Feeling vulnerable sucks. Self -doubt, worry and a lack of direction can be downright miserable. Working with and/or raising kids with autism will undoubtedly trigger a whole tidal wave of these emotions at times. The only people who are immune are those who maintain a safe distance – detached from the person whom they serve.
The good news is that it is precisely when we are vulnerable that we are open to the greatest gifts: love and compassion. Think about it: When we have it all together and feel as if we are in control, we don’t need others to the same degree that we do when we are “weak.” We aren’t even particularly open to God.
Years of raising a son with autism and teaching students with autism have taught me that we acknowledge that we cannot do it alone and that we need help, only then are we open to accepting compassion and love from others. Having all the answers, hiding behind expertise and calling all the shots is the best way to burn out ourselves and alienate others. It’s pretty darn hard to love someone who lives this kind of façade.
Perhaps the greatest gift of autism has been the fact that I could no longer keep up the “I am in control, got it all together” smokescreen. No, my son and the students I have taught demand a village. A village that works collaboratively and supports its members – especially when they are the most vulnerable. Those with autism have taught me that strength and courage are real when humans allow themselves to be comforted, buoyed and guided. In the village, we take turns being the needy and being the needed. Love, compassion and growth grow in the garden of vulnerability.
Thank you to those with autism who have taught me this lesson. I need you, as much as you need me.