The upside of autism: Joyful reflections from parents of autistic children

May 26, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. ET

There are countless stories and movies about the challenges and difficulties of raising a child with autism -- dreams are dashed, expectations are lowered and life is tragically altered forever. But the reality of autism is not always gloom and doom.

Cute boy with autism

All children -- especially those with autism -- come with an enormous set of needs. Cathy Pratt, chair of the board of the National Autism Society of America, tells us, "Parents report that autism is not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. You will be your child's life-long advocate."

For many parents, autism may not completely be a blessing, it's definitely not a curse.

See what some moms and dads had to say about life with an autistic child:

"I feel blessed. I would be a different person if I had not been given such a child."
- Hamza's mom

Boy with autism"I love the new view of the world that he has taught me, I love the quirks that always make me giggle, and I love that he loves me, and even shows it sometimes."
- Denise Norton, mother to Blair

"I see things in a much simpler way, and I have learned to be less ignorant to people with disabilities. My son pushed me to better myself as a single mother."
- Jesse's mother

"I think every child is different, and the best that a parent can do is to be very attentive to their child's needs and learn from each child what they need and respond to."
- Willy's father

"Watching him succeed in the little things you take for granted with your other children. I will never forget the first time he told me that he loved me."
- Patrick's mother

Autism - experience, advice, awareness

"Having a child with autism is a very rough road...but when your child does something for the first time, it helps make it more bearable, and you learn something new every day."
- Anonymous

"Read. Educate yourself. Never feel that you are not a good parent. Just love them with everything you have."
- Anonymous

"He is not a horrible child, he just has difficulties along with his gifts."
- Aiden's mother

"I am learning to be open to different expectations and continue to learn what is important. Remembering that what I want for all my children is for them to be happy and safe and loved. My boys have taught me how to be a better parent and person. I have learned a lot about myself and how I handle difficult situations."
- Stephen's and Jack's mother

"I know what matters in life, and I know that everything that I used to think and worry about didn't matter! He is precious! I love other kids with special needs immediately, and I know a kind of love I never would've known otherwise! I have more empathy for people in the world in general."
- Jennifer Harman, Jackson's mom

Perhaps part of the reason autism exists is to make the rest of us – "typical folks" – become better people.



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