I dream of a world where my six year old can have a tantrum in the park and instead of frowning with disdain, onlookers would at minimum recognize spectrum behavior and at best be sympathetic, perhaps informed or even encouraged by my supporting strategies.
My determination; my decision to leave no stones unturned; my goal to help maximize my children's path toward a full life and independence is fueled by my belief that remaining silent about mental illness simply creates lifelong societal harm. It cultivates the shame and stigma and exacerbates the notion that something is inherently wrong with the individual affected. It erodes families and it stunts the development of the person who has the diagnosis. It enables parts of society to continue to feign ignorance.
This morning I woke up to my six year old with an Autism diagnosis making an observation that was intriguing to him: "Mom it is taking a loooooong time for me to finishing making pee." "Wow, I have sooooo much pee in the morning!" Then he was asking... "Do girls make pee and poop from the same place, Mommy?" "Why do they sit on the potty every time?"
I believe one person can make a difference. The decisions we make can shape our children's future. No matter their age, they are able to read us. If we are mourning the diagnosis or feel shame, then that message emanates. When we encourage, celebrate, empower our kiddos; that is who they become, even if it is not immediately evident to us. Early in my children's diagnosis I made a decision to follow the path toward their individual greatness. So, with tremendous vigor, I pursue and embrace growth, and development. This allows me to celebrate the early morning observations by my six year old during his potty experience...
Living with four kiddos on the spectrum and experiencing their lives every day, I am privileged with a panoramic view of mental illness. I am doing everything possible to help the world understand my children and see value in what they bring. Additionally, I am encouraging other parents and everyone affected by mental illness, to take that journey with me. We must all become active participants! I am also doing everything I can to help my kiddos understand the world they live in and carve a path for themselves where they feel they can comfortably fit. Mainstreaming Autism and mental illness will help bring about better understanding... I believe this will reduce the stigma attached and ultimately contribute to some cure. Let's continue to make a difference in the lives of those with mental illness to that end. Each of us... It only takes one!
Here's some related advice from my blogpost of August, 2013.