It has been six years since my son, George, was diagnosed with autism. Like so many parents receiving this diagnosis for my child, my initial reaction was one of deep despair, matched with a sense of total overwhelm. It took me several months to sort through the myriad of therapy options to treat children with autism and to ultimately choose the healing path of diet, supplements and RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) that started to give my family a sense of hope. But what has taken me a longer amount of time to discover has been something less tangible and something that I have only been able to find by looking within; it is a deep truth about my son-that though his brain is often discombobulated and his gut and immune system struggle to function properly, he is nonetheless and always will be a perfect beautiful soul.
I remember a conversation that I had with my friend Andrea when we knew that George was not developing typically and while we were going through a number of evaluations. I felt completely ungrounded and uncertain of how to parent George, who seemed to be more and more lost in his own world. Andrea is the mother of a daughter (now in her late 20s) who has multiple disabilities and she is one of the most honest, authentic people whom I know. I shared my worries about George with her and shared my feelings of fear that I might never be able to connect with him. She encouraged me to embrace the quiet space of being with George without needing to talk. She shared with me that in the quiet space of being with her daughter, who also struggles with expressive language, that she learned to connect with her daughter’s soul.
This idea intrigued me. I knew that it was something that I could do. I started to hold George more the way that I had when he was a baby and I let my heart melt. I would tell him repeatedly how much I loved him. There were times when just being with him brought me to tears. During that same time, there were also countless hours where I nearly felt out of mind with frustration as his temper tantrums grew worse and his hyperactivity increased.
But I would find that quite space, even if it was just for a few moments a day—saying a morning prayer together thanking God for the new day, taking a nature walk or cuddling up and looking at books—when I would stop worrying about George and would just be with him. As I was able to do that more, I could feel his connection to me growing. I could feel him opening up to me and communicating with a smile, a gaze or a hug, even as he struggled to speak.
As our therapeutic work began to take root, I started to see the wonderful possibilities of George’s brain and gut healing. We have worked hard as a family in the last six years to remediate George’s autism and while he has made immense progress, he has ways to go in terms of learning to communicate and relate to others.
But what remains steadfast, despite whatever behavioral or academic challenges that we are working on with George, is my awareness of his beauty and worth and perfection, in simply being as he is.
Accepting that perfection is in fact about being imperfect, vulnerable, and flawed has been one of the hard earned gifts that I have earned in my son’s healing journey. In accepting him exactly as he is, I am better able to accept myself for all of my flaws and find energy for the work of helping my child’s brain and body heal to match his beautiful soul.
About the Author
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is the author of The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Visual GF/Cf Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills. She teaches cooking workshops for kids and parents and for therapists who work with children with special needs, in person and via skype. You can reach her at www.kicthenclassroom4kids.com