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Finding out my child is autistic wasn't easy—but I learned something amazing about myself

It is tough at times, for sure, but you have opened my heart up completely, and you have made me a better person in the process. Thank you.

Finding out my child is autistic wasn't easy—but I learned something amazing about myself

Dear autism,

I have had this letter in my heart addressed to you for some time now. I'm ready to tell you how I really feel. Almost three years ago to the day, you hit this family like a runaway train veering off track.

We were simply trying to understand how to be parents when you showed up—trying to figure out how to balance life, money, work and a marriage. We were slowly getting the hang of what being a family was all about. And I finally felt like a mom, not just a babysitter to my own son.

Then you came knocking at our door, uninvited and totally sure of yourself, ripping my heart out of my chest.

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You turned me in into the very thing I never thought I could be—bitter and jealous. I started to shut the world out, deleting people in my life who didn't understand. You forced me to sit in front of a computer and research what you're all about for hours upon hours late at night when I should have been sleeping.

I was going through the motions of life—trying to keep my head above water, trying to understand my new title of 'special needs parent.'

All the comparisons and milestones of what my son "should" be doing consumed me. I forced myself to nod at the comments that shot our way and bottle up the anger that grew in me. "He doesn't look autistic," "He'll catch up," "He's not even two—are you sure??" and the worst, "I'm sorry."

Oh, autism, how you confused me and whittled me down at first! But now you have turned my skin into a thick armor that will always protect my son and that nothing can penetrate. You have turned me into a person who now truly understands how the world works.

Because of you, I understand ignorance.

Because of you, I don't let people get into my head.

Because of you, I have been able to turn my anger into advocacy.

So what I'd really like to tell you is—thank you.

Because of you, I morphed into a fierce mama bear who isn't afraid to let the world know what you are all about. I am someone who is able to go into an evaluation conference ready for anything thrown my way. I never thought I could be so fierce, but you showed me what it means when people say that a parent would do anything for their child.

You flipped a switch in me, which helped pushed us to the resources my son needed.

Because of you, I translated the words he was unable to speak.

Because of you, I became his communication with the outside world.

Because of you, I was able to finally understand my son.

Thank you.

There were times when I thought I couldn't handle you.

There were (and still are) days when all of this is hard.

But, I wouldn't be the person I am today—filled with gratitude, hope, compassion and acceptance—without you.

I definitely wouldn't possess the patience I have today.

I wouldn't be able to juggle my life as well as (I think) I do.

Thank you.

I realize now you have been a secret gift that I never knew I needed in my life.

You have given me the ability to see the world in a different light, the ability to remove my rose-colored glasses and truly see how our society reacts to differences and disabilities.

It is tough at times, for sure, but you have opened my heart up completely, and you have made me a better person in the process.

Thank you.

You forced me to join a club that is full of the kindest, gentlest, most helpful and tenacious people I am honored to know—The Special Needs Parent Club.

You showed me that there are parents out there who would help a stranger in need and expect nothing in return—that they would go out of their way to connect and provide resources for us.

These people get me and understand what I go through daily. And some of them are people I will never meet face-to-face, but they are people who have impacted my life on a deep level.

I wouldn't have met them without you in my life.

Thank you.

My son is an amazing kid who doesn't care what others think. He doesn't (and probably won't ever) understand certain social norms, but his mind and memory are incredible—how he thinks and remembers is beyond me. He sees the world in a different light, straightforward for what it is, with no hidden agendas.

And you are the fabric of his being, an explanation of why he does what he does.

I hope he can bring your acceptance into this world. I know he has the power to, one person at a time.

Autism, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sincerely,

A once frustrated mom who finally understands you

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

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Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

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May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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What you need to know about President Trump's Supreme Court pick

The President has reportedly selected his third SCOTUS nominee.

President Donald Trump has chosen his third pick for the Supreme Court—and he picked a mom.

The New York Times reports President Trump is choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee. An official statement is scheduled for Saturday.

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