Meredith Spidel: Parenting a Child with Autism
The scene is a suburb outside of Philadelphia. A young mother panics as she realizes she just locked her 8-month-old son in the car with her keys. She frantically calls everyone she can think of: The police, AAA and the general 911 number. But the first people on the scene are the Amish firefighters, peeling in with sirens blaring, ready to come to the rescue.
It was this day that Meredith Spidel dubbed herself Mom of the Year. Not too long thereafter, she started sharing her adventures and mishaps with the world on her blog of the same name.
“We are all a mess in one way or another at this motherhood gig,” Spidel says. She combats ideals of perfectionism by spreading the idea that your best often is truly good enough, and that struggling through this motherhood journey together is better than taking on the impossible task of trying to do it perfectly alone.
Two and a Diagnosis
The years flew by, and before long Spidel’s son was an older brother. As his sister learned to walk and talk, he attended preschool, and then kindergarten. It was here that the issues were first identified. When they were brought to Spidel’s attention, she was taken off guard.
“I was totally shocked, derailed and terrified,” Spidel remembers.
He wouldn’t officially be diagnosed until the following year in first grade, but suspicions of Autism were already being raised. Receiving such news can be shocking for parents, who are all too often confronted with what their child will likely “never” be able to do. These feelings arise because they love their children and want them to have every opportunity.
With time you come to realize that your child’s differences are at the core of who they are. Changing the “disability” would inherently change the kid you love. Autism was not something that afflicted Spidel’s son; instead, it is a part of what makes him the amazing human being he is and always has been.
Today, Spidel is “thrilled to be a part of a growing community of awareness and support.” This community promotes the idea of neurodiversity — of which Autistic individuals are a part. It highlights the many talents and contributions of the Autistic community, like Spidel’s son’s natural talents in science and mathematics.
Those of us who are not on the spectrum, like Spidel and her daughter, are considered neurotypical. It can be difficult to walk the delicate balance of raising two children with different needs, but Spidel feels blessed. As someone who works from home, she has the flexibility to address both of her children’s needs, and has watched her daughter taken naturally to supporting her brother.
Turning the Corner
When Spidel initially received her son’s diagnosis, it felt like the world was falling apart. But as she kept going and learned more, she realized neurodiversity was something that added beauty and depth to her family’s lives; it was not a cause for grief.
In fact, no matter what your motherhood journey looks like, Spidel encourages you to keep going, learn more and push through the tough emotions until you can see that beauty:
“Everything is a season. The things you are horrible at today may be horrible. The pain you’re struggling with hurts, I know. But listen: There is always, always another corner to go around. Another side to the story. Another bit to be told. Whatever your season or story is now, there is another one to come. Hang in until you get there, and give yourself endless grace until you [do.]”