Halloween is a time for masks and disguises — nothing is quite what it seems. Boys dress like girls, children dress up as vampires, and everyone takes to the dark streets in this masquerade of disguise.
Autism can be very much the same way.
Many of the parents I have worked with expressed feeling grief, loss, or pain when they received a diagnosis of autism or as they live their life with a child with autism.
Although autism demands an endless amount of energy from parents as they try to meet the challenge of helping their special child reach his/her full potential, many parents have also begun to discover that autism is not what it seems. Although they would not ask to have a child with autism, a new depth, understanding and openness has deeply penetrated into their lives.
This is what I call “going beneath the mask of autism.”
We all have experiences in our lives that demand us to go deeper, identify our core values and resource a place within ourselves we did not know we had.
I wanted to share a personal experience with you to demonstrate this point.
Almost two years ago, my dear friend Leah (with me in the picture below), a young mother of 5 children, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She fought with her heart and soul for a grueling 8 months until she passed away. As you can imagine, all of her children (ages 2-11), her unbelievably devoted husband, Shmuel and her many friends went through a great amount of shock, fear, and grief.
Just yesterday, Shmuel called to tell me that he got engaged to a woman (another friend of ours) and will be getting married this summer. He and his family are embarking on a new adventure and one extraordinary part is that he is marrying a woman who has 9 children from a previous marriage — this means with his 5 they will have a whopping 14 children altogether!
To me, this boldly demonstrates the dumbstruck wonder of life as it unfolds.
Beneath and beyond the tragedy of what Leah’s family went through came boundless blessings, courage and strength — in ways that no one could have ever imagined.
My article today is an offer to you to go beneath the “mask of autism” - beyond the assessments, therapies, treatments, diets etc. to truly note what gifts/blessings your special child has brought into your life and the life of your family.
This is an invitation to ask yourself, as the wild adventure of life unfolds, “What is the wonder that my child has brought into my life and the life of my family?”
I would love to hear from you and give you the opportunity to hear from each other. So, please post your answers and reflections below.
Tali Berman is an autism specialist, developmental play expert and author of “Play to Grow! Over 200 games to help your special child develop fundamental social skills” (with foreword by Jenny McCarthy). She is also the founder/leader of the Autism Empowerment Telesummit, gathering top autism experts on her elite panel, reaching thousands of families around the globe. You can learn more at: www.meirautism.org.