Imagine drifting in a boat, lost at sea. You have absolutely no idea where you are and the sea is not kind. There are constant storms and waves. All the time there is fear. Where am I? How did I get here? How can I find land? Frequently you think of crazy desperate ideas that might “save you.” But each time you are disappointed as you find you are paddling in circles. You are powerless. All you can do is sit in your boat feeling hopeless, frustrated, alone, confused, and like a failure.
This is how I felt before Skylynn was diagnosed with autism. I had no idea what was going on, how to help her, and why she was the way she was. I made desperate attempts time and time again to help her be “normal”. Maybe this play idea or that strategy might help Skylynn catch up to her peers. They never worked and I never knew why. I figured I must be a failure of a mom. Some days I would give up all together and sit Skylynn in front of Sesame Street and not try at all. I was so lost, confused and depressed.
Now let us go back to our boat. One day you see land in the distance. You think you might be imagining things since you’ve been lost at sea for so long. But you might as well try and get there, might as well see if it is land. What do you have to loose right? Then surprisingly it is land. It is not the land you imagined. In fact, it looks almost nothing like what you expected. But, in its own different way it is absolutely beautiful. It is a difficult land. Much more difficult than you ever thought it would be. But it is still land. You can set up camp and work at making a life for yourself. A different life than you planned. One that requires a lot more work than you ever thought possible. But, it is a good land and you can create a good life on it.
This is how I felt when Skylynn was diagnosed with autism. I had finally found land. I had a place to stand, a place to start a life. I finally understood what was going on. I was relieved to find out that I was not the horrible broken mom I thought I was. There were reasons all my desperate attempts to help my daughter become “normal” always failed. They failed because my daughter wasn’t meant to be normal. She was meant to be Skylynn; sweet, silly, beautiful, mischievous, unique, Skylynn.
It has been a long time since I was lost at sea. I have had time to explore the devastating pit falls in this land, and I have felt the loneliness, despair, pain, and rejection that lie in them. But I have also climbed to the amazing mountaintops of this land. These highs are indescribable. The joy, love, excitement, triumph, pride and bliss of these peaks can never truly be explained to someone who has not climbed them. It is true that my land is very different from most of my friends’ lands. But I would not change it for the world. My land has taught me to love every small beautiful moment and to be patient through every difficult one. It has taught me what true love is and who true friends are. It has taught me I am stronger than I ever thought possible. But most of all it has taught me that Skylynn was never lost. Only I was. It is a beautiful thing to live on the island of autism with her. I love you my beautiful daughter. Thank you for this place and giving me the chance to live on it with you.
- Update – March 13th, 2012 -
The response I have received since posted Finding Autism Island
has been overwhelming. Autism Speaks featured my post on their blog at In Their Own Words – Finding Autism Island and on their Facebook page.
It was “liked” over 820 times and received dozens of comments on Autism Speaks blog and on their Facebook post. Wow! I read every comment and am grateful for all of them. Thank you all so much! This community is amazing! Together we will explore Autism Island, help each other through the hard times, and rejoice with each other in our triumphs! I am so grateful to be part of such a amazing community!