If I had to condense my 15 years of being an autism parent into one word, it would be “changed.” I have irrevocably evolved. I have experienced more than I ever bargained for when I entered the general parenting realm, and more than I anticipated. I knew I would love my children unconditionally, knew that I would do anything for either of my sons. But because of autism I have felt deeper, searched longer, and stretched farther than I ever expected.
Because of autism I was much more involved and attentive, I developed nearly infinite patience, and I started to view not only those with special needs but everyone with more compassion. Because of stares and negative comments and ignorance, I’ve developed what I call “diplomatic advocacy.” Because of elevated fears and autism-affected family dynamics, I’ve learned how to do what I can and let go. I’ve accepted that I needed to ask for help and am doing better because of it.
But what has helped me the most has been something I never would have thought of when my son was diagnosed back in 1997. For years I did not know any other parents of autistic children, and I felt so isolated. I didn’t even realize how much I needed to connect until my son headed into the teen years, and it hit me that I had to find other parents who were facing that as well. This was 2007, and, not finding much on autism in the teen years online, I started TeenAutism.com a few months later. Shortly after that, I discovered what I had missed for ten years – camaraderie, understanding, and a new kind of group therapy. In 2009, I traveled to Nepal as an autism parent advocate and discovered how universal our emotions are. Our individual journeys all differ in some ways, but the feelings we share, the fears, the frustrations, and the triumphs, are often very similar.
With that in mind, I have written The Autism Parent’s Journey, a free PDF book that I am offering to those who subscribe to my monthly newsletter. The book is a simple, brief tribute to autism parents and the journey we find ourselves on. In it, I list resources and strategies for coping, as well as my 15-year-post-diagnosis outlook and thoughts on the future that those of us with special needs children face. I’d be honored if you’d take a look, and I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful. Most of all, I hope it reminds you that you are not alone.
Tanya Savko is a writer, blogger, and mother of two sons, one with autism, epilepsy, and bipolar.
She founded TeenAutism.com in 2008 as a way to connect with other autism parents.
In 2010 she published her first novel, Slip, about a single parent raising an autistic child.
She currently blogs at TanyaSavko.com and lives in southern Oregon, where she tries to find time to work on her next novel when she’s not out hiking, rafting, or wine tasting.