We didn't choose autism but it chose us. Although autism can be difficult and scary it has surprisingly brought our family some unexpected gifts. A lifelong gift, that I will never take for granted, learning to be non-judgmental and accepting of others differences.
Early on when Benji was diagnosed, I would take the looks, stares and inappropriate comments about Benji personally. Raising a child with autism, I’ve learned to tune out negative judgements and to not cast judgement on others. Another favorite gift is meeting so many people on the journey who I never would have been connected with otherwise. I’m wiser now...because of my son and my daughter and because of YOU. So much wiser than I was after graduating with degrees from two Ivy League Schools. Where I am proud of my academic achievements, I cherish the lessons that have come with being Benji and Carly’s mom.
For many years, our primary focus was helping Benji. By the nature of our struggles, our second child, Carly, was at times, lost in the shuffle. However, despite our focus being more on Benji, Carly became a strong, independent child earlier than most.
In the spirit of being of real and honest, since I am so open about both Benji’s successes and his struggles, let me tell you about Carly. She is a high achieving kid - academically, socially, and in many extracurricular activities. She is an accomplished and graceful dancer. Who knows where her dancing skills came from, because they certainly didn’t come from either of her parents?!?! Carly has more focus and determination than anyone I know, which sometimes causes friction. I’m a little more chill, she’s a little more high strung. We’re still working on finding that happy middle ground.
When Benji gave his TEDx talk, we met many incredible people who have also overcome herculean life challenges. One of whom Carly found fascinating leading me to another unexpected gift of Autism. The opening speaker at TEDx was Tina Reine who overcame her own share of struggles from being born with facial deformities and undergoing multiple surgeries. Take a look at this bio….
A Columbia Business School graduate, Tina has a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance. At 43, inspired by Cirque du Soleil Tina was determined to become an aerialist. Nearly two decades older than everyone else in her first class, she persisted through the intense training required to become a professional. Tina began choreographing her own routines and entertaining audiences with her awe-inspiring drops, grace and effortless style. Tina has performed as the featured aerialist at Miami’s Fontainebleau and at the famed Art Basel. Her most unnerving performance was being suspended from a crane 60 feet in the air over a sand pit Tina’s goal is to use aerials to inspire others to be courageous in mind and body and to “fly” in ways they never thought they could. She is the subject of a profile in Marlo Thomas' book "It Ain't Over Till It's Over.
Not only did we meet Tina, but she offered to work with Carly to help her with acrobatics. How lucky for Carly that she now gets to learn from Tina! Another example of an unexpected gift. This week, Tina began teaching Carly about performing using aerial silks and the two dancers bonded almost instantly! While we might have attended the TEDx talk had Benji not had autism, but we never would have met the other speakers personally , or had the opportunity to make an everlasting bond with one…