What If I Could Travel Back In Time?
If I could time travel I'd go back to the time when I was terrified of receiving an autism diagnosis for my son.
I'd go back and say hey hun it's me...yes it's you...you, me us...I time travelled and here we are.
I know, it's a lot to take in. Breathe, relax...I'm here for you. I'm here to tell you good things...so listen up!
You're a mother of two amazingly talented children. A boy - who you refer to as your drummer boy, and a girl you lovingly call your "noodle". They're both kind, loving and wonderful children who are happy and do silly things just to make you laugh. Everywhere they go they make friends and leave an impression. I know it's hard to imagine right now but you'll soon see. People comment about their intelligence and immense talent on numerous occasions but mostly they are in awe of their kindness and how big their heart is.
This kind of thing makes you happy. It makes you feel good as a parent and you hold on to this because it's your anchor when you're feeling low.
I know right now you're waiting to see your son's developmental paediatrician and possibly hear a diagnosis for your 3 year old son.
I know what the doctor is going to say, what the diagnosis will be. But before we get to that, before the doctor gives you the news that will change your life, family outlook and dynamic, here's some advice from Future You:
Go ahead CRY
It's called grief. You will be in mourning, no doubt. Mourning the loss of all the dreams you had for your child. Kick and scream, throw a tantrum if you have to! This is inevitable and absolutely OK. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Being angry and grieving is nothing to be ashamed of and you shouldn't try and hide it either. You're going to cry in your car, in the shower, on the phone while talking to your husband or other family members. You're going to cry at night when your husband thinks you're sleeping. Trust me, it's ok. Give yourself a day or two to just let it all out. BUT don't let yourself get so consumed with your grief that you miss out on the beauty and blessings you will discover around you and in your children.
Find Your Tribe
Find other mommies going through a similar situation. Joining an autism association or resource centre will help you with this and you'll get lots of information there. These mommies will support you and they will absolutely understand your son and his quirks and make you feel completely at home. It will be a little bit harder with family and friends, they mean well at times but sometimes may not be as supportive or positive because they don't understand. Be patient with them, teach them and guide them as you go along - your children will do the rest.
You're Not Going To Be Perfect
In fact you will make numerous mistakes and that's OK. It will be frustrating but just embrace the imperfections - learn from it and then MOVE ON. No parent is perfect - it's a fact. Find comfort in knowing that no parent is getting it right all the time. Parenthood and parenting is complicated. The quicker you acknowledge this and own it, the quicker you will be to embrace the messy complicated and beautiful story of you and your special family.
Google is Your Friend But Can Be Your Enemy
You're going to be bombarded with what to do and what not to do. Not every therapy is for your son, so do your research and don't be afraid to ask the doctor questions. Remember You are learning and only want to get your son the therapy he needs but don't let your enthusiasm consume you. Find a balance and make sure you have time to interact with your son and get to know him.
Watch out For Comparisons
You're going to interact with typical and special needs families. You're going to see their children's growth track. Don't get caught up in what their child is doing and what yours is not doing. It will be hard at first. Your heart will break, but eventually you'll look at the big picture - focussing solely on your son's amazing personality and unique skills and qualities. Your son's growth will happen for sure, one baby step at a time, and all along the way you'll be celebrating every major and minor achievement.
Play With Your Son and Get to Know Him on His Terms
If he wants to twirl and dance all day long, do that with him. If he wants to jump up and down for 1 hour, just do it. You won't regret it and he'll love you for it. It will engage him and foster trust in him to let you in -which is what you want.
Don't think about it - Buy Him That Drum Set
He is a natural born drummer. You can't see it now, but in a couple of weeks it will be crystal clear where his passion lies. Don't doubt it, embrace it, and surround him with music. Music is everything for your son. It will not only be his lifeline but yours as well. Music and drumming will be like a window into his mind and soul and in fact you will use it to help when teaching him new things.
The doctor will be seeing you in a moment. He will tell you your son has autism and you will eventually get a developmental assessment report confirming this. The psychiatrist will throw in words like "intellectual disability", inevitable struggles and delays, and just a lifetime of him not being like his peers. Please don't be too sad or worry too much about this. Remember I said it's ok to grieve. But don't forget to stay strong. Just believe in your son and trust that everything is going to be alright.
Finally, when you leave that doctors office never forget what I told you at the beginning of this letter. Reread it as many times as you need to. Read it when you're feeling overwhelmed and bogged down with all of his therapies, read it when you're feeling sad or happy. Let it consume you and take over your mind so you carry it with you everywhere you go. Why? because no matter what, YOU are a mother of two amazingly talented children and that's the only thing that matters in your beautiful world.
Gotta run see you soon!
Hi, I am Francene...aka @drummerboysmom on Instagram and drummerboyZmom on twitter. I'm an over 40 expat mommy raising a daughter with an old soul and a son with autism in beautiful Jamaica.