By Julia Ryan
In today’s world, without even thinking about it, I feel we compare our lives to everyone else’s. We compare our children to their children, and we always think someone else’s life seems more stress free than ours. We do it without even realising, and while we’re trying our best and doing all we can, we always look to others and think they have everything perfectly laid out.
I remember wondering why William wasn’t meeting his milestones at the same time as other children his age.
I wondered why he couldn’t wave, point or tell me what he wanted while other children did it without any thought given. It seemed so easy for other families. It seemed like everyone around us were doing the ‘normal’ things.
To have their child ‘ask’ for an apple or ‘point’ to a bird in the sky. They were small things, tiny milestones I guess, but those were the things I never received from William, but my gosh I wanted it. I wanted that wave, that eye contact, that play, but I never got it.
Here I was hoping that one day, we could go to the park or a visit to a friend’s house and it would go somewhat smoothly. I didn’t want to have to leave early or unexpectedly and have people wonder what was going on.
The sensory issues, the lack of play, the anxiousness and overwhelming squeals were what we faced. It was overwhelming for William and it was upsetting for me. A lot of the time I was upset, confused, and stressed. Was I doing something wrong? Did I not pay enough attention to my son? Why did he not want to play and engage with me? Pretty sure I followed every little thing they tell you to do while you’re pregnant. Eat right, sleep well, no alcohol, exercise, read all you can, prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Tick. I did all that.
Then when bubs arrives it’s like your world is instantly about them. Its not about you. You don’t sleep very much, you don’t eat when you want to eat. You feed, nurse and attend to them pretty much 24/7. You’re their everything and they need you more than you really understand at the time. Tick. I did all that too. I was that mummy that cuddled, nursed and sang to my little boy every night just because I wanted to. Just because I wanted to be with him all the time. I would stand in his doorway and watch him sleep because it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen. I had wanted this for so long and I was just so happy to have him and call him mine.
12 months of breastfeeding, providing him with all the love, affection, stimulation and play that I could, and making sure that he was the centre of my universe filled my heart with joy. I made sure he knew every moment I was with him, that he was the most important thing is my life.
I now know that WAS enough.
Rewind to 3 years ago when Will was diagnosed though, I doubted myself. I wondered what I could have done differently. If I could go back again, would I change the way I mothered him? Should I have known some of the signs earlier? The answer is no, and I want to tell you why. Autism is not caused by something I did. It is not something I could have changed.
My little guy was born unique, he was born with a developmental condition. He was born with autism.
The traits come at different stages and different times for every child. Their own strengths and challenges need to be supported and guided. Don’t let a diagnosis define who someone is, it is just a part of them. Autism is only a part of what makes William so special.
I am now more than ever thankful for this journey.
I’ve had to support my son in a way I never thought I would need to, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
The way I’ve raised him was enough. It will always be enough.
I am proud of him. I am proud of where we are today, and I am proud of myself.
And I am now ok in knowing that it may take my son a little longer to reach some milestones.That his peers may be ahead of him and express themselves a little easier than he can.
That is also ok.
That he may not always understand what someone is saying to him and he won’t know how to respond.
That is ok.
That he may breakdown in a heap when sensory overload has hit in a way that others don’t quite get.
That is ok.
While these are challenges that we face, I am also blessed to see the unique ability William has and how he will continue to develop from strength to strength. He is very smart. Smart in a different way to others. He is kind and gentle and loves to be tickled and play chasey. He is funny and honest. He has an amazing memory and looks at objects in ways that you and I can’t.
Over the years, I have made it my mission to praise him hugely on the things that he has accomplished. I’ve come out the other side feeling more determined, optimistic and grateful knowing that this journey does get easier.
The hard days are few and far between. It really doesn’t matter that William isn’t where his peers are at, because I know how amazing he is doing. I know where we were, and I know where we are now.
It’s never going to be about comparing him to anyone else.
I will ensure he knows he is always good enough and to follow the direction he wants when he is ready. It’s not someone else’s race he is running. Everyone has their own way of getting to where they need to be, and as long as they are making progress, as long as they are happy and loved, then that is and should always be enough. It’s your race and you take as long as you need to, to get there.
All children should know that its not a competition. Be yourself, do it your way, in your time. X
As well as being co-founder of the program William Ready, Julia Ryan is also a devoted wife and mother to two children, one on the autism spectrum and one neurotypical. After the birth of Julia’s first son William, and his subsequent diagnosis, Julia became dedicated to Early Intervention and best practices for her son. And now through the William Ready program is able to use her personal experience and research to help others.