This morning Samuel did what ten-year-old boys have been doing for several generations: he hopped on his bicycle, waved goodbye to his Mommy, who would be me, and pedaled off to school. The primary difference for Samuel is he has autism.
How often do we look at people with disabilities and focus so much of our emphasis on the “dis” rather than the “ability”. Samuel has taught me over and over again his life emphasis is on his personal “What I am able to do” rather than what he can’t do.
In actuality, if there are things on his “can’t do” list, I can guarantee he is plotting a way to make it happen while sitting at his desk in his classroom, arming himself with facts, figures and roadmaps to his scholastic success.
Four years ago when Samuel was diagnosed with autism, my worry and mantra was, “My son will never be ‘normal’.” People would either shake their fingers at me or roll their eyes and whisper or shout, “What is normal anyway? Who wants to be normal?”
I just want him to be able to negotiate the world.
He is doing exactly that and he is his own best teacher. He doesn’t put himself into a box marked “wrong” he is constantly expanding his capability to ride his bicycle, to discover new things, to notice nuances in the community and to help others feel better, too.
As advocates for our children, we may think we are protecting them by putting them into a “you are disabled” box or a “I must protect you from anything that would harm you” bubble.
Believe me when I tell you this: you do more for your children in the long run by allowing them to stretch and grow through the uncomfortable patches and come out the other side without thinking they need your help at every step of the way.
The ride may feel wobbly, just like Samuel’s bicycle riding first felt wobbly, but before you know it you and your child will have nourished a relationship and a lifestyle based on what he CAN do rather than focusing on what he CAN’T do.
He can achieve more than you think he can.
He can’t if you are constantly worried and hovering over his every move, giving instruction.
He can survive, even thrive, when you believe in him.
You can survive his growing independence.
This may be among the most important things you learn as a parent advocate.
Follow me on Twitter: @JulieJordanScot
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Julie Jordan Scott