Whenever I discuss Ethan’s autism with friends and family, the conversation usually centers on how he is sleeping (or not), or what progress he is making in one of his therapies. We might also talk about milestones he has reached, but until recently, I’d never discussed my hopes for his future.
I was catching up with an old friend and she wondered what I hoped and dreamt for Ethan’s future. I had a surprisingly difficult time answering that question and our conversation made me realize how much I avoid thinking about the future. Of course, I hope most of all for his happiness, but I hadn’t really thought beyond that.
It’s much easier to envision hopes and dreams for my future self. More than anything, I hope to join the ranks of those parenting special needs children who have found peaceful acceptance of their child’s condition. I’ve felt it before, but it was brief, fleeting. About one year after we learned of Ethan’s deafness, I embraced the beauty that is American Sign Language and felt a sense of pride that my little boy could be part of the deaf community. It seemed like less of a disability and more like an opportunity, a membership to an extraordinary and mysterious culture. That’s what helped me cope with the notion that he may never hear or speak.
I’m not sure where to look, or how to find this same source of acceptance with his newest diagnosis. Rather than celebrating his difference, the activities and therapies we do now seem more like a rejection of who he is and who he’s becoming. It’s just a matter of perception, really. So how do I change this mindset?
For now, I stay focused on the blessings in our lives, and I think that’s pretty effective for the most part. I look at all the compassionate people that work with Ethan and the friends and family who “have our backs”. I thank God for our health, that Ethan is alive and healthy, that we have a roof over our heads, and food on our table.
What else can I do?
Ethan actually hears now thanks to his magical cochlear implants. He has been learning to speak, too. He’s full of surprises ;-)