By Dan Coulter
I just sent off a Mother’s Day package to my mom. As part of it, I found photos of myself at various ages (beginning with a baby picture) and scanned them into my computer to print onto her card.
Thinking about mom and looking at those pictures drove home to me what an empathetic, caring mom I’ve always had. I started to say “an extraordinary mom,” but how can I make a comparison with other moms? And if other moms care just as much about their kids, that couldn’t make my mom any less wonderful.
And she is wonderful. My mom dedicated her life to her kids. As I was growing up, she helped me in ways that I didn’t, maybe couldn’t, appreciate at the time.
This makes me think of all the moms I’ve talked with who struggle every day to help their kids with autism or Asperger Syndrome. Many are concerned because their sons and daughters don’t demonstrate a lot of empathy for others, including mom. It can be hard to pour your heart and soul into a child and not see appreciation in his eyes or hear it in her voice.
My son with Asperger Syndrome, Drew, is now 24 years old. Last night after eating, he hugged his mom, kissed her on the cheek and said, “Wonderful dinner, mom.” This sort of spontaneous appreciation is common for him now –- and would have been hard to imagine when he was ten, or even fifteen, years old. Of course, a lack of appreciation through your teenage years isn’t unique to kids on the autism spectrum. Lots of parents of typically developing kids can testify to that.
But expressing appreciation can be an extra challenge to kids on the spectrum because they’re dealing with developmental delays. The good news: what they don’t understand today, they may be able to understand in the future. My wife, Julie, is as special to my son as my mother is to me. And Julie glows each time Drew expresses the appreciation he didn’t show only a few years ago. The turning point came after he graduated from high school. As he made more friends, he encountered some who came from families where impatience and criticism were common, and acceptance and positive reinforcement were rare. That’s when he came home and thanked us for the way he was raised.
No one can make guarantees, but the more you give, the more likely you are to get the feedback dedicated moms deserve. If you have a young child or teenager on the spectrum and your family is anything like ours, you have a lot to look forward to. Reaching the day when your child’s eyes are opened to what you truly gave him, and he reaches out to you, is a feeling like no other.
About The Author: Dan Coulter and his wife Julie produce videos designed to help people with autism and Asperger Syndrome and raise awareness about autism spectrum conditions. You can find more articles on their website at: coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2008 Dan Coulter Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.