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As I sit here by the warm glow of the fire, I find myself once again, reflecting on our life, living alongside autism. This isn’t something new for me, I’ve done it so many times through the years. But tonight is different. I am calm and at peace and feel overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of accomplishment.

You see, I’ve known for many years that I would never be an empty nester and instead, I will forever be a caregiver. My son Jordan is 27 and autistic. I am his guardian. The road to get here has been challenging, marked by moments of doubt and sadness, but today, our life is in a place I always thought was unattainable.

When Jordan was diagnosed with autism at five years old, our world was thrust into a whirlwind of uncertainties. There were days when the weight of the unknown weighed heavily on my mind and times when getting out of bed and facing another day felt too heavy to bear, like an insurmountable task. Jordan’s negative behaviors and struggles to communicate cast a shadow over our lives, making every day a battle against the unknown.

The school had me on speed dial, and there were countless times I would hesitate before answering, already bracing myself for news that was seldom, if ever, positive on the other end of the line. Everyone in every school knew us on a first-name basis, but it wasn’t a popularity contest. And certainly not a popularity contest anyone would willingly enter. It was a testament to the challenges he faced daily in a world he was trying so desperately to figure out. We became familiar faces in every school office we encountered, not by choice but through necessity.

RELATED: “Your Son Has Autism; You Should Begin Looking for an Institution.” (We Said No.)

Our journey has been a relentless push forward even when the path seemed obscured by darkness. I often talk about how I narrate life to Jordan without the comfort of reciprocation. A one-sided dialogue that often leaves me wondering if he truly understands the depth of my commitment to helping him navigate life.

It was always my unwavering belief in the possibilities that kept me going even on the darkest days. Celebrating small wins and milestones became my lifeline although there were undoubtedly moments when I missed recognizing the progress we were making amidst the chaos.

Tonight, I find myself wondering when life stopped feeling like a constant walk on eggshells. The turning point wasn’t marked on a calendar or tied to a specific age; it was a gradual process. When did the weight of being a helicopter mom begin to lift, allowing for more independence for both Jordan and me?

It wasn’t a decision I made, but a gradual realization that he was capable of navigating certain aspects of his life on his own. It’s a delicate dance between fostering independence and providing supporta dance that continues to evolve.

Sitting here tonight, I find comfort in the peace I feel within our home. It’s a peace that didn’t come suddenly, nor did I ever believe it was possible. It wasn’t a sudden revelation, but instead, it was a series of moments and lessons learned over time. The journey of growth and understanding that unfolded over time as Jordan matured, and I evolved alongside him.

Life is undoubtedly easier now, though not without its challenges. We still face difficult moments, and challenges persist, but the frequency has dwindled. Autism doesn’t go away with age, but those dark moments no longer cast a shadow over our lives.

RELATED: I Found Light in the Darkness of An Autism Diagnosis

Living alongside autism is a unique experience, and each step forward is a testament to the resilience of both parent and child. As our children grow and learn, we learn beside them. It is a journey that transforms us.

For other families navigating a similar path, I encourage you to always hold onto hope. Believe in the possibilities and know that wherever you are in your journey isn’t where you will stay. Your journey will be filled with twists and turns, and over time, you will find your place, and it does get easier.

So here’s to the quiet victories, the unspoken progress, and the warmth of the fire that tonight, for me, symbolizes the peace we’ve found in our journey. I hope our story serves as a beacon of hope for those of you who may be struggling right now. A reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel even when you don’t believe it and can’t see it.

I know you didn’t plan for this parenting journey, and it isn’t easy, but I want you to know, that from someone who has been where you are, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt, worth it.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Shannon Urquiola

Shannon is mom to two young adults, her son Jordan is 27 and her daughter Madison is 25.  Jordan was diagnosed with autism when he was 5 years old, and she is his full-time caregiver and guardian. Shannon founded Not Your Average Autism Mom, a non-profit organization whose mission is to equip families with resources, training, coaching, and community support.

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