Changing the Labels and Painting Pictures of Choice

If you've known me or read my blog for long, you know that I believe in finding the silver lining in everything.

EVERYTHING.  Even autism.

When we received our diagnosis, I was relieved.

Some people cry when their child is diagnosed.  I did not.  I said, "Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you." Then I cried tears of joy on the 2 hour drive home.

You know why?  Because it explained things.  After years of living, testing, and doing life differently (but never knowing why), it explained what my heart knew and what our lives had experienced.

It explained the spinning that just wouldn't stop in the middle of my den... and why it made my little one so happy.

It explained the fact that my child was a track star... and that the race was always ready to start, but I might not get notification of the when, where, and why.  It was a heads up that I might want to ditch the strappy heels and get comfy in my running shoes.

It explained those moments that looked like a tantrum that were really caused by communication needs bubbling up.  Communication needs that were screaming for help from an adult that understood were reporting for duty, but we didn't speak the same language.  It explained that I needed to not only BE that adult, but teach others to be the same... and to ensure I placed my child only with adults who WANTED TO BE that kind of adult in his life.

It explained why our life was a little bit different than that of everyone else.

It was almost a signed, sealed, and delivered stamp of approval saying, "It's okay.  We understand... and we get it.  You are right where you're supposed to be."

It explained why life could appear to be so normal one moment and then be so NOT the next.

Beyond all of those things, though, the journey to our diagnosis opened my eyes.

It opened my eyes to what the definition of normal really is and why it's not my place to stamp my flavor of normal on your life... or for you to stamp yours on mine.

It made me look at "out of control kids" and their "ridiculous parents" differently... and it made me want to hug their parents instead of judging them.

And if a hug was not timely or appropriate (because often, it is not), then it made me want to giving a knowing smile or a helping hand.

It also made me want to dropkick stupid labels like that, too.... because they are the breeding of pure ignorance.  (Ain't nobody got time for that. :)  Right?)

It made me more human than I ever thought I could be.  The veil of pseudo-perfectionism was lifted and the masks were chunked to the side....

Because this kind of journey doesn't allow for such pretentiousness.

It slowed me down and streamlined my life to a degree that this overachiever never thought was possible... or necessary...

And in slowing me down, this journey taught me that IT WAS necessary.

My kids, just like any other kids, were CRAVING time to just be kids.

Autism made sure that we allowed for that.

So, why do I call it "our" diagnosis?

The autism spectrum is a place where not just one family member is diagnosed.  Granted, one receives the diagnosis, but everyone close to them receives the gift of doing life differently.

Every person in the family learns how to switch plans at a moment's notice because it's best for the greater good.  Team Players are not optional- they are like oxygen- and we all benefit right now and long term from this valuable skill set.

11 year old children learn to fill out a check in the grocery store line because Mommy's hands are loving another teammate who is overwhelmed by the bright lights of the grocery store or the fact that the cashier just put their favorite marshmallows into a bag with the potato chips.

They learn to write a check... and they gain independence that they never would have had otherwise.  They learn to rise up and gradually become the leaders that God always created them to be... and then to fall back into moments where they are just their age... and so childlike in spirit.

They are proof that autism only robs us of life if we allow it... and they are teachers in receiving only the gifts that it offers.

37 year old parents who've considered themselves fully self sufficient for a lifetime learn how to utter the words, "I need help" to complete strangers, because they know they can't do this journey on their own.

They ask for help... and the world becomes a little more compassionate, and in turn, a better place.  Their walls crumble and the world becomes more knowledgeable as they experience life of another.

5 year old troopers learn how to say, "Take me home" when they can't explain what is wrong, but know that the moment is too much.

They state their needs... and their families learn to be grateful for the cue instead of trying to push them beyond their capabilities for that moment.  These children who have been labeled as having a "language based disorder" become brilliant communicators-  sometimes without even saying a word.  Miracles happen here... if you are watching for them.

I'm writing this today for me, but I hope it helps you, too.

You see, sometimes I forget about autism when things are going well.

I get used to white picket fence living for a moment and I just plain forget about the intricacies of autism.

I forget until all hell breaks loose in the middle of the local grocery store... all because we've spent the day doing stuff that the average American family does with no problem.  SO much fun in the moment (for all of us), but at the end of the day, our sensory cups were depleted and full... because autism can pull that off.

Although we've been trusted by God himself, autism is like a pop test that is always lingering.  If you allow it to, the anxiety surrounding it will deplete you.  It will keep you at home, because of "what if's".  It can steal your life in a moment's notice... and then you GET TO remember that you're chosen.  You are the teacher and the whole world is a classroom... a classroom with students that need the lesson that only your family can give.

And every now and then, you bump into another teacher... and it's life changing.  (Yes, you can fall into their arms and have a good cry.  They will cry through the tough times with you and they'll lift you up for the next lesson to be taught.)

I forget until my little love tells me, "I can't draw candy canes.  Mine are bad" after I tell him that I love his work... and then will continue arguing the point in his own way, because he knows that his work is different than that of his peers.

THIS is when I cry.  An autism diagnosis doesn't bring me to my knees, but a moment like this does.

The moment reminds me to actively show him all that he DOES DO that is beautiful...

To remind him of the smiles that he brings that no one else can bring...

To give him a license to make the world smile because of all that God created him for...

And to remember that God allowed autism into our life as a TOOL to teach the world.

While I don't believe God caused autism, I believe that He allowed it because He knew that THIS CHILD could change the world.

What a blessing to be his Mommy and that God trusted me with this journey.

I forget until I have to just check out of the world for a day- church included- because I have nothing left to give and am not quite sure I can receive, either.  I can't explain it, but I intuitively know that the only thing I can do to be okay by Monday at 5 a.m. is to take a day to insert TLC into my family and put a "Closed" sign on the door for the rest of the world to see.

And, you know what?  God smiles at me on those days.  Because He knows.

He told me to, "Be still and know that I am God."

He told me, "Come to Me all who are weary, and I will give you rest."

He told me, "Do not be anxious about anything," because He would make "all things work together for my good."

I started this blog by calling it "The Not So Happy Side of Autism."  I was going to vent and then delete it.

But I've changed it's label and I  hope you'll use it to change the labels in your life, too-- whether they are autism or not.

You haven't been dealt a hand that God has given you to see how you'll handle it.  That's just not how He works.

He only allows things to touch your life when He knows that He can bring you bigger blessings through them and those will allow Him to use you to change the world through.

Your family has been trusted by the Creator of the Universe to take something that's REALLY, really tough and use it to change the world.

You may not see it right now, but trust me that He's true to His word.

Whether you believe in Him or not, believe that I believe... and I've seen him change "not so happy" into "highly favored."

Logging off now to decorate our world with calm, watch Good Luck Charlie, roast marshmallows, and pull toilet paper out of our trees from last night (War Eagle!).

Choose to see your blessings.  Sometimes they start with the things that bring you to your knees, but sometimes they could come in no other way.

Feeling blessed and highly favored.  I hope you'll paint your world in a bit of the same.

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 


  1. The dashed rectangle in this photo demonstrates that a choice has been made. When you first open the write my assignment online window it is very clear.


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