Getting Started With Autism

My ten-year-old son was recently diagnosed with autism. This is not something I saw coming. He’s bright, creative, and funny–and while he’s had issues with anger, frustration, and social skills over the years, autism wasn’t in the realm of possibility in my mind. I’ve met kids with autism. I knew what autism is like, and my son just didn’t fit.

Then I read the report and saw how all the pieces fit together, and I realized I had a lot to learn. So I set out to find some resources to learn how to help him and get support for myself. And that’s where I kept hitting dead ends.

No support groups in my area. No social groups. Nothing within a practical distance that would work within our schedules. My son has a lot of support and resources at school, but I can’t find anything for me as a parent. If he had more severe challenges, I’m sure there would be other resources available to us, but I can’t even find a parents group in my county.

And so I subscribed to a magazine and ordered some books, hoping to glean some insight into the way his brain works and some tools for dealing with his meltdowns. I’m tired and I’m in new territory, and I just want to get through a day without my son losing it over his piano practice, or homework, or a video game not going his way.



Right now I am trying to be in a place of calm, a place where I can chill out and then handle the chaos of life better. You don’t just get it overnight; you have to work at it. It’s a daily struggle.

Jackee Harry

I have so much on my mind these days. I often think, “I need to start meditating again,” and I laugh. I am the opposite of being present. I am anxious, I am worried, I am tired. My mind is occupied with a ten-year-old son with high-functioning autism who pushes the envelope at every turn (“Can I watch one more episode of Adventure Time?” when I tell him to go to bed – “I’m still hungry; can I get another snack?”), who in addition to normal ten-year-old boy challenges has meltdowns when his piano lessons get frustrating.

My mind is on my dog who recently started having seizures, and although she appears to be improving with medication, she is still having seizures more often than the vet feels is within the “acceptable” range.” Yet tests aren’t telling us anything we need to know, and so I’m left to wonder how long it will be until her next episode, and whether she feels scared when it happens.

My mind is on my job and continual changes that are outside of my control. I feel lost and directionless; I don’t know if I contribute or where I should go next.

Finances are an eternal stressor, along with housework that’s never complete. I should be eating better, I should be exercising, I should be sleeping more.

Constant worry, anxiety, fear that I don’t measure up to my own high standards. Solitude, no one I can rely on to help me get the job done.

I’m searching for something to quiet this constant thunderstorm rumbling through my head.

I remember 

9/11 is probably the most meaningful and memorable day for me. I think it should become a federal holiday, because it means tons more than Presidents’ Day or (for us in Illinois) Casimir Pulaski Day. I’m sure D-Day meant as much to another generation. But this is the day that always gets my heart stuck in my throat. I don’t want to celebrate, but I still grieve. How quickly we forget how united we became, how we all mourned together. Most of us in the nation didn’t know anyone directly affected by the attacks, yet we were all connected to them.

I remember the first days, when time stopped and we all waited. The unending newscasts replaying the same footage over and over. We waited to find out what really happened, and whether there were survivors. We celebrated through our grief when we heard stories of the ordinary people who fought bravely to stop the terrorists on the plane, the first responders who worked tirelessly to do their duty, not their job.

And over the next few weeks, when there was no more news, yet we still saw those same images on tv because we weren’t sure if we could move on, and we wondered when it would be okay to joke again, to laugh again, to celebrate birthdays and weddings and life again.

Eventually, though, we did move on. Our lives started again. We had to go to work, pay the bills, buy groceries. Eventually 9/11 became a memory, albeit still raw and not too distant. At some point we rarely thought about it except when September rolled around and we remembered, because you can’t say the date without conjuring up those images again. Now every year, I try to carry on and forget about the day, but then it hits me and before I know it there’s that lump in my throat again.

I remember. I won’t forget.

As an aside, I want to recommend a little-known movie called The Guys from 2002. It stars Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. The Guys gave a voice to the grief that was still so fresh. Go check it out.

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