“When you let go of who you want your child to be, and just let her be who she was meant to be, she will flourish, and you will come to realize she’s perfect just the way she is.” – Rev. Karen Taff
My life’s work has shifted to helping parents and others understand that children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”) also come with gifts. Too often, parents of a child with this diagnosis assume that success in life for their child is out of reach, or will be marginal at best. Autism-related reference books typically leave parents with a sense of frustration and hopelessness.
I am a 60-year-old adult diagnosed with both Asperger’s syndrome and ADD. I have enjoyed many successes in my life, professionally, financially and socially. I am a living testament that the potential is there for your ASD child to succeed.
If we are to succeed, we need Love and Perseverance in the form of proper guidance and adequate support as we struggle to find our way in an overwhelming, neurotypical world. Guidance and support comes across to us most effectively if it comes from a place of love and understanding within you. The ultimate goal is to gently help us identify, cultivate and productively utilize our gifts and talents in ways that allow us to claim the successes as our own.
What are the gifts? Many gifts are commonly attributed to people having an ASD. We can be: innovative; creative; loyal; faithful, honest in word, thought and deed; sweet and kind; talented, very loving, in our own way; consistent; some of us have unusual focus (hyper-focus), forgiving; open and direct in our communications; some even have savant skills to varying degrees.
Your challenge is to help us develop our gifts and talents into practical and productive endeavors, both socially and occupationally. Internationally known autism advocate Temple Grandin, in her book The Way I See It, aptly states: “There is often too much emphasis in the world of autism on the deficits of these children and not enough emphasis on developing the special talents that many of them possess.”
Looking back, the two most important attributes instilled in me by my parents that helped me succeed were: “You can learn to do anything you set your mind to do,” and “Be persistent — don’t give up.”
The modern airplane grew out of a lowly bicycle shop as a result of the curiosity, intrigue and persistence of two brothers who loved to tinker around. The key to learning is motivation, and the key to motivation is self-interest. We have to want to do it, whatever “it” is, not just to please or appease you, but to please ourselves. Autistics and Aspies are rarely motivated significantly by either praise or punishment. Persistence is a natural trait in everyone, but through diligence it can be trained out of a child. It often seems that our persistence is discouraged in order to make someone else’s life easier. Persistence, like many other traits, needs to be guided toward its appropriate use. Not all situations call for persistence.
Your child is unique. Many autistics throughout history have become masters of their gifts and talents, and some of those have been directly responsible for major leaps of progress in the arts and sciences.
Larry Moody will speak on the the Gifts of Autism from 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 27, at the Center For Harmonious Living, 12201 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka. The cost is $15. For more information, email [email protected] or call 952.405.9338.