Friendship and Change...What I Learned In Our Autism Diagnosis

In the recent months I have learned a lot about friendship. There is lasting friendship that seems to endure. You find friends that will give you all of themselves. Unconditionally. There are friends you think will be those who see you through all the highs and lows until something mysteriously or not so mysteriously happens and you find that the once close friend just can't commit to that relationship anymore and they walk away. Then there is a third set of friends. These friends may have been thought of as acquaintances but due to your new low, they come out of the woodwork and support you like you never thought they would. In the last few months, I have lived all these friendships and each day I am still navigating these friendships and the changes that come with them today. I am mourning those close friendships that have changed and embracing those new friendships that are slowly (or sometimes quickly) blossoming.

This month, my youngest child headed off into school. I had NEVER sent a child, who was only three off on a bus or into a school for that matter. I am well aware that many people choose this for their families but as a stay-at-home mom I never needed the schooling for my children. I worked with them at home.  With an IEP just a week prior to her first day, I tried my best to bite my lip as I packed up my little one, most likely my last little one, and set her out to head off on her first day of school. The night before school I was up at 3 a.m. I couldn't sleep. Not only was I sending my youngest child, my 3 year old off to school, I was sending my only autistic child to school. She had limited communication and I wondered how she (or I) would make it through.

Lucky for me,I had some friends that were willing to support me. The day prior to school I had calls, texts and emails. I am certain it made for the actual day go fairly well. Though I felt all these crazy emotions, I also knew that my little one was at the best place she could be learning as much as she could in school. 

Through prayer I didn't cry. My daughter didn't either. My greatest prayer was answered. I prayed all morning to St. Teresa of Calcutta that she would go off on the bus without tears. I knew if she was strong, I too would be able to be strong. At least I thought I would feel that way. I still had my only son at home with me and maybe being busy with him made the transition easier but though I thought about her constantly I felt very much at peace. I won't lie, the phone call from the teacher mid-day was a big help as well. Parents often worry and wonder. Parents of special needs children tend to worry and wonder too maybe even more--especially if that child isn't very verbal.

As the bus drove off and I walked up the driveway which seemed long and steep, I began to take stock in all that had happened over the last few months. I thought back to her MMR Shot in which she reacted in a way none of my kids ever had. I thought about her trip to the beach where she freaked when the spinning ride ended. I thought about the drives home from school the previous year where I shouted her name, hoping she would respond. I thought about the trips to doctors where I tried to get a referral to a specialist without any success and I thought about the friends that helped me get into that specialist months before they had an appointment available.

As I loaded my son into the car to take him to the library, I had flashbacks of the summer I dreamed of and memories of the summer that I actually lived. I thought of the therapists in and out of the house and wondered how it impacted her and how it impacted my other kids. My mind buzzed with the thoughts of how I failed her. The thoughts of missing something, of messing something up stung in my throat as I went about my day in some sort of haze thinking about how this was not the life I imagined.

As the days of school have passed quickly I have had so many reactions from so many. How was I? The answer "okay" was only partially true. I was in fact "okay" but I was still grilling myself and questioning what I could have done differently to have a child that was typical. When I watched friends post photos of their typical kids headed off to school, big smiles and waves, I wondered if I  would ever have that experience myself. Would I only have to direct my child on the bus and hope that she stared off blankly out the bus window?

How could I get this message across to friends that I am still the same mom and the same person I was before and that now I may need them even more? Take a peek at the second part of this blog where I go into Seven Steps to Honoring Your Friendship in a New Diagnosis.


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