Check out this essay by Claire Khodara originally posted on Babe Hatch
[Photo by Marilou Daube]
What is it like raising a child on the autism spectrum? Unexpectedly beautiful.
Life is a path of self discovery– at least that’s what mine has been so far. Having children opened my eyes and heart to a world I didn’t know existed, a world of endless opportunities for self growth. Motherhood isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
I have been told that all kids kick their parents’ ass in time and I guess I got mine kicked earlier than expected. Six months into being pregnant with my second child, I was told by a pediatrician that my firstborn, who was then 2-years-old, had autism and my second would likely as well. My whole world froze and my heart sank deeper than I ever knew it could. The isolation and depression was like nothing I had ever felt. I had no one to turn to. I didn’t know anyone who had autism, much less a parent who had advocated for their autistic child.
All ideas, visions, and expectations of what I thought Winston’s life would be were instantly shattered. Winston’s diagnosis and the uncovering of who he is as a person has been the most important learning experience of my life. Winston is now five and is one of the most earnest, beautiful, brilliant, subtle and direct people I know. I wouldn’t change him if I had the power to. Winston might not be like everyone else, but I have come to realize that’s the point of life.
Everyday he teaches me to be present to my life as it unfolds. Winston’s actions gently remind me that tomorrow doesn’t exist, yesterday is gone and to always act according to my heart. Despite his many differences, there are endless gifts. After all, humanity can’t push forward if we are all the same.
In addition to Winston, I am mother to Constantin (2) and Olympia (1). I am a singer and use song to communicate throughout the day and to wind down during bedtime. Music is my language and in our home, music knows no end. My children are all exposed to different genres: pop, jazz, classical, lullabies, hymns, chants, and more. I have seen incredible transformation in Winston through the music therapy we do at home and outside of the home with other musicians. Music stimulates him like nothing else. We sing lullabies every night before turning in, the one time of day where he feels complete peace. (In fairness, this is the one time of day where we all feel complete peace!)
Lullabies bring me back to a place of safety, protection, and love, where I can go each night with my children. That’s why I created a lullaby album titled Modern Lullaby for parents and children to enjoy music together. The album includes covers from my favorite musicians, and an original track entitled “There You Are,” which I wrote for Winston at birth. Winston also has a singing debut on the album, and his voice takes my breath away.
Modern Lullaby will be released on June 3. Proceeds will go to Easterseals, a nonprofit organization providing services for people on the autism spectrum and special needs at large.
It is estimated that one in 68 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder, and yet, this diagnosis remains as misunderstood as ever.