Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Autism Has Changed My Life

Tightrope

It's been 8 months since Arif's autism diagnosis and I can concur that raising a child with autism certainly comes with its own set of unique challenges. There are financial, emotional, psychological and even physical demands, but it can also be a rewarding and positive experience. 

Here are some of the ways that autism has changed my life... for the better.

1. More focused on my children
Autism has shifted my focus. These days, much of my time, energy and resources are dedicated to helping Arif cope with and slowly conquer his inability to speak and communicate, learning delays, sensory processing issues and behavioural challenges. But because I am dedicating so much attention to Arif, I also have to make sure that my eldest son, Amir, does not feel left out. Amir is an intelligent child, but he has a problem with keeping his focus. He needs constant help to keep motivated and to try his best at school. So I would say my life priority now, more than ever, is my children.

2.  Learning to say "no" and working less
As a freelancer, I don't have a steady income, and in the past there have been times when I felt I had to take on every project that came my way, so that I can save up for the future. After my son's diagnosis, and realising the costs that it would entail, I unconsciously went into a kind of "overdrive." I took on lots of projects back to back and sacrificed rest to get more done. I suppose I was worried that we wouldn't have enough money to pay for Arif's therapies or for future contingencies.

As a result, I exceeded and doubled my target savings for the year. But that came at a price. At the end of the year, I felt almost completely burned out. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I realised then that this was no way to live. So, at the start of this year, I made a conscious decision to become more selective of what I choose to spend my time and energy on. As someone who is a bit of a workaholic and can't really sit still, I'm still learning to say "NO," not just to potential job offers, but to myself. I found this quote and it's what I live by these days.

"I don't say NO because I am so busy. I say NO because I don't want to be so busy."

3. Embracing minimalism
Autism is a life-long condition and therapies, such as occupational and speech therapies, as well as Early Intervention Programmes (EIP) are costly. Arif also needs special toys and equipment that we use for his home therapies and sensory integration activities. Since I have reduced the amount of work I can take on, I'm also earning less and much of what I earn monthly goes to our savings/ emergency fund and paying for therapies.

So you see, autism taught me the value of money. I am a collector... I love collecting, especially vintage pyrex and collectible tins. But since autism became a part of my life, suddenly these things don't hold the same appeal to me anymore. I find myself not wanting more collectibles and I've been reading up on embracing minimalism as a way of life. I started selling my collections online, on Facebook and via my Carousell store Rifimemeshop, to help raise funds for Arif's therapies. Online garage sales take time and energy, and it's often a slow process. Sometimes, it's hard to let go of things. But I always try to think of the bigger picture and why I'm doing it in the first place.

Will I be getting rid of all my collections? No, probably not. I'd still like to hold on to a few things that "spark joy" in me. A person like me needs a hobby :) 

Have you had a life-altering experience that has changed your life and the way you look at things? Let me know in the comments below. 

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