The New Normal.

I’ve always hated phrases like, “the new normal,” or “it is what it is.” In my eyes these expressions are just the lazy person’s way of not trying hard enough to make a difficult situation better. We’ll just call it, “the new normal” and move on. I can’t make it better so, “it is what it is.” I’m getting older but it’s cool because, “50 is the new 40.” You get the idea.

When my youngest of four children was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, it felt like anything but normal. I refused to believe that this was her life. So I began to research ways to help her. I read every autism book, website, article, blog, I could get my hands on. I called doctors, therapists, psychologists, chiropractors, special educators, looking for answers. I was determined to do anything and everything to give her a better life, a “normal” life.

Then our journey began. We visited doctors who specialized in autism. We discovered she had candida, mitochondrial issues, vitamin deficiencies, gut bacteria, genetic mutations. We treated these issues with a strict diet, supplements, medications, essential oils. We began speech, occupational and physical therapies. We enrolled her in 20 hours a week of ABA therapy with the most amazing therapists! She began to attend an educational program for the autism impaired. She’s had the same wonderful teacher for three years who has worked very hard every day to find the most effective teaching strategies to help her learn and grow. She has taken part in music, massage and recreational therapy. We have visited chiropractors and neurologists. We tried neuro feedback for several months. We started brain balance exercises, 30 minutes a day, every day. We put her in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber everyday for an hour for several years. You name it. We did it. Much of it we still do.

So after eight years, her life is not even close to normal. Although she is making progress, she still struggles with socialization, communication, anxiety, OCD, sensory processing, and impulsive behavior. My dream of working hard and becoming one of the few success stories of complete recovery is still that…just a dream.

Now do I accept this? Is this the, “new normal?” Somewhere along this journey I have changed my focus. I am no longer fiercely trying to get her to fit into a world where she simply cannot. She is 11 years old and should be starting junior high next year. Will she have girlfriends, secret crushes on boys, try out for the cheer team, wear the latest new fashion trends? Although it’s been a tough pill to swallow, I know now that there is no way she will be able to do these things and I have accepted this. Does this mean I have given up on her? Not a chance! I have changed my dreams for her from the usual: graduate from high school and then college, have a successful career, get married, have children.

In my new dreams I see her learning to read. Right now she can read some site words but she hasn’t yet been able to read fluently. I see us sitting on the patio swing outside on a summer day reading and enjoying books together and laughing. She loves music and has the prettiest little voice. I see her singing with me and my other daughter in a choir someday. She loves to listen to her big sister play the piano. I see her learning from her sister and being able to play an instrument. I see her having complete conversations, not just answering questions with short phrases. I imagine her telling me all about her day. I dream that one day my husband and I will open up a coffee shop that employs special needs adults. I see her working there, feeling happy and successful! These are just a few of my new dreams and I’m willing to keep working hard and fighting for her to make these dreams come true.

This life I’m dreaming of is not normal, but that’s ok. And I refuse to say, “It is what it is,” because for us…it might just be perfect!!!!

Author, Catherine Berg

Catherine Berg lives in Shelby Township, Michigan. She is a part-time ABA therapist, substitute teacher, and waitress. She is also the mom of three awesome teenagers and one amazing 10-year-old autistic daughter!