What is "success"? -

What is “success”?

While reflecting on this experience with Emmett in the previous post, I started thinking about this whole “can an Autistic child be successful?” thing. I think maybe we been overlooking the obvious here. Missing the forest for the trees…if you will. We get so caught up in the debate that we can’t see what’s happening right in front of our own eyes. Whether or not a child with Autism becomes rich and famous has NO Impact on them being successful. The life of an Autistic child, while full of challenges, SHOULD be the standard from which we gauge what success really is. Some people will never understand this but as challenging as it can be raising a child with Autism, imagine BEING a child with Autism.. An Autistic child overcomes obstacles each and every day that we as “typical” people could NEVER begin to comprehend. I would argue that not one of you, including myself, could walk a mile in their shoes. The constant sensory assault alone is more than most of us could even begin imagine. What about the lack of communication skills? How do you think it feels to be sick, in pain, afraid, sad, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed or just alone and not always or even ever, for that matter, be able express those feelings. How about being socially isolated because “no one understands you”? What about the demands we as their parents put on them (with the very best of intentions) to “succeed”?  How would you do? Would you be able to handle even a fraction of these things? Oh..and trust me, there MANY, MANY, MANY more that remain unlisted.

In my opinion, a child with Autism, regardless of their spot on the spectrum, is the very definition of success. Despite ALL of these challenges they persevere. Autistic children love unconditionally and are endlessly forgiving. They never give up and try to please everyone around them, regardless of how cruel the people around them can be. In many ways they work harder then any of us do because NOTHING comes easy. Even seemingly insignificant things like making eye contact with someone is an AMAZING accomplishment, especially when you understand how truly difficult and even painful that can be for them to do. Ounce for ounce and pound for pound, that tops what most of us do in a day. They have also, quietly managed to do something else along the way. As special needs parents, we work really hard to teach our children about “life”. We spend all this time focused on their “success” and their future that we often overlook something very significant. So what are we overlooking? Let me ask you one simple question. Who’s teaching who? Think about that for just a second. The reality is that while we thought we were teaching our children about “life” they were the ones teaching us all along. It’s like when you watch the movie “The Sixth Sense” for the first time you just didn’t “see that coming”. However, when you watch it a second time you “can’t NOT see it”. That’s the best way I can describe the moment you realize this. All along our children have been softening our hearts and opening our minds. Through the meltdowns and fits, we learn compassion and patience. Every “little” victory taught us not to take ANYTHING for granted. Perhaps most importantly, they have taught us true, unconditional love and acceptance through their example. They love us despite ALL the mistakes we make along the way and if your like me, there’s quiet a few. That my friends, is SUCCESS, no matter how you slice it.

To many people fail to see this. Would it be great if our Autistic children could be successful by “societies” standards? Sure it would. That said, how many of you are successful by those same standards? I would suspect that many of you are not, no offense. Why is it then that we hold these children to the very same standards that most of us aren’t living up to? Sometimes we need to step back and re-evaluate things in order to gain some perspective on a situation.  I’m guilty of this myself and even with all the my experience over the last 10 years, I’m still learning. I think that society as a whole, needs to gain some perspective on what success really is.

We worry so much about our Autistic children being successful in the future, that we miss, in so many ways, just how successful they already are. If you can’t see that, then perhaps, you should step back and gain some perspective yourself. 🙂




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This is a happy and well-adjusted kid – pretty much what we all want for our children really. 🙂


Success is always relative..my success in treatment is always measured by how much difference I make with the family. I once worked with a boy who had worn the same clothes for 2 years (mum was in a constant cycle of washing them when he was at school) and ate nothing but chicken nuggets from mcdonald’s. Success for him was wearing a new pair of pants and eating a biscuit he’d never tried before 🙂


Exactly. Very well said. .


Well said and thanks for reminding me to be more loving and less expecting. It's a reminder I need to keep in the forefront 24/7.


Thanks Rich.

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