Discovering Your Child Is Non-Verbal Autistic
Avak and I have been friends for many years on Facebook. I love Avak and his beautiful family. Avak is a positive man who has a bright outlook on life (oh, and a very funny sense of humour). He is madly in love with his wife, Anita, who he often (and proudly) takes out on dates. Avak also has a fantastic relationship with his two children, Nicholas and Nyrie.
Autism can be seen as a gift or tragedy, depending on how you view it.
Avak has chosen to see it as a blessing and a gift. I have learnt so much about autism over the years from Avak, who has written this beautiful and real article about his relationship with his son, Nicholas. Please enjoy.
When you become a parent for the first time, you have dreams, wishes, plans, stuff you want to do as a family. Who knew nearly fourteen years ago that my son Nicholas would have social interaction challenges, be non-verbal, have meltdowns by headbutting the floor and walls, display repetitious behaviours like flapping hands and rocking back and forth?
Who also knew that he would bring out the best of us as parents and continue to do so?
Nicholas has taught us to let go, to be more understanding and patient, to be flexible, to be non-judgemental. Backyard cricket, playing in a team sport and other dreams I had years ago have happily turned to train, bus and car rides, to lots of walks in nature, to sitting at random places and just being present and peaceful. Life brings us surprises and curveballs. How we choose to respond to them makes all the difference in how we feel about ourselves and our lives.
Choose gratitude for all you have as it’s the shortcut to being happy.
Autism has brought so many beautiful people into our lives. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, it's incredibly true.
My wife Anita and I have always been open to letting others into our lives to support us and make life that little bit easier. People from all walks of life who've put their hand up as volunteers to be Nicholas' friends, to spend time with him, to help him with social skills like eye contact, toileting, learning to cross the road and so much more.
There were times of course when I hated autism; the most challenging part for me was Nicholas being non-verbal. I had so much fear around it. The fear was always about the future, and that's where fear usually lives, in the future. We project out and focus on the things that we don't want to happen and wish it were different. Nicholas not speaking made me ask myself the following questions that I didn’t have the answers for:
"How can I have a meaningful relationship with my son if he can't speak?"
"What will happen to him we are gone and who will look after him?"
"How will he take care of himself in the world if he can't communicate what he wants?"
"What if he gets taken advantage of physically, emotionally and can't tell others?"
How did I overcome this fear? How did I let go of the judgements about him, about me as a parent feeling helpless about him being non-verbal?
It was at the Autism Treatment Centre of America where my wife and I attended training to gain a better understanding of autism. The teacher was focusing our attention on letting go. I was carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders about Nicholas not speaking, which was making me feel disempowered and lousy.
I realised that if I didn’t change my focus and beliefs I would continue to feel unhappy. What would that cost me in my relationship with my son? My resentment about Nicholas having autism created negative energy in the way I was interacting with him and others around me, especially my family. It caused many sleepless nights worrying about the future. Lack of sleep meant fatigue and poor eating habits which then affected all other parts of my life.
Did I want to continue believing that Nicholas not speaking with words was a bad thing? No, I didn’t. I decided at that moment that I am not Nicholas and he isn't me. We are two different people doing the best we can, and my happiness must not be attached to whether Nicholas speaks or not. He may never talk. He has autism, he lacks social interaction skills with other people, he is exclusive and in his own world a lot of the time, he is not independent in many things and needs others to help him. But I decided that he was entirely okay the way he was, and he didn't need to change anything for me to feel good and happy.
My happiness has nothing to do with him, or anyone else for that matter. I get to choose how I feel about what happens in my life.
I had done a lot of personal development work before my kids were born and thought I was in a great place. My son's autism taught me to raise my standards about what I wanted to choose about how I felt. He and his autism have opened many new doors of opportunity for learning about myself and others. It has given me the chance to help many other families in the same situation who feel helpless or fear what the future holds. I have made many wonderful friends who are now like family. I also had to let go of some old friends who weren't ready to socialise with us, to accept Nicholas the way he was.
It's been a fascinating but challenging journey so far and will continue to be so.
I personally can't thank Avak enough for this raw, beautiful and positive article. I feel blessed to know you, even though only on social media. You make everyone's lives happier. Thank you so much for being you.
Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist. Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.
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