New Autism Mama

My name is Carrie. I have five kids and my second son, Jack, is diagnosed with autism.

Jack is sixteen. I have lived alongside autism for twenty minus four years. I believe this makes me an Old Autism Mama.

I’ve seen things.

I know stuff.

I have a bank of memories that would curl your hair, like the day he started the car when he was four, or when I lost him in the mall because I was trying on a sweater.

Even though I am an Old Autism Mama, I don’t like to give a lot of advice, mostly because I have no idea what am doing.

At the same time, I do believe in saving others from the mistakes I have made. And truth be told, I have made many, many mistakes.

In this spirit, I’d like to dedicate this piece to the New Autism Mama.

This is the mother who just heard the diagnosis Autism-Spectrum-Disorder-In-Capital-Letters.

The woman who came home after the fateful doctor’s appointment and cooked dinner and smiled wanly across the dinner table, while a small piece of her spirit died.

The one who maybe hates her husband a teensy bit because he isn’t as worried as she is and he doesn’t get it and isn’t on the same page of ABA therapy.

Sweet, tender New Autism Mama, here is my advice: don’t go into autism with non-autism goals.

Non-autism goals often look like this:

Sit Still During Circle Time
Get a Part in the school play
Do Well in Soccer Tryouts
Bring Home Trophies
Go to College
Marry

Autism goals are closer to this:

Eat
Sleep
Keep Body Calm
Make a Friend

Autism strips us down to the very basics. This is a good thing. Eating, sleeping, regulation friendship. In many ways, these four things are the cornerstones of a good life.

In other words, non-autism goals aren’t less. They aren’t bad, or meaningless. In fact, I am convinced they are more important now than ever.

New Autism Mama, you also have new goals.

Goals for parenting an undiagnosed child look a lot like this:

Help Rehearse Lines for the School Play
Cheer from the Sidelines
Clear Shelf for Trophies
Plan Wedding

Now you have new goals. They look a little like this:

Kiss Your Husband Once a Day
Forgive Yourself
Tell Your Story

I know, I know. You’re wondering where the ABA therapy and the social stories and the school meetings are in all of this.

Tender Mama, the good news is, you only need to focus on these three things.

You see, these three things are your salvation. They will help you heal.

Kiss the person you married, at least once a day, and try to remember you are in this together. You will each bring a different point of view to the sloping bell curve, which is the loveliest part.

Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself all the times you lost your patience, or cried in the bathroom, or said many swear words under your breath.

Tell your story.

New Autism Mama, a lot of people are going to ask you if you’re okay. Don’t toss your head and try to smile and say yes.

Tell your truth.

The sweater was yellow. I’ll never forget it.

Tell them you are overwhelmed/tired/sad/elated/hopeful. Tell about the highs and lows that inevitably accompany raising a child on the spectrum.

Kiss.

Tell.

Forgive.

Once again, I think these are the cornerstones of a life well lived. They are basic, and pure, and whole, and good.

Some like to say autism is different, but not less.

I say he is different, and equal.

Together, we cheer. Not from the sidelines, but from the heart of the field.

New Autism Mama, you have got this.

I love you with my entire self,

Carrie Cariello

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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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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