age appropriate and pretty much entirely made up and will never apply to us. Once I learned this, I was much happier.
Autism has made me realize that there are reasons why I can't learn something with just one or two demonstrations, thanks to the processing disorder side of things. This would explain why I get stuck on instructions, or forget steps in multi step problems. Morgan's the exact same way, but to a more severe degree.
I've figured out that the right fidget or sensory object at the right time can solve just about any problem, at least for a few seconds.
I've learned that I don't need to be surrounded by a ton of people who may or may not "get" me or my son. However, a small but great support network, complete with people who are willing to listen, learn, or are already "there" themselves, is key. I don't even need to actually know these people in person- I threw out the whole, "don't talk to strangers on the internet" thing a long time ago. Some of the people I've met through Facebook groups and this blog are now some of my closest confidants.
Autism has taught me that I have a resiliency within me that I never fully realized. One that will walk into conference rooms for IEPs and quietly demand the utmost best for my son and not back down until I find a way to get it.
The most important lesson autism has taught me, though, is that there are many ways for a family to be normal- it doesn't need to look like a modern Norman Rockwell painting. In our case, normal is discussion of IEPs, Thomas the Train with our eleven year old, quiet discussions with our eight year old about his worries for his brother, visiting every train museum we can find, and speaking as bluntly about autism as possible. Or, really, speaking as bluntly as possible about pretty much anything. We don't really do filters here.
Autism has taught me so much. I haven't been the most willing student at all times, and I'm still not. However, this education has been worth it because Morgan's worth it, and so am I.
What has autism taught you?