In nature, there are many examples of beautiful transformations that occur after extreme “pressure.” We all know of the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. Another example is the transformation of a chunk of coal into a diamond. The process involves an extraordinary amount of time and an equally extensive amount of pressure and heat. What’s interesting is the material that will become a diamond begins deep below the earth’s surface. Over time, the intense pressure and heat causes an eruption that brings the diamond closer to the surface where it can be collected. What results is an indestructible stone of great value and beauty.

When thinking of my life as a caregiver of a child with autism, I reflect on the intense experiences that have changed me to the core. Years ago, as I was coming to terms with my first son’s diagnosis, I was an emotional wreck. The tears did not seem to stop flowing. I had to change my hopes and dreams about his future. The scary thing was, I could not fathom what his future would look like because I did not know what his cognitive development would look like in the coming years. At the time, he was 3 years old and not talking. What would his future look like if he never gained speech? Also, he was not interacting with peers and had a hard time in most environment where there were many people, like restaurants, shopping malls, and movie theaters. Our lives (my husband and his sisters), were drastically altered. So began the deep, soul-changing pressure.

As he began to improve in communication and as we began to understand what we could do to help him integrate into different environments, some of those fears melted away. He began talking and communicating his wants and needs. We were able to go to restaurants (well, only “certain” restaurants that had the food he liked to eat). We could go shopping as long as we brought things to keep him entertained or were shopping for things he liked. So, with adjustment, change, and time under pressure, we were able to see the diamond emerging in our son and in us, as compassionate and patient human beings. Seeing other families experiencing similar things opened our hearts and minds toward nonjudgmental compassion. Seeing his struggle acquiring new skills expanded our patience.

These are only a few benefits that we attribute to our intense experiences with autism. These are only a few of the “diamonds” that have emerged to the surface. Take time to think about your pressure and the intense experiences that you are enduring or have been enduring for quite some time. Now, search to find your diamonds.

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