It's always good to know when to be thankful, right? Especially in the midst of our journey - and in all transparency - our struggles with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it's important to know when to be thankful for the small things. It can be a little hard, sometimes, to see the good things that have happened, or to realize that in comparison to lots of folks, we don't have it that badly at all.
Zack's been adjusting to the nursery at the church we've been visiting. New surroundings are tough on any 5 and under child, and also the first few weeks they directed Zack to the wrong room because he looked like was 4 (easy mistake to make, seeing as how he's a 3 year old the size of some 6 year olds).
In any case, there were a few miscommunications, a few tantrums and a few interrupted Sunday School classes where Abby and I got beeped by the nursery because Zack was kicking up a fuss, which of course activates that same anxiety that EVERY parent of preschoolers feels over their children's behavior; that it reflects badly on them as parents and on the job they've done raising their children.
However, the last few weekends have settled down nicely. No reports, no being buzzed out of Sunday School. Today, we experienced one of those moments that puts everything into perspective. We're blessed in that one of the nursery workers in Zack's room has raised an autistic child herself. We don't know any of the circumstances, but it's been clear from the beginning that her experience is going to be a big help.
Anyway, we ran into her in the grocery store after church today, and she made a point of stopping us and telling her how well Zack did today, and that in comparison, Zack is far more disciplined and organized than anyone else in the room; far more polite and considerate also, even given his autism. She remarked that in comparison, Zack was also far higher functioning than her son had been at that age and in his journey with autism.
It was one those moments that takes your arm, twists it behind your back, and FORCES you to be thankful. All those times we've lamented that Zack has to attend a full-time preschool year round, suddenly we're thankful that he has the chance to attend a school with INTERNATIONAL renown. All those times at home or anywhere else when I wonder if we're being too strict to require...and sometimes remind him relentlessly....to say "Please", "Thank You", "You're welcome" or "I'm sorry", we suddenly feel vindicated in our efforts when someone says our autistic child is one of the most pleasant, polite little boys in the room.
And also, it reminded us that our struggle with autism -as taxing as it is - isn't nearly as overwhelming or defeating as it could be. Again, I have no idea what this woman's experience was, but it reminded me of my days working first for the Handicapped Children's Association and then BOCES and Catholic Charities after that, when I worked with much lower-functioning children (some in sixth and seventh grade) whose autism will never change or go away. There's light at the end of the tunnel for us, and though it's a very long and hard road away it's there, where for some folks it's not even a glimmer, and never will be.
So here's to being thankful, and remembering that for all we're carrying, some folks are burdened with twice the load.