Thanksgiving is a time of both gratitude and indulgence, just like every holiday. That’s American-style. While most Americans will celebrate by gathering with family, watching football and parades, and eating all the food, autism families might not have that luxury. As I’ve said before, autism doesn’t take a holiday. For many autism families, a long trip isn’t possible. Sitting for a long meal isn’t possible. Being with a lot of people isn’t possible. There may be food allergies, seizures, and meltdowns. This doesn’t mean that I and other autism families won’t have a day of love and gratitude. We are still thankful. We’re just thankful autism-style.

Here are just a few of the things I’m thankful for, today and every day.

I am thankful for the progress we’ve made.

My son Christopher’s autism is pretty severe; so it’s really easy to get caught up in everything he can’t do and how far he has to go. But I see how hard this kid works every day. I see how proud he gets when he figures out how to do something (and when we notice it and praise him). I see that he has come so far from that screaming, flapping 2-year-old who wouldn’t sleep or eat anything. Inside his hard-to-control body is a beautiful person who desperately wants to be understood. And one day we will free him from the shell of autism.

I am thankful for the autism parents who’ve gone before me.

I can’t express my gratitude enough for those brave parents who navigated this impossible journey without the tools we have today. Special diets only from scratch, no internet, very little research and resources. They’ve taught parents like me more about helping our kids than the medical community has. They are truly my heroes.

I am thankful for my fellow autism warrior parents.

This journey is so difficult, but it would be impossible without them. They are my tribe. They are a constant source of love, resources, laughs, camaraderie, and hope. We celebrate each other’s victories and hold each other up in the worst times. Some of them I have never even met, but I love them dearly. There is a Stephanie Sparkles quote: “I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.” There is not a group of people this could be more true of.

I am thankful for everyone I’ve encountered on this autism journey.

Not all of our experiences have been positive. In fact, some have been downright horrifying and heartbreaking. But autism reveals us at our most stripped down, and that reveals the true colors of everyone else. So, in that sense, autism has allowed us to see how everyone else is in our worst of times and who is truly with us in our “for worse, for poorer, and in sickness” times. In that sense, we have been able to cut through the BS and spend our time and energy on those who are worth it and really love us. I am thankful for those who’ve helped us as well as those who’ve hurt us – because both have taught us.

I am thankful for my family.

My husband and I often joke that we are like the Munsters – crazy, destructive, ridiculous looking, always creating a spectacle, not really fitting in. But I love my band of misfits. My husband is truly my best friend and he’s always been incredibly patient with Christopher and on the same page as me with treatment. My younger children are amazing with their brother. At parent/teacher conferences this week their teachers told me that they are kind and patient with children who have special needs and that my daughter has been communicating with a child who doesn’t yet speak English. This life is hard for them too, but it has also allowed them to develop gifts that they can use to help others and spread joy.

I am thankful for wine.

I am thankful for this moment.

It would be awesome if things were perfect. But, they are never going to be. As time moves on, some things will be gained and others will be lost. I have a few friends and family facing serious health crises right now, and that really puts things into perspective. Nothing is guaranteed or permanent. Nothing is to be taken for granted. In this moment, I have my family. We have (autism aside) our health. I have my friends. We have food, clothing, and shelter. I have wine…

I am thankful for the knowledge and understanding I’ve gained, and the person I’ve become.

While I will never really get over what autism has taken, it has given me the ability to see a lot of things for what they really are. I am no longer blinded by material things, small things that don’t really matter, or what everyone else is doing. I realize that I still have a long way to go on my personal journey towards being a better, more enlightened person. But seeing inconsiderate, inpatient, intolerant people in action every day makes me realize that I have been able to transcend some of the minutia of this material world. {For example, while I was driving today this guy was following me so close that I could see how angry his face was. I was like “Chill, dude. I can’t drive any faster – I’m trying to write a blog post!” TOTALLY KIDDING, but I thought of that when someone was tailing me the other day and thought it would be funny.}

I am thankful for you, for reading this.

I really appreciate all the support and feedback I’ve had with this blog and my newsletter over the last few years. Your love and encouragement has given me the courage to share things about our private life that I might not have otherwise been able to. I truly hope that our story has in some way been able to help other families – whether you’ve laughed with (or at!) us or cried with us, I hope you know that you are not alone. Thank you for coming on our autism journey with us.

I am thankful for hope.

We will never give up on healing Christopher, no matter what. I am grateful that parents and professionals who continue to find and share new things that are working for people with autism. Most treatments are exhausting and expensive, but there is always something new to try. Even in our darkest hours, there is hope. It is my hope that everyone with autism in their lives can find hope in this journey and something to be thankful for. Even if at times that’s just wine.

The Munsters

The Munsters {Image Credit: TV Guide}


Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours!

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