Raising a child living with Autism has allowed me to view life and the world around me in the most literal of ways, without prejudice or judgment; without cynicism or negativity. I have learned the importance of the “things” I take for granted – the grass turning green in the spring, the first dandilion of the year, the ring around a full moon. I have learned the value of unconditional love and have seen pure joy in the eyes and heart of a boy learning to drive his bike for the first time at the age of 9. These joys and many many others have made my son the person he is. The good far outweighs the bad and other than removing the struggles he faces, I wouldn’t change him for anything in the world!
Over the last year Matthew has climbed a mountain I did not think he would ever reach the top of. At the age of 12 years old, Matthew became a big brother. Knowing that he has spent the last 12 years as an only child, Michael and I were concerned that the transition would be very traumatic on us all. This could be the furthest thing from the truth. Even Matthew’s team at school voiced their concern and wondered how Matthew would react to such a change.
Matthew has told us endless times over the past year that we “made his life complete” by giving him a brother. The love, the adoration and concern that Matthew has shown Marcus right from day 1 has been something that I could have never imagined.
I want to thank my son. Not everyone has the opportunity and blessing to live with their hero 24/7/365. I do. My hero constantly reminds me that nothing is impossible (even if he doesn’t believe it himself). My hero shows me what is important in life and works hard to share his points of view with anyone who will listen.
For whatever reason, Autism has touched our lives. It was up to us how we were to deal with it. Allow it to defeat us or learn from it and capture the unique gifts that it brings along with it.
The days of struggles and heartache are there, for sure; but aren’t they for everyone?
We have chosen not to use Autism as an excuse, a crutch or label it as a “condition”. It is a characteristic – part of what makes Matthew the wonderful boy that he is. Part of what makes The Hilliard’s the family we are.
Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, I salute my son, Matthew and everyone else who lives with Autism. I am the better person for having him in my life.