The first Sunday of October I’ve been in the same place for the past 8 years. I can be found at Jones Beach on Long Island. Not to swim in the ocean but to walk with thousands of others to raise money for Autism Speaks and to raise awareness of Autism. My amazing 11 year old son was diagnosed Sept 21, 2007 when he had just turned 3. At his yearly physical exam in August I noted to our pediatrician that Troy was showing signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that combined with his delay in speech started our family on a journey which had (and will continue to have) many twists and turns and loads of highs and lows. Going to this walk provides me a time of reflection and what I always come back to is, what have I learned?
My son Troy made me a better person. Hands down that’s the truth. Now I wasn’t a terrible person but certain traits I possessed I couldn’t any longer with having a child on the spectrum. I loved order and having everything just so. I quickly realized that I couldn’t be that rigid anymore I had to (gasp) roll with the punches and see what happens. I was not a patient person. I still have my moments but I have learned that patience truly is a virtue. Compassion. I’ve always tried to be compassionate of others but when you’re faced with having a child with special needs you start to see the world through a different lens. I now find myself smiling at that Mom or Dad in the store while their child has a melt down and giving them the nod so they know they are not alone. When the situation allowed I’ve engaged with the child to try to help alleviate the stress and to show that it’s going to be ok.
Most importantly I learned that we are on this journey together as a family, including friends and loved ones. We have a far reaching support network and group of people who are touched by our story and who’s stories touch us. And isn’t that what’s life is all about, all being on this journey of life together!