Having a non-verbal child with Autism sometimes invites interesting comments. Whether said from a place of caring, ignorance, or the dreaded “they just don’t know what to say”, people have their emotions stoked when they learn about my family. I try to keep that in mind when they say them.
Sometimes I write about these comments and people assume that I am offended. In all honesty, it’s rare that I am. If anything, I see it as a snapshot into how the outside world might view my son who, to me, is just a regular ol’ kid. He’s one of only two children I see every single day. In my eyes, someone else’s nine-year-old son, telling dirty jokes he heard from his uncle, is the anomaly. Normal is as normal does. It’s about who is around you and who isn’t. That’s the only thing that makes anything “normal”.
When others mention that raising a boy like him can be “hard”, I get that. I see what they are saying and try not to be put off by the sentiment. In most cases, it’s meant in a positive way. It’s supposed to be a testament to my strength as a person and parent. Compliments like that can go a long way.
The thing is, though, that raising Lucas is the norm for me. To someone else, I know, he can be confusing. I get that. We don’t communicate with words or share traditional inside jokes based on puns. It takes extra effort to connect with him and his schooling can sometimes be an uphill battle in the dark on a horse with a broken leg. Calling it “hard” at times would be a fair assessment.
Then again, raising my neurotypical twelve-year-old daughter is hard. People would agree with that too. She’s on the cusp of her teenage years and her emotions are like a shaken can of Pepsi sitting on a Bunsen Burner. She can explode at any minute. I worry about her all the time and where she will end up in her life. I try to teach her the best and hope for the same. It weighs on my mind and my heart. So, yeah. That’s hard too.
Actually, my heart issues are hard too. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t admit to that one as well. I had a quintuple bypass in 2012 at the age of 35. Since then, I have been managing a low-stress and low-sodium lifestyle. I think about the effect it might have on my future and the toll it would take on my kids if something were to happen to me. It’s not a constant struggle, but it’s still a struggle. That’s hard.
Come to think about it, some days are just hard in general. We all deal with our own issues now and then and, if we’re being honest, I have hard days like the rest of the world does. Random frustrations can compound into major irritations and soon, we find ourselves sinking underwater. In some cases, I’ll wind up overwhelmed for no reason at all other than the sake of being overwhelmed. Those days are rough. Those days are hard. Those days are plentiful.
So, yes, raising a special needs child can be hard. I absolutely agree with that. It is, however, just another part of a string of hard moments in a varied life of ups and downs. It has its own unique obstacles to manage that, from an outside point of view, might seem insurmountable.
I surmount them, though. Just like the laundry list of other battles throughout my days. Thankfully, it’s not just about heartache and difficulty. Raising my son is also full of joy, happiness, and reward. The hard times are all worth it because the good times make them so.
Dealing with the difficulties of raising a special needs child is much easier than outsiders might assume because they forget about one major aspect of it all. I have a role model to look up to when times get rough. One person on this planet handles my son’s special needs better than me or anyone else I’ve ever met.
Lucas lives with his delays and perceived disabilities every day. He works through them and achieves things I never dreamed possible. The boy who doesn’t speak has fought for years to find his voice in other ways. He has learned how to ask for his needs and express love without ever having to utter a word.
I have watched, in awe, as he’s developed receptive language in the absence of spoken word. Despite lacking the ability to communicate traditionally, he has learned about the world around him and found skills to demonstrate that fact to his family, teachers, and friends. Things we thought were impossible yesterday are being done today. Things I can’t even imagine today will be commonplace tomorrow. I know it.
He does it all without missing a beat. My child pushes forward with strength, determination, and grit that should inspire anyone watching from the outside. Lucas works to be the best Lucas he can be and every night he goes to bed stronger than he woke up that morning. While others might lament over his shortcomings, I beam with pride over his successes.
Yes. It is hard being a parent to a child with special needs. Then again, it’s hard being a parent at all. Actually it’s hard just being alive sometimes. But, I have an inspiration to draw my strength from. Because I know if my son can handle it, so can I.