6 Wonderful Things I Get to Enjoy Because of Autism

In the wake of Autism Awareness month, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite qualities about my son Zachary, who has severe non-verbal autism.

Sometimes it is easier to get wrapped up in the hard parts of autism, because, yes autism is hard.

However, there is happiness and joy like no other as well.

We live in New Jersey, which has the highest rate of autism in the nation. The CDC reports it as 1 in 32 in New Jersey. Chances are you know someone with autism if you live here.

The Autism Awareness campaign has done wonderful things.

Now the efforts should also be made for neurodiversity and acceptance. I want to share all the wonderful things that I get to enjoy, because of autism.

Perseverance

My son is the most hardworking child I have ever met, and he is only 4 years old. I don’t think people realize what an average day is like for my son, (and for me.)

His day starts at 7:00am and ends at 8:00pm. Between full day preschool program and after school therapies, we are booked.

My son has being doing this schedule since he was 3.5 years old. Sometimes I can’t even manage this schedule unless I’ve had my third cup of coffee for the day.

Throughout his schedule, Zachary is working on lots of different skills. Some of what he works on we take for granted, and are not easy for my son.

Zachary being able to get up the stairs on the school bus takes work. He can not do that independently yet.

The stairs in our house are not the same stairs on the school bus, which aren’t the same stairs he uses to practice at physical therapy, to my son. They all seem different to him and he works on that every day.

Yes, my son learns academic things like colors, and the alphabet, but within those skills is so much more. My son is learning how to sit still while he learns that. He is learning how to hold a crayon.

He is learning how to transition from one task to the next, which I’m sure autism parents would agree that might be one of the hardest skills to learn.

Zachary perseveres. Most days it is with a smile and a happy heart to go along with it.

When I step back and look at my hardworking son smile at me; it becomes easier for me to smile, and know that I too can persevere through this journey next to him.

True Happiness

Zachary wakes up happy almost everyday. Some days he wakes up on his own, and I will walk into his room and he is smiling, squealing, and jumping on his bed.

How could I possibly yell at that smiling face not to jump on the bed? Makes me wonder if I’m starting my day all wrong.

His happiness is contagious, and his smile brightens the room.

If you are lucky enough to hear his laugh you know you will be waiting for more. Zachary’s live in the moment and doesn’t care for social norms, which makes for a happy attitude. I think everyone could benefit from living a little bit like this.

As he gets older, his personality really shines through. He is becoming funny, and although he is nonverbal he does get cheeky.

The key is to have patience, and let Zachary respond. You’ll be surprisingly just as happy as Zachary is.

Observant

Zachary takes in everything. Some of that has to do with his sensory processing disorder, and some of it is because he is a visual learner.

I started to notice how observant Zachary was when he was about 2 years old. If we go to the store and pass the same area that we did when we got there he would become upset, because he knew or thought we were leaving.

When I would be driving and turn onto our home street he would be excited. If I passed our street he would become upset and anxious.

The same is true when we would drive to the mall or doctor’s appointment. He knew where we were and what was going on.

With that being said, my son knows and observes when others aren’t kind. He is watching us and learning from everyone around him. Just because he communicates and learns differently doesn’t mean he doesn’t observe and know when he is spoken to versus spoken about in front of him.

Simple is sometimes better

Zachary loves the simple things in life. He loves to be in bed with a blanket and a book.

We recently went to Disney world. We all had fun, and Zachary did a great job with all the activities that we had planned.

However, I think Zachary was the most happy hanging out by the pool or when we were on the plane ride. He had his favorite books, blanket, and a nice view sitting by the window.

I find that it’s easy to get caught up in wanting the next new, big, expensive things in life, but Zachary keeps me grounded.

I love when Zachary sits next to me on the couch for more then just a minute. It’s simple, but it means so much more. I don’t know if I would feel the same way if I didn’t have a son with autism.

Forgiving

I think every parent, special needs or not, can agree that we don’t always get it right with our children. I find that I’m especially hard on myself when I don’t get it right with Zachary .

I always feel like I’m running against the clock with him. I have been told by so many of his providers that these are the most important years for my son.

So we go and go and go, and then sometimes I lose my patience. Or I can’t see that my son just needs an extra minute, or an extra hug.

I don’t always get it right, and it’s even harder that my son is nonverbal. Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out what he wants or needs.

Most young kids like to sleep with a special toy, or stuffed animal. My son loves all books.

So when he wanted to take a book to bed I was adamant not give him one. I thought he wouldn’t go to sleep because he would be looking at the book instead. It escalated to a full blown meltdown and he just kept signing “book.”

I finally gave in and gave him the book. He just held it and went to sleep shortly after.

In the moment I couldn’t see that he just needed a comfort item to go to sleep. Although his comfort item is different then most it’s still did it’s job…comfort my child.

Zachary had forgiving me quickly that night, but I didn’t forgive myself as quickly.

Loving

Zachary is my first child, and what every parent says about the love they experience when their child is born is true.

It’s a love like no other, and your heart expands in ways you never knew it could.

His love is true and pure. There is no sugar coating anything with Zachary. He can’t fake it. Zachary just is and just does what’s in his heart. If he doesn’t like it he will let you know, and if he loves it he will let you know over and over again.

Although my son has never said the words “I love you,” I know Zachary loves me, immediate family, and even his grandparents and other extended family members.

Nonverbal or not, you can’t deny a smiling face running to you, and taking your hand to sit on the couch with him to read his favorite book.

It’s my own views that make hearing “I love you” versus showing love difficult, but has gotten easier.

Zachary has truly shown me unconditional love. Under no conditions he continues to love me, as his mom.

Zachary wants for nothing ever. People don’t seem to understand that. I have taken Zachary a thousand times to all different stores, and not once has he pointed to something he wants, or asked via communication device. He is just happy to be there with me, in the moment.

This has taught me the most valuable lesson of all.

Autism or not, verbal or not, I unconditionally love my son. Every single part of him and wouldn’t trade him for anything.

Written by, Melissa Owsiany

I’m a nurse, wife and mom to two wonderful boys Zachary, who has autism, and Landon.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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