Autism and the promise of hope

Tulika Prasad


Let me state this at the start of this post--my son is one heck of autistic. What this means is that he has way too many autistic traits that make the possibility of him leading an independent life a little doubtful. Do I worry about it? Of course, I do. I worry myself sick thinking about it. I bawl my eyes out very often wondering what his future would look like. I am scared of losing sight of him even for a minute--not just outside of home but also at home. He needs that kind of supervision. I am hyper-vigilant and exhausted to say the least. I wish every day that he could talk, have friends, understand the world around him, learn to navigate his days without support and be like what most 12-year-olds are. So how does all of this translate into my everyday life?

It keeps me positive. People have often asked me what keeps me positive. It’s simple--I don’t have a better option. I could complain and wallow in self-pity, or I can stay positive and keep trying. I can’t let my son’s dreams die even before they are born, just because they don’t look feasible to me now. I want to try my best to at least let those dreams shine in his eyes even if they never get to grow the wings they deserve. The first step in that direction is to stay positive.

I was not this person from the start. I was grieving and depressed and felt cheated and defeated. I felt angry and helpless. I went through it all before arriving here. My son held my hand through this journey and kept me going. It is impossible to be around him and not wish and hope for everything to be perfect for this soul who knows nothing but smiles, hugs and love. Staying positive is just a small side effect of his company.

I have seen him grow and learn, even when many around him thought he could not. I have watched him brave changes that an autistic brain finds hard to deal with. From having a meltdown when his bedsheets were changed to moving into a new house without a single glitch, I have seen him grow tremendously. From struggling to identify an A from a B to typing on a keyboard in just a period of one year, he has shown that he can learn if we believe in him. He has made improvements in so many aspects of his life. They are small to an onlooker but huge for his world. His pace is slower, but he is still moving forward and that is my reason to stay positive.

I understand that to some my optimism might appear delusional, even foolish. Sometimes even I feel like I am living in my bubble, and that one day it might burst and my dreams melt like a snowman under a harsh sun. I argue with my conviction sometimes. I have self-doubt and I feel defeated occasionally, enraged too--the same roller coaster of emotions that I believe most parents with a differently-abled child go through.

However, my son pulls me out every single time. He shows me that he is ready to keep moving to a place that is better than today; to a future that holds not just struggles but also a validation of his belief and his dreams. He pushes me to dream for him, to hope for him and to keep trying, and to not give up. He reaffirms my faith. He assures me that my optimism is based in reality, not illusion.

Even if his today may not look so promising, his tomorrow might change, and my belief in that change is my strength. This is us staying positive because staying positive is what my son needs from me--to succeed, to fly and to live a life the way he deserves to live. His autism changes none of it, in fact it makes it even more important that he is surrounded by people that empower and encourage him, not pull him down with negativity and pessimism.

The life I dread just thinking about for my son is the life he might lead. Still, he gets up every day smiling brighter than the sunshine. If that does not drive me to smile my way into uncertainty and stay positive about what the future would look like, I don’t know what will.
Besides, worry and happiness can co-exist. One is not the antithesis of the other. So I choose to be adamant about looking for that silver lining in the clouds that shroud our days. I choose to be hopeful. Hope is powerful. It’s hope that makes it a lot easier for me to climb out of the abyss that on many days I find myself in. Hope is my weapon that helps me fight for my son and the magic that turns those tears that I shed into dew drops that glimmer with the promise of a future, full of opportunities for my son.

The hope that I live with almost every day is stubborn. Even when we hit a rough patch or are not moving ahead the way we expected or hit a wall, it refuses to leave my side. It’s tucked neatly in the corner of my heart, whispering never to give up on my son. It constantly reminds me that with hope comes huge responsibility--the responsibility to keep it alive, make it a reality, and be persistent.

My son may have autism, but that does not mean he does not have a future for himself. If there is a future, there is hope. My hope is not me escaping from our reality, it’s me accepting it but refusing to let this reality defeat our spirit. It’s us saying “no” to what the world has decided for my son, and it’s us trying to carve our own path bit by bit to where our hope will someday meet our dreams.


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