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"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

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Friday, February 21, 2014

A seismic shift

OK, the verdict is in: Finding Peace in the Autism Puzzle has found its second wind! Thanks to all who shared their input and for your support. Now, back in the saddle again and where we're headed:

seismic |ˈsīzmik|adjectiveof or relating to earthquakes or other vibrations of the earth and its crust.• relating to or denoting geological surveying methods involving vibrations produced artificially by explosions.• figurative of enormous proportions or effect there are seismic pressures threatening American societyNew Oxford American Dictionary http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195392883.001.0001/acref-9780195392883

{EVERY single night as part of our bedtime routine we watch a documentary about the Earth: earthquakes, volcanoes, lava. Don't ask me why! The household can not settle for the night without watching it; it's our unspoken ritual, common to so many families touched by ASD. It is NOT my favorite, but if it puts everyone to sleep: PRICELESS! Having seen this documentary every single night for at least the past 6 months, words like "seismic," "plate tectonics," and "pyroclastic flow" are now a part of my daily vocabulary. So, it is simply natural for me to use this phrase as the title of this post, and so fitting!}

A few years ago we had a small earthquake here in the Northeast. It was small and lasted only seconds, yet the sensation was terrifying and completely disorienting. It only took a minuscule tremor to make us appreciate solid ground and how we take it for granted. Sometimes the physical ground we stand on may be still and stable, but our social/emotional/spiritual/mental ground can be completely off the Richter scale!

You see, as a family we decided to make some tough decisions this past fall. If you noticed, the definition of "seismic" includes words like "explosions" and "enormous proportions or effect." I did not choose that word lightly. The changes our family made surely felt like explosions and absolutely had an "enormous effect" on our daily lives. So much change happening so fast... all for good reasons, but all together they made for a shift of epic proportions, including losing most of our outside social networks and supports. We knew in the end it would be worth the struggle and the loss, but the process felt like slowly peeling off an old bandage.

In the documentary, we learn that after each destructive eruption of a volcano, the lava cools into rock and enriches the soil. Before long, new lush green life returns and what once was the product of a destructive force becomes a paradise full of life (case in point: the islands of Hawaii). So, here we are... Now that the dust has settled, we see the value in having gone through the process, knowing we have come out a much stronger and closer family than before.

You see, I've always said that the first step towards peace on this journey is "acceptance." As I've previously written, that involves grieving the dreams you may have had for your child/family/life. But moving out of the grief and into acceptance is the first step in enjoying your child/loved one and your life for what it is. It's not giving up, it's shifting your view! In my twenty years of working with kids who have ASD, I have seen first hand how much better off a child and his/her family fares when they have accepted their reality and learned to love their child and their life for what it is (not what they expected it to be). Now as a parent, I have learned to find the joy in the smallest wins: eye contact, following a direction, going one night without wetting the bed, trying a new food... celebrating each small win keeps us thinking positively.

This leads me to the main reason why we made the tough choices that we did. As a family, we have made the seismic shift from "autism awareness" to "autism ACCEPTANCE." It's not like people aren't "aware" that our son is different! We don't need pity, we don't need to complain, we just want to be a part of this world. Perhaps our family's shift from substantially separate special education to inclusive regular education forced us to move in that direction. For once, we are hearing that all of the adults in my son's life are responsible for teaching him the tools he needs to be a part of "this world," not keeping him in a bubble of a giant label. We're not trying to "fix" him, we're trying to "guide" him.

You see, once you feel that acceptance, you have NO tolerance for pity or exclusion! I just got flat out tired of feeling pitied and excluded, of the whispers and the pointing fingers. Most of all I got sick of hearing my own self complain! Ironically, the catalyst in moving me in this direction was hearing the head of a leading autism organization describe autism families as needing to be pitied and felt sorry for because our lives are such calamities. If we truly believe the Scriptures in Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according toHis purpose- NKJV), then we know this is the right choice for our lives: acceptance is the first step towards peace because we trust that God will make this work for good! But this involves eliminating toxic and negative influences around us and, instead, surrounding ourselves with those who are supportive, uplifting and ACCEPTING. Ripping off that old bandage to allow healing, letting the hot lava scorch the land so new life can grow into a beautiful paradise!

Now, don't get me wrong, ACCEPTANCE is not the same as COMPLACENCY! Just because we accept our children and loved ones for who they are, doesn't mean we give up on progress. Praise, reinforcement, exhorting, loving encouragement can all be tools to guide our loved ones towards the next level of achievement. Acceptance does not mean giving up on your goals and dreams. It simply means you learn to be OK with the way things are now, while you work towards getting better. Will it be harder than for families without ASD? Sure! But the rewards and the joy will also be that much sweeter!

My family's life has made quite the transformation and although things are still rocky, like lava after it's cooled, I know in the end we will see paradise! We will find a new house of worship where we feel "at home," we will find new organizations to support through fundraising that share our views of acceptance, we will continue to be a part of the world and capitalize on every opportunity to help others see the joys we live every day... not the calamities you read about everywhere else... and share those joys with everyone we encounter.

So, here's where this blog is going:
- continue to share new research findings
- share stories of amazing individuals with ASD and their accomplishments
- share resources for parents and families
- share inspirational devotionals, songs, videos and stories
- less opinions, no more complaining, no more pity parties, no more personal disclosure

So, welcome to the new view! I am at peace! I pray you, too, will be able to find your peace through acceptance, knowing that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Rom 8:28 NKJV).

Lava rock bringing new life to paradise, Kiholo Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii

1 comment:

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