I’ve never been that interested in New Year’s resolutions. But these days, as a mom to an adventurous five-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, I have found that goals are what give us direction, forward movement, and growth. They maintain our sanity and our hope. They are the light that remains through the daily storm of autism.
These are the top 10 goals I will accomplish this year. I’m not talking about aiming, striving or hoping. I WILL do these for myself, for my son and our family.
- I will not fear the big stuff. The longstanding goals such as increased communication, temperament during haircutting, toileting and other self-care, broadening the diet and success and safety out in the community will all improve. While this “long-term” category can feel heavy and loom over us, we will not let these important pieces defeat us.
2. Patience. Self-coping and calming techniques (for everyone in the family) have steadily made their way to the very top of our priority list. Some days, this is our only focus. For my son, every single other thing must come second as he cannot hear, speak and certainly cannot be reasoned with when he is overwhelmed or sensory-heightened. Finding and remaining in this place of calm takes patience. So much patience. It’s funny, how many people comment on how patient I am. If only they knew the amount of time I spend searching and praying for more.
I will also be patient while my children stutter and search for their words or attempt to express their wants and needs. I will wait it out just a little longer when they struggle to put on their clothes or shoes, brush their hair and teeth, or attempt household chores. If I constantly jump in to assist, I’m robbing them of the opportunity to learn and gain confidence.
3. Join his world. So often, we are working on helping my son fit into our schedule or norms.
To join my boy’s world, to understand and connect, is such a struggle. We, as his parents, consciously work towards this every single day.
I will be his place of calm. Sometimes that means sitting on the kitchen floor and taking in his deep butterfly or bumble bee breaths with him. And some days this will happen on five different occasions before breakfast.
- Embrace the chaos. The couch jumping, dresser climbing, spinning, bouncing, running, loud scripting and high-pitched screaming. I will let him enjoy that energy for the freedom and happiness it brings him instead of constantly trying to corral it.
In those loud, chaotic times I will remember what it looks like when his anxiety and frustration have taken over. If I pause in that wild happiness with him, maybe some of that joy will spread. We just have to let go, even the tiniest bit.
- Self-care. OK this is a tough one. I am going to put value on every single family member’s happiness, including my own. If you are like me, the recommendation of fitting more self-care into your already-hectic life is more irritating than hearing the Baby Shark song 50x a day. It is so important though. “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” I know, I’ve tried.
6. When all else fails, find grace. I will be prepared for every IEP/ABA meeting, every doctor/naturopath/audiology/dentist/speech/OT/blood draw/psychologist/counseling appointment. I will bring social stories, snacks, incentives, and toys. And I will give myself grace when none of that stuff works like I had intended.
7. Look back. I will continue to look back to where we have been so we can celebrate where we are now. Progress can feel slow and discouraging at times, but I will not get lost there and miss all the growth and amazing new things happening every day.
8. Slow down. What’s the rush? I’ve been that irritated lady stuck in a slow checkout line. Or the one pulled over for speeding because I was running late. When I am pressed for time and irritable, it affects everyone.
9. Be kind. One of the best things that has come from sharing my son’s journey in autism is seeing how he has inspired so much kindness in so many people. Because of him, I will always take a moment to consider what someone else is going through.
10. Be thankful. My children have given me new perspective and I am blessed to have been changed in the most wonderful ways. I’m going to remember that when a snack gets thrown across the car or a well-intentioned social story totally bombs.