As a parent of a child with autism, I know firsthand that there are challenging moments for the support network to a person with special needs. I’m an optimist and inspirational speaker, and I tell families (and I remind myself sometimes!) to look for the good moments to lift your spirits and improve your day. Make the most of every moment.

In Emily Perl Kingsley’s essay "Welcome to Holland," she uses the metaphor of excitement for a trip to Italy that becomes an unplanned trip to Holland to describe the experience of discovering and treating the disability of a loved one.

The essay says to me that it is important to embrace the attributes that Holland has to offer. Says the author, "If you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things… about Holland." For a person with autism and her support network, a baby step such as making a new friend or trying a novel food may be an enormous milestone, which should be savored.

One baby step that stands out to me was the day my son Wills began occupational therapy. We were so nervous. That was also the day, for the first time, Wills asked, "What’s wrong with me?"

Even though I was apprehensive about how the session would go, Wills participated fantastically in it, and he asked when we’d return for another one! This was a huge step toward Wills having many good days to come.

We’ve had our share of difficult days, but little triumphs like participating in a first therapy session filled us with hope. I wouldn’t change one freckle, one misunderstood moment, one tiny piece of Wills for anything in this world. When my partner and I have bad days, we still embrace and appreciate all the good we have too: the progress, our love, our son.

When you and your child with special needs are having a hard day, try to look for the good moments — big or small, past or present — and remember that you are not alone. Know that those with special needs and their loved ones present one strong community for support!

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