We have all heard the proverbial “is the glass half empty or half full?” It’s an expression we use to indicate whether we see the world as an optimist or a pessimist sees it. Well this expression can certainly apply to how we see Autism.
Today Autism is still considered “a glass half empty” diagnosis and people who are diagnosed often feel like there is something lacking or that they don’t “fit in” with what society considers “normal”. When parents receive the diagnosis for their child, many feel that they somehow weren’t served a full glass.
When my husband and I first received the autism diagnosis for our daughter Gabbi, I saw my glass as half empty. I thought about all the things that my daughter may not ever be able to experience….maybe she wouldn’t be able to graduate from school, or go to college, or get a job, or get married, or live independently. Lots of glass empty thinking….
My shift started when my husband and I decided that we needed help addressing some of the behavioral issues we were having with Gabbi. We worked with a wonderful ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapist who came into our home to observe our interaction with Gabbi. He gave us some very specific feedback, and the overall theme was that we should minimize the attention we gave to the negative behaviors we were seeing and focus on what Gabbi did well. In fact, he told us the things that we our give our attention too, were the behaviors that we were reinforcing. Now, we were actively looking for positive attributes and behaviors and that shift gave us a lot of relief as Gabbi responded very well to our specific and positive praise.
My path continued to evolve when I was led to start the Artistas Café program. As I trained and employed many baristas (all on the autism spectrum) I clearly saw how unique and talented each of them were. The instructions I had learned with Gabbi many years earlier worked very effectively with each of our students and created the positive work environment that we have today. In fact, we don’t call Autism a “disability” but a “Uniqability”. Disability comes from the perspective of glass half empty and Uniqability comes from the perspective of glass half full
One of the biggest lesson I’ve learned through my journey is that what’s more important then what’s in the glass is the fact that each of us holds the pitcher. Only we can fill ourselves up and the only things that do that are the positive things we focus on. The more appreciation we have for what we have and what we love, the more our glass fills up. So if you have a loved one with autism, begin today to list out the wonderful things that make them so unique.
Today, I am happy to report that I take every opportunity to do that so most days, my glass is full!