Kim Pace. She is a pivotal person in Max's journey. She is the first person who reached out to us. She is the person who immediately saw Max for the awesome little dude he is. When I have struggled, she has lifted me up and given me hope. Our journey would have been very different without her.
There is a long list of people I never would have met if not for Max's diagnosis. I doubt I could list them all if I tried. Because of Max I have met some of the strongest, most generous of spirit, patient, and insightful individuals in my community. Whether they were reaching out to me as a mom of a newly diagnosed child with Autism, or giving me a knowing "ah, you're one of us" looks when we realize we both have children with special needs, they are all in my life because of Max.
Being a parent of a child with special needs also teaches you to see the world through a more forgiving lens. You become acutely aware that we are all works in progress. Some of us wear our challenges on the outside for all to see. Some hide them on the inside (but they are most certainly still there). You also take a serious look at how you define "happiness" and "fulfillment" and likely come to think of them in very different terms than that of your pre-Autism self.
Priorities and scales of importance change. It becomes very easy to not "sweat the small stuff' as you simply don't have the energy or time. You become more observant and notice people who do not fit the mold. Any fear or apprehension you may have felt previously when in the presence of a person with special needs disappears as you know they are "your people".
You become a better communicator, and you learn to receive information through more than just words. Max tells me things with his eyes, through is touch, and the sounds he makes when his words don't come out clearly. I speak much more succinctly and choose my words more carefully. Negative reinforcement is not effective with children with Autism (or anyone, really, for that matter). This changes your speech patterns from "No climbing!" to "feet on floor". It's amazing how the shift from defaulting to "no" to communicating what you actually want someone to do changes a situation and creates a more positive outcome.
I don't say all this to blow sunshine up your derriere or to pretend that I am happy to have a child with Autism. It is more of an acknowledgement of the life lessons I have been afforded because of Max. I truly believe they have helped me grow and have changed me for the better. And I can't imagine my world without people like Kim Pace.