When my focus is drawn toward the fact that I live in a family with special needs, I’m reminded of how easy it is to put myself first and try to fit my son and his needs into the plan that I have for the day. That will never work—not for a typical mom, and certainly not for me. If I can’t understand how to navigate everyday life with my son’s unique needs at the forefront of my plans, it begs the question—who’s the one that’s really showing signs of a disability in learning?
“Abram, will you please put your bike in the garage? We need to go,” I said.
And then it starts.
See, Abram is very attached to his bicycle and tends to act out when asked to do things he doesn’t want to do. In this instance, Abram heard my request and began grunting, screaming, and yelling in rebellion—just another day in the life of parenting a child with autism.
As I was gearing up for yet another battle of redirecting Abram, I noticed his therapist motioning for me to stop focusing on what I was doing and take a moment observe and understand what my child was actually doing.
Abram seemed to be on the verge of yet another meltdown; however, as he was shouting, he was also riding his bike toward the garage. I continued to watch my son hop off his bike, lower the kickstand, and start making his way toward the van.
From my perspective, Abram was yelling and screaming at me because I had asked him to put his bike away, but as I heeded my therapist’s advice and actually watched what my son was doing, rather than focusing on my own experience, I gained a better understanding of what was actually going on.
Abram wasn’t yelling at me and he certainly wasn’t trying to start a fight—he was simply telling me, in his own way, “OK mom, I’ll put my bike up so we can go.”
Its times like these that I learn so much from my child. Had I submitted to my initial reaction and began redirecting him when he started his “tantrum” things would have only gotten worse. I would redirect him, Abram would retaliate verbally toward me and probably physically toward his sister, as had happened so many times in the past. The situation would continue to escalate and the rest of the day would be affected by the exhausting emotional response that comes from dealing with situations like these.
This time was different because Abram’s therapist helped me jump out of my own skin and take things from my son’s perspective. In doing that, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the way his mind works and the way he communicates with me, enabling us to avoid a conflict altogether.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but continue to chew on the lesson that I had learned from my amazing son. If I could work toward trying to understand the people in my life in the manner that I truly understood my son today, I believe I could relieve a lot of stress in my own life.
There are plenty of people in my life that choose to focus on the negative side of things and I’m oftentimes dragged down by the toxic behaviors and attitude that often accompanies such a mindset. Today, my son encouraged me to use “Abram therapy” with other people in my life—letting them express themselves in whatever way they need to as I genuinely attempt to gain their perspective, to see through the negativity, and to grasp what they are actually trying to convey.
I am in no way claiming to be a master at this sort of thing with my son, nor with the other people that I interact with in my everyday life. I am claiming to have learned a very wise and valuable lesson from my son—one that will undoubtedly have an impact on the way I perceive others, as well as myself. In achieving this understanding, I have reduced stress in my own life and I like to think that I am causing less stress in the lives of others.
Things are not always what they seem. Change your focus and you can change your life.