Patience. There is no doubt about it, patience is the number one thing that I have learnt to develop well over the years. Whether it’s dealing with meltdowns on a daily basis or waiting years for Caleb to start saying words. Before kids, I was already a pretty patient guy but now even more so. As a result, my tolerance is pretty high when it comes to dealing with difficult situations or people. In the past, when I wanted something to happen right away, I would get really anxious, frustrated and impatient. But now I know there is a proper time and order for things. If you rush, you make mistakes. If you take your time and be patient, your chances of success are greater.
Time Management. Raising 2 boys on the spectrum requires exceptional time management skills. When I get up in the mornings, I have to make sure I make their breakfast, lunch and dinner ahead of time because there really isn’t any time during the day to do that. I also help them get ready for therapy/school by putting on their clothes, brushing their teeth, combing their hair. Working from home means that I have to focus on my work but also be prepared to deal with some interruptions such as meltdowns or recapping meetings with their therapists after each session and in Caleb’s case, actually helping him eat as he sometimes has back to back sessions. On top of this, I have to help with chores at home like doing dishes, laundry and helping my wife out with whatever she needs. All of this and making sure I don’t fall behind on my job! Everyday time flies so quickly, it feels like there is never enough time to get everything done. There are times that I wind up working in the evenings so that I can catch up on my work.
Empathy for disability. I’ve always respected others who were different whether they have a disability, different looks, different race, different religion or different upbringing. But raising two boys with autism has increased my empathy level for those who are disabled. Whenever I see a parent of someone who has autism or down syndrome or some other disability, I feel instantly connected to them. There’s something about being a parent of a child with a disability that makes you more sensitive to other people’s feelings. You become more aware of the other family’s struggles and pains. You understand the sacrifice they make on daily basis to support their child. You can see the love for their child with clarity. This, in turn, increases your empathy level, your ability to relate at an emotional level.
Faith in God. As a Christian, I’ve always had a strong faith in Jesus. I’ve always had a strong relationship with Him and I’ve always known that he loves and cares for me and my family deeply. Facing the reality of autism has strengthened my faith because I have had to rely on God to see us through the challenges. A lot of the time, we have no control or have any idea whether our kids will get any better. And so I’ve chosen to trust God fully on a daily basis to get us through our meltdowns and place my hope in Him that Caleb and Josiah will meet their therapy goals. So far, God has not let me down, in fact, He continues to amaze me with his promises and love. Both boys are improving every year and that increases my faith but most of all God gives me peace of mind knowing that in a world full of unknowns He is someone I can rely on for strength and wisdom.
Everyone learns differently. I have learnt that not everyone is wired the same way. Josiah is a very visual learner and requires pictures for him to absorb certain concepts. Caleb is also a visual learner but because he cannot speak and his comprehension level is somewhat limited at this time, we need to incorporate gesture and an iPad app to help him learn. Because each person on the spectrum is so vastly different, each learning style is also different. I am pretty sure this is also true for neurotypical folks. I personally like to learn by reading or watching a video whereas my wife learns by actually doing. Josiah found public school to be completely useless because the teaching is directed towards a class of 30 kids of various learning styles. Also, the distraction created by all of the students made it difficult for him to focus and learn. The Education Assistant he had was looking after several kids with disability and didn’t really provide the one-on-one quality teaching/assistant that you would get from homeschooling, which is what both boys are doing now. My favourite quote about learning is”If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”.