This is the time of year when parents everywhere are preparing to send their children back to school. As a homeschooling parent, this means something a bit different for me. This is the time of year when I steel myself, not to send my children out into the world, but to once again tackle the daunting task of educating them. Luckily, I am a school junkie and get very excited by things like new pencils and books and art supplies and science kits. But there is always that element of pressure brought on by the fact that these are my kids and I want them to have the best education possible. Because of that pressure, I am always looking for new techniques and methods to better achieve that goal.
The fact that one of my beloved students has autism adds yet another--and more intimidating--layer to the mix. Where he is concerned, not only am I providing education, but also therapy. Ten and a half years after his diagnosis, I can look back on many nutritional, medical, experimental, and behavioral interventions that we have tried with varying degrees of success. Ironically, Austin is the healthiest member of our family--the least likely to get sick and the quickest to heal when he does. But the hurdles of his disability remain stretched out in front of us. And so, at this time of preparing to roll up my sleeves and get back to the business of educating, I am also readying myself to renew my efforts to somehow lead Austin to an independent adulthood.
Throughout my experiences as a parent of a child with autism, I have encountered many experts, and even fellow parents, who believe that the various treatments that are out there offer nothing more than false hope. They would have the families of these children accept the disability and realize that there are certain things they will never be able to achieve. I understand that this type of acceptance may bring comfort to many parents. However, I would rather throw myself into the pain of the hope-disappointment cycle everyday than give up forever on my child. The thing is, no hope is false. Hope is what moves you forward, believing that progress is possible. Living a life of hope can only bring positive results. Even if it means that 9 out of every 10 things I try will fail, I know that I will eventually come across the one that succeeds, even if just a little. Sure, the greatest wish of my heart would be to have my son made whole in an instant. I know that is not likely to happen. I accept my son for who he is, respect him for what he has to overcome just to accomplish things that most people take for granted their whole lives, and love him unconditionally. But I will never accept his disability. It is a mortal enemy that would take my son's whole life from him if I let it. So I fight, continuing to reach for every morsel of hope I can lay my hands on.
Wish me luck!