My One Way Ticket to the Autism Journey Train

By Brigitte Shipman | Jan 7, 2021. | Autism, Parenting Uncertainty, Hope, Opportunity

I love this time of the year because it offers us hope and possibility to renew our lives. I have seen and read so much about the joy of seeing 2020 leave and welcoming 2021. We are hoping for a better year. We are leaving a year of uncertainty and entering a new year filled with possibility of hope rather than fear.

I too am hopeful of a better year, but I would say I have found opportunities through this year of uncertainty.

I can remember when Joseph was first diagnosed and receiving my one way ticket to board the autism journey train. I pictured a train station and just felt lost, overwhelmed and filled with uncertainty, but I knew I had to get on the train. I had no idea of what was to come or how I was going to help my son, but I knew I was going to find my way, for Joseph.

Being a mom of an autistic child can be labeled as a life of uncertainty, but it can also be a journey where we can find opportunities for joy. When Joseph entered public school I remember feeling like I was releasing him to a lion's den and that he was defenseless.

It literally made my stomach hurt as he got out of my car and began walking into the school building. All I could think about was what could happen to him that would potentially hurt him.

I did not think about the fact that there were many positive opportunities waiting for both of us. It only felt like fear and helplessness to me. I anxiously waited for the school day to end to make sure he made it through without injury. It was an all-consuming, gut-wrenching feeling each and every day.

This is how I lived for many years until he began slowly finding his expressive language to tell me how his day went. It was as if I was piecing a puzzle together from information that I would gather from his classroom teacher, other teachers, and Joseph.

There would be random events that would offer me deeper insight into how my son was functioning during his days. A parent volunteer, classroom moms, students and people I would run into at the grocery store sharing what they observed Joseph experiencing.

Uncertain is a great word that describes the autism journey and the year of 2020. Can we find opportunities? Yes.

I know that we can because I have found them in both a pandemic and living life as a autism of an autistic child. Personally, this past year I was hosting health and wellness retreats, life coaching in person, and seeing great momentum towards success as a life coach.

Then in March, I was faced with the reality that in-person coaching, teaching fitness classes, hosting retreats were all canceled. Just like that, it was no longer an option to continue the work I had begun and loved.

The opportunity was hard to find at first, but then it came and all I can do now is feel great gratitude that I am a fulltime coach for moms of autistic children.

I was working towards this work when Joseph and I began our podcast Mother’s Guide Through Autism in 2019. After we recorded our first episode, I felt like I was home.

2020 gave me the opportunity to slow down and realize that I was on my purposeful path and to just keep moving in the direction of helping other moms who are living an uncertain life with their children on the autistic spectrum.

The autism journey has opportunities in each and every day. It has taken me a long time to understand that autism is an uncertain life filled with more opportunities to live a more purposeful and joyful life.

I found that my son is filled with unconditional love and he shows me lessons in little things that I would not have seen without him.

He lives with peace, not anger or resentment. I have found that I am much stronger and loving through being a mom of an autistic child. I have found ways to live a meaningful life by offering others a window to look through to see that their journey of autism will not always be painful.

There is a community of support, knowledge, and love around all of us if we can just take a breath and see it. I hope that you can take a moment and find opportunity on your personal journey as a mom of an autistic child.

Here are some ways to find opportunity on our uncertain mom autism journey:

  • Slow Down. If I could go back to 1997 when Joseph entered public school I would let myself know that although we were going to struggle, there was going to be way more good than bad. I would have enjoyed the daily moment of seeing my son through eyes of joy rather than eyes of fear.
  • Find one moment in your day to celebrate. Perhaps a smile from your child, a small step forward in language, a moment of love and peace.
  • Pay it forward: Offer another mom a personal story that will offer her hope when she is stuck in struggle. When I can see hope in another mom's eyes I instantly fill up with hope and inspiration.
  • Make a list of what you are grateful for at the beginning and end of each day. You will feel lighter and happier and this is paying it forward to yourself.
  • Ask yourself: Where is the opportunity for me today? Now go live within opportunity.

As you begin 2021, uncertainty is still lingering but opportunity feels greater and this is the feeling of hope. I have been on the autism journey train for 28 years and I can tell you that although it has been uncertain each day, I have experienced more opportunity than hopelessness.

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