About six months after my son was diagnosed with Autism, a woman visited with me at church. Her daughter was around nine years old and had Down syndrome. She asked me how we were doing and actually wanted a sincere answer in return. We had a wonderful discussion. It was one of those rare moments when I felt like someone actually understood how I felt and what was happening with our family. She shared some advice with me that became the best advice I ever received.
"Danyelle, you need to dream for your son. You need to look at where he is, create dreams and goals for him that are outside his reach - then triple them. You need to dream big because he doesn't know how. You don't know what his potential is. Don't get stuck in whatever stage he's in now. Keep looking forward to the possibilities."
I don't know why this was so profound for me. At the time, I was just hoping someday my son would say Mom and maybe have a friend to play with. But each time we met for IEP's, behavioral interventions, or my hubby and I talked about our son's future, the words "Triple it. Dream big." were always there, reminding me to keep looking ahead. Even now, ten years later, those words pop up often.
I can't tell you how grateful I am that that mother took the time to share a little bit of wisdom with me. There are so many experiences my son would never have had because my first inclination was to love him, hold him close, and protect him from the harsh world he was oblivious of. But that advice encouraged me to loosen my hold a little bit at a time, to enroll him in clubs, sports, or activities that required him to stretch, learn, and grow. Those nudges helped push him a little more into society, made him pay attention to the people around him, actually hold conversations, and develop social skills. Those experiences have helped him grow into the young man he is today.
This year for my annual Autism Celebration, I invited a variety of parents, professionals, and caregivers from all around the United States to share their favorite moments and best advice. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the entire month of April, you have the opportunity to experience a bit of the wonders of Autism from someone new. I'm so excited for this opportunity to grow and learn together from others on different paths of the Autism journey. Happy Autism Awareness Month!
How have you helped a child with Autism to Dream Big?