Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Accepting Autism to Become an Effective Advocate

Did you sense how your identity changed when you became a parent? At the moment of birth or adoption, our lives are never the same because once a parent, always a parent.

Despite the fact that our self-identity shifted once Mother Nature inaugurated us as mom or dad, this new role is not necessarily a fixed one because our children will always impact it.

As a mom or dad we may go from being a working parent to a stay at home parent (or vice versa), from a girl scout parent to a hockey mom, from an elated parent to a stressed parent and back again, but 'being a parent' will remain constant.

Some of the roles we take on as parents are chosen by us but there are times when roles are given to us that we may not like and can do nothing about. We cannot go to the store and exchange our position of night time soother when our infant is up all night with an ear infection for something else and we can't decide we don't want to be parents anymore.

If we are given the role of being a parent of a special needs child, a child with Autism, we can't refuse to take that role. We can kick and scream and pretend it is not happening, we can wallow in self-pity for a while but the sooner we accept our call to action, the sooner we will be able to consciously mold this role into something more effective and easy to take on.

To make the best of any situation our goal as parents is to transform a negative energy into a positive one. True acceptance of the role we have been assigned and the child we have been given is one of the most powerful positive energies to take hold of.

The most important motivator for any human being is to feel accepted. When we feel unconditionally accepted, by others, and ourselves it frees us from the need to justify and qualify our existence. It gives us the ultimate freedom to be real and authentic and secure enough in our skin to explore the possibilities of what we can become next.

Once we accept the reality of autism and whatever our child's challenges are, we open the door for a positive transformation to occur - for our child and for us. When we find ourselves at this threshold we are better able to envision an amazing potential and with that in our mind we are better able to advocate for our child.

Getting to the role of advocacy as a parent may not be an easy one when you have a child on the Autism spectrum but it is one that is extremely worthwhile and much more fulfilling than thinking or feeling that you are powerless and stuck in a role you didn't ask for and didn't want. True acceptance will lead anyone to uncover surprising abilities that will change attitudes and open up limitless possibilities.

I encourage you to fully embrace your role as parent of a child with special needs so you can progress to the position of unwavering advocate. Always be vigilant about limiting your expectations because doing so can unconsciously create a self-fulfilling prophecy that will constrain your child's potential. You never know what your child is capable of or how far he or she can go, so advocate, advocate, advocate, and reach for the stars!

Connie Hammer, MSW, parent educator, consultant and coach, guides parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to uncover abilities and change possibilities. Visit her website to get your FREE resources - a parenting e-course, Parenting a Child with Autism - 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum.

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