Most of us have a handful of memories that will stay vibrant in our memories for our entire lives – the birth of our children, our 21st birthday, the first day we sat behind the wheel of a car…and failed our driving test, our wedding day.
…ok so maybe the 21st first birthday shouldn’t be on that list. But if we could remember it, we would savor those memories of youth and stupidity…
For some of us though, those memories on the hard to forget list are painful. I know I certainly have a couple. For me, this one, in particular, was one of the hardest.
Forgiving Myself for Denying the Signs of Autism in My Child
Everyone saw it. My friends and colleagues, my family, even strangers at the store. But, I couldn’t. I knew the signs – I worked in early childhood. But, for every sign of Autism I saw in my daughter, I developed a reasoning that washed it away.
She spins non-stop – she likes to dance
Her eyes never make contact – she’s easily distracted
She has no language – she’s 18 months old, it will come
She bangs her head – she is still learning to process big emotions
She lines up all of her toys – it’s just an obsession.
And so the list went on.
I knew in my heart that my daughter was Autistic. I spent my days explaining to parents the plan for helping their Autistic child. Our plan for tracking progress. For getting them ready for public school.
Yet, here I was fully knowing all the proof in my own child, pushing off tomorrow for our confirmation.
Then the day finally came when I no longer could pretend. My mom took my daughter for her Early Childhood Checkup and came back with a referral. The next day we were in the car headed for the assessment clinic.
That day was rough. I remember the overwhelm that happened after our Autism Diagnosis. But, we survived.
Shortly after everything fell in place. Nothing changed except some added appointments to our schedule. However, that fear that ate me alive in facing my daughter’s Autism diagnosis was now filling me with guilt.
How could I have ignored my own child? What was I so afraid of? What did I think it was going to change?
…did I harm her in delaying her diagnosis?
I won’t lie. My daughter is now eight and these feelings of guilt still creep onto my shoulder every now and then to whisper into my ear. I don’t have some magic phrase to make them disappear.
But I know, I knew, I couldn’t hold on to that for both of our sakes. That to hold on to that would also deny her, her progress — our tomorrow.
5 Steps to Forgive Yourself
1. Realize the Past is the Past
While this seems very straight forward, wrapping your head around the fact that what is done is done is no easy task. Once this can be accomplished, we open ourselves up to acceptance. Increased acceptance can lead to the emotional healing we are all looking for.
2. Realize You Did the Best You Could
The way that we respond depends on what skills we have, what frame of mind we are in, and how we perceive the situation in that moment. When it comes to those three things there are so many different factors that play in. In my case I was afraid. I had just left my daughter’s father and was coming into my role as a single mom. I was terrified of becoming a single mom of a special needs child. Whatever your factors, cut yourself a break. If you learn from it, it was never in vain.
3. Identify Your Biggest Regrets
Face it and clear your conscience. Bring it to the table, lay it out, examine it. If it is a pattern in your life accept it, learn from it, and adapt. Then apologize for your past and turn the page.
4. Cut Yourself Some Slack
While this is hard to do, it will help you in the long run. No one is perfect and skills take time to learn. Cut yourself some slack while you’re on a new learning curve. Realize that you’re going to make mistakes. We all do.
5. Move Forward in Love
We can only do our best.
If you are here, kicking yourself down for missing the signs of Autism in your child, know you are not alone.
On my mirror are these words – “Get Up, Try Again, Do Your Best”
We aren’t perfect, we are parents.
Autism Books for Parents
Additional Autism Resources