Published on: November 25, 2014
“I’m thankful for apple pie.” This was my son, Hayden’s, statement the first time he participated in our Thanksgiving family tradition of saying what we’re thankful for. Cute, right? The funny thing is that he’s never eaten or wanted to eat apple pie.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and football. What most of us don’t do is really stop and take stock of what we are thankful for – what really matters.
What does thankful mean anyway? According to Merriam-Webster it means, “glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.”
When I think about what I’m thankful for, of course I think about my family. But if I think deeper, the person whom has made a huge impact in the life is my son Hayden. Having Hayden changed my life and not just in the typical ways. Diagnosed with autism when he was two-years old, I had no idea the journey I was going to take, and how it would affect me. I’m so thankful for Hayden, because he has taught me many of life’s most important lessons.
♥ Live in the present
When your child has special needs all you do is worry. Worry that you didn’t do enough and worried about the future. The problem with living in the past or future is that you miss what’s happening in the present. Take a deep breath and just be with your child. Playing, reading, and cooking with Hayden has taught me so much. Taking the time to do something simple and really build a bond is a precious gift.
♥ Celebrate all accomplishments
When we received Hayden’s diagnosis and everything that led up to that moment, it was all about what he couldn’t do and how he didn’t measure up. It was really hard to hear and hard to see, but it was harder to stop thinking that way. It’s so important to recognize success and it doesn’t have to be big. Be proud of your child. It makes them, and you, feel better.
♥ Non-judginess (my own word)
I have to admit that before I had Hayden, I judged. It was easy to think that kids I saw out in public were misbehaving and I made judgments about what I saw. No more. Since having Hayden and being a special needs parent, I don’t judge others. You never know what is happening in someone’s family. Now, I just want to be supportive. It would be great if more people would think like this.
♥ Create your own rules
Out of all the things Hayden has given me, I’m most thankful for this. There are so many rules when you become a parent to which you either need to follow or conform. Having a child with autism, taught me that those rules don’t apply to me. At first that was tough to learn because I wanted to be like everyone else but I wasn’t. It’s hard to come to terms with being different, but if you keep trying to do things the same way you end up being more frustrated. Once I accepted Hayden’s diagnosis, our family was able to make our own rules which made all of us much happier.
Thanksgiving is this week and I’m excited to sit around our table this year and hear what he is thankful for. Will it be apple pie? Maybe football? Or our family? For me, Hayden is a gift that I’m so thankful for, because he continues to teach me more about life then I ever thought possible.
By Helen Shafer- Founder at The Shafer Center for Early Intervention.