There is power in the positive declaration.
Move that Mountain. One Stone at a time.
You don’t have to be a cheery happy person to use simple and positive declarative statements and create meaningful change. I know because I live it. Don’t pay attention to the negative. Adjust your vision and stop looking for the immediate success. If you stop trying to build skills and accept that your child will not improve-YOU WILL NOT SEE ANY IMPROVEMENTS. At least if you try, and keep trying, no matter how long it may take, YOU WILL SEE POSITIVE RESULTS. Just know it will be, and do whatever it takes to get there. Tell yourself you will get there. That’s the only thing that we found works for us. It’s not pretty. It’s not easy, but it is our truth.
When my oldest son was first diagnosed on the spectrum at age 2 (2007), it was such a huge and brutal loss. The physical and psychological toll it took to overcome, well, I am still emerging from that blow today. I AM FOREVER CHANGED AND I CHOSE TO EMBRACE IT. The pain has just become a part of who I am. Now that my second son has also received an ASD diagnosis at age 2 (2013) we are moving along at a steady clip. We have put in the blood, sweat, and tears with our first child and have seen a 180 degree shift in his being. Most people don’t know our oldest son even has the diagnosis when they encounter him. Surviving the first has spurred our energy with the second. And we are digging in and dreaming big.
The first few years are the most trying and darkest of times. The struggles, for us, were painful, incessantly exhausting, and lonely. I am still unsure how we clawed and scraped our way out of that place. We were not the “fun-time” people to hang out with. I know how exhausted and crazy I felt, so I can only imagine how it looked to those viewing us from the outside. It was the kind of anguish I would never wish on a single person on this earth. It was a raw and horrible time.
I became a woman possessed. It was as if I could physically hear a clock ticking off the seconds of each day. I was fearful of a bomb going off if I didn’t find out how to get things done in time. I would spend my days teaching art and being amazed at the sheer lovely uniqueness of each of my imperfectly beautiful students. At the same time, I would wonder if my child was building and hiding behind a barricade of toys to keep his peers away from him at daycare. I would listen to my fellow teachers during lunch share, as they should, the joys and experiences of their normally developing children… while I began to count how many times it took to crunch through my carrots to keep myself from shriveling into tears at the thought of what it was that triggered my child melting down, screaming, scratching, biting and head butting me as I tried to get him out of his car seat that morning.
I didn’t follow any of the advice I was given about taking care of myself through the early years. I had no time. It seemed too self-indulgent you see, because of that unrelenting clock. That ever-loving clock ticking was so loud in my ears. Any second I wasn’t with my son working through a problem or finding solutions was like sand slipping through my fingers. Even if my son fell asleep at night, after the usual 2 hour nightly bedtime sequence, I didn’t sleep. I would spend that time researching on the internet. I was trying to find potential solutions to the stack of ever-growing problems we needed to handle, instead of getting that sleep I so desperately needed in order to run the same exhausting gauntlet again the next day. I think only the prayers of friends and family were what saved me.
We chose to drive our dreams forward. We refused to accept the statistics that our son would not speak, or relate, or didn’t feel empathy. We didn’t feel good about every day, and we didn’t smile like Pollyanna about it. But we made declarations that our biggest strengths would come from our biggest weaknesses. We made positive declarations. I said them to myself, I said them to my nonverbal son. I said them to the empty space around me…out loud, determined, and with authority. And yes, some days I prayed Dear God, if the reports and statistics are right and I am pushing for things that will not happen, then please find a way to catch us when we fall down from that hill we are climbing, because I am stomping up that mother and I am going full boar. I just knew that even if we didn’t make it to the top, wherever we got was better than wherever it was that we were.
What I didn’t realize then, was that we were trying to hold on to survive in those early years. The struggles would not disappear. The struggles would merely evolve into new ones. The meltdown struggle became the speech struggle, which became the potty training struggle….etc. Today it is dealing with anxiety, handwriting, and creating IEP’s that provide a bridge to skill acquisition versus simply giving him “outs” and “crutches”. Don’t worry-if you work the problems consistently, you will finally see some positives. And when you do, rejoice in them. Whoop it up! Party down!
And when the new hurdles get set up, take a deep breath and stretch your muscles for the next event. Carry any successful momentum over to the new challenge. The time will come to put on the harness and begin plowing. But don’t be weary. You can do it. I am living proof. My sons are living proof. The proof that you will reap success from the seeds you sew. And you will revel in the joy of the purest and most simplest acts. You will see the gifts where others do not. You and your child’s ability and resiliency will amaze you. Your ability to weather storms and find solutions will become stronger. Your resolve to push forward will take less effort, and your focus will become keenly sharper. You will begin to reach out and help other parents move forward too.
Two phrases I live by now are:
This too shall pass
God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle…and you can do all things through God. Bring it.
Today, my once nonverbal and socially isolated child is a vibrant conversational social butterfly. And we are keeping those positive declarations going. My child is becoming a hard-wired goal driven achiever. He only knows how to work and achieve. That is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool.
Common phrases we use with my son:
I am smart.
I can do it.
I won’t quit.
Don’t you quit either. Whatever spot you are in, don’t quit. Others don’t carry your burden, and may look at you and run away from you with fear. Unless you are served up this entree, you wouldn’t order it up either. Those who matter and are worthy will still be there in the end. We survived the early years and I know you can too.
I am sure I was like a traveling freak show to many, but so what?! I look at my son and thank God for all the people he has placed in our life along the way. I thank each bitter cognitive restructuring mental pill I swallowed when I forced a positive thought to fill my mind and push away the negative present circumstance. Those positive declarations kept my head up and looking for solutions. Don’t you put your head down. Don’t accept the doom of reported statistics that your child will not achieve. That clock is ticking. Time is too precious a commodity to wallow in the muck and be apathetic. Think about how great it will feel when you get to celebrate the next success! GET MOVING.
You can do it. Deep breath, stay the course, stay positive, and you will see positive changes. Autism Parents, Don’t give up.
This article spurred me on to write this today because my son is living proof that it is true. – Many Nonverbal Children with Autism Overcome Severe Language Delays
Here is another! Speech Emerges In Children On The Autism Spectrum With Severe Language Delay At Greater Rate Than Previously Thought
Here are some things we did to help our once nonverbal son – http://www.defyingthespectrum.com/finding-solutions-2/communicating-with-a-non-verbal-child/