As Global Autism Awareness Day (and my birthday) approaches, I find myself assessing the state of things.
I reach out to make a difference daily, but do I? Make a difference I mean. Are things simply fated and occurring as they had to or do I, we, affect (intentionally or not) the world we live in? I have always believed in a multidimensional world manifested by our choices and feelings but… am I right?
It’s like asking if there is life after death. Unanswerable by any other means than faith, which is defined as the ability to believe in things despite evidence to the contrary. Delusion is defined in the same manner. I, and my children, worked hard to go from crazy to sane (I even wrote a musical comedy show about it). I am not sure I want delusion.
But sometimes life is hard.
And delusion or faith or just plain lying to oneself can be tempting.
So I go ahead and believe I am making a difference because that is how I get the energy to continue. I need energy because constantly giving to create more kindness, awareness, and ability depletes my resources. Believing it—and I—matter, refuels me.
However, sometimes this faith falters. For me that faltering generally happens near my birthday (I am now only a few years from 60).
April 2nd, Global Autism Awareness Day.
I peer forward into the next twelve months. I see April with autism awareness month and sexual abuse awareness month coincidentally coincide and feel the weight of that collision (both are causes I speak on).
Today I feel a little tired as I question my faith: If awareness works why do these months have to come back every year? Couldn’t we as a society actually learn and reclaim them for something else? Why do we set up the parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder to scream for more services without offering the correct type of service? Are we spreading awareness of the disorder or the therapies that work? Are we improving the situation or just creating more problems through the spread of broken ideas? If you think your child is autistic will you make him/her so? This is a genuine worry, especially true in the case of sexual abuse. Surely by now everyone knows never to touch children, that consensual sex is better than non-consensual sex? This is just truth (unless you’re dysfunctional and then you need to get help, not sex). Surely by now every one knows that no means no…. don’t they?
Please say yes.
Even if the real answer is no.
Obviously you can’t spread knowledge unless people are listening.
Clearly you can’t force feed people volumes of right answers, not even if you think they need to hear them. So to be an improvement leader you have to find a way to package the learning into what they want to know. This bait and switch process of information dissemination smacks of the corruptive processes politicians undergo in an attempt to become popular.
I do not want to grow up to be the person that used to care. I do not want to be, like the politician who has become unrecognizable to him/herself or their original cause.
I want to be me, but older.
Unfortunately, to some degree this adjusting away from truth is already happening to me. It’s an offshoot of systematized education. As I go to college and attempt to be accepted by my teachers and peers with PhD’s I become a pleaser whenever the end of a term begins to loom. I tell myself to just give them the answers they want to hear so that I can move on and gain the needed credibility to be listened to later on when I tell the harsher truth. When I give the answers they may not like. Unfortunately this ‘pretending’ leaves a resonance of reshaped belief in my head and what I used to understand becomes morphed into something new, and not necessarily better.
I still want to shout about abuse and autism and society’s contribution to both but I am busy doing the work of making it better, so there is often no time to complain. This is good, I suppose. Proactive and correct. But it grows only small potatoes in the world of massive change. To increase my impact I must be more mainstream. I consider the concept and find myself back at the question I started with. Do I make a difference?
Bothered by the repetition of the question I move my mind on into the next month of the year ahead…
I continue forward into May and mother’s day and wonder if my new creation, The In Home Parent Program, will ease struggles or fall on deaf ears. Do haggard mom’s tired of being judged by misinformed educators and child protective service workers have enough left in their soul to trust me, another expert? I know they should, but can they? I have made it as inexpensive as possible while still meeting my own obligations. But after all of the target marketing their desperation has attracted, do they have anything left? I can teach them what to do but it will still require work. I know what they need in order to cease the desperation but can I give them what they want? I can give them fun, but maybe not easy!
So I focus the program on my tribe, the families that already know my value and want more. I shape it into a way for them to get extra help for free while we spread right information to their neighborhood. Then I add a Skype portion. In case the new interested people are still too shy to share their home. Too afraid of judgment to have an expert in their home.
This is the special needs parent form of post traumatic stress disorder. For those who feel safe I offer to come to their homes. I am a different kind of therapist. Sure I am a neurotherapist and play specialist and those are elsewhere in the field of mental health, but I am also many times over a mother of successful special needs children who (unknowingly) used to be special needs herself.
It’s been a long successful journey and I know what mothers need but I also know why they are afraid. Why they end up wanting something that won’t really help. Unwilling to offer less than what I believe they need, I stop thinking about it and move on to… June.
June brings with it Father’s Day and college holidays and I wonder if I will ever remarry and/or finish my PhD. My mind circles back to the challenges of both being in school and dealing with schools. I ponder the permanent restructuring of my brain and the scarring of parental self-confidence caused by the imbalance of power given to government officials. Government officials who are blessed with the ability to charge parents for the slightest suspected transgression while the parents would have to go out of pocket to charge the official in return.
Conversely (or maybe because of this) July and August feel warm and happy in my mind’s eye. Grand-kids are everywhere and work is light. My used to be challenged children visit and I settle on the reverie, stop looking ahead…. Breathe my faith back into my body and smile.
Yes, my birthday is coming.
Yes autism awareness will likely misinform most families but my kids got better and at least some people will be looking for ‘how I did it’ information. These are the ones I want to teach.
Fact is, big potatoes can grow from small potato seeds. I am happy to sow those seeds another year. I am happy to focus and share and get this parenting program into the hands of the people who want to enjoy their children while helping them grow more capable. I am energized!
Focusing on my gifts: my beautiful trail of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren has returned my faith. In fact, the journey into uncertainty seems frivolous now.
Obviously I made a difference.
I engaged in parenting and helped my adopted sons and daughters beat the odds. They are independent and working at jobs they love. They live the life of choice and responsibility. And even the one who is still at home is growing more capable daily. But even if he weren’t, who cares?
We are happy and during the holidays, we play.
What else is there?