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Autism and The Power of Choice
Choosing to be a Victor not a Victim
I know that may seem to be a strange title, but stay with me on this. What I am about to share with you has empowering implications for whatever challenge you face, even if you are not a parent or caregiver of an autistic child.
I Can Choose My Response
Of all the things I have learned over the years, the single most important thing I have learned is also a very simple concept. It has proven itself time and time again in varying situations and circumstances. It has enabled me to get through very difficult and intense times with both my sanity and sense of humor in tact (sense of humor, anyway)! Here it is: I can choose.
See, I told you it was simple; simple yet profound. I have learned that in every situation there are variety of choices available in response to it. In fact the first choice available is that I can choose to respond instead of react. Granted, I may not like the choices available; it may end up being the lesser of the evils as we say, but I still have options. Even choosing to do nothing is a choice. The Important thing is now instead of always being in a reaction mode I can be in a proactive mode, choosing in advance how I will respond to the situations that arise daily.
Anticipate and Innovate
Let me give you an example. As a young boy my grand-nephew Aaron would take his shoes off and forget where he left them. Needless to say this caused a problem when it came time to put them on and go somewhere! Initially I reacted typically and went through the drama of asking parent type questions that clearly Aaron didn't have the answer to, or else we wouldn't be going through this in the first place. It didn't take me long to choose a different approach and become proactive. I informed him that if he wanted to take his shoes off he had to do so in his room and nowhere else. This way there was now no question where he left his shoes.
In our early days, not knowing all the technical stuff about Autism and managing an autistic child, much of the structure that I developed for Aaron came about this way. In each case I had to choose to be proactive instead of reactive. I learned to anticipate the stress points and develop strategies we both could live with to either avoid them altogether or minimized them.
Using Choice As An Asset
Learning I could choose my response proved to be an asset in dealing with those who gave well meaning unsolicited advise or asking slightly irritating (okay, not so slightly irritating) questions. I found I could choose to respond with compassion and patience instead of irritation, or choose to not respond at all but simply acknowledge the advise with a "Thank you" and move on. This ability to choose my response came in handy in dealing with the schools and agencies, which can be a very frustrating experience leaving you thinking bad thoughts. Once I made the decision that I would do whatever it took to get Aaron the help he needed, go to however many meetings, appointments I needed to go to: complete however many forms I needed to complete, and generally share more information with these strangers about myself than even my family knew, life got a lot less stressful. I learned to take the view that each action moved me that much closer to my goal.
Full Circle: I Can Choose
In the daily twists and turns that autism presents I have found that if I exercise the right choices life is sweeter for all involved. I now have Aaron's younger brother with us. While he is not autistic he has his own special needs. At times his needs synergize with Aaron's needs to produce a whole new situation. The beauty of it is that I know I have options to choose from and I can calmly respond to my darling cherubs in a way that leaves us stronger and closer instead of weaker and further apart. Once you learn to use your power of choice you are no longer a victim but a victor!