Yesterday I attended the first family-centered support group meeting for ASD families in southern Oregon. I’ve previously attended other support groups for parents, and they were always welcoming, but I felt like something was missing. I would leave without feeling better than when I had arrived. It wasn’t the type of support group I was looking for.
This one yesterday was different. It was so affirming to have the kids there. The parents, the ASD kids, and the siblings all there, all interacting – it just felt right. I met other parents also at the teen stage as well as others just starting out. The level of understanding was inherent, as was the bond. I saw tiredness on some of their faces, and stress. But I also saw hope.
And the hope was there because the older kids were there. I saw some young parents watching Nigel, and that gave me a sense of pride. Because I know how far he’s come. I still have many concerns about the future, of course. But if Nigel, just as he is, can give some young parents hope for their child’s development, that’s something. That’s really something.
I did the same thing when I went to the autism and puberty seminar that I attended in October. One of the presenters at the seminar was a higher-functioning autistic adult. All the parents were rapt as we listened to her, watched her, absorbed her. She was hope to us, those of us with teens. She patiently answered questions, related stories of her childhood and teenage years, what she had been like. We all wanted to know when she had started talking so that we could compare that to our own children’s past development, and look ahead to how far she progressed, thinking that the potential was there for our kids. Of course, there are no guarantees, and we know that. But still. We hope.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend a seminar where an autistic adult will be presenting, I encourage you to do so. You will come away with a sense of understanding that you couldn’t possibly get from reading a book. You can’t look at that person and think, That’s what my kid could be like. But looking at them and just experiencing their presence will give you hope. And we could all use a little more of that.