5 Lessons I Learned About Success From Parenting a Child on The Spectrum


My son has Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is on the Autism Spectrum and affects learning plus a host of other developmental issues.

When he was three, his diagnostician gave me the bad news. She said my son would never read, run, or swim.  She also told me he wouldn’t ever play organized sports, ride a bike, or go to college. 

At first, I was shocked. Tears sprang to my eyes. But something snapped in me. And I fought those stupid tears back; infuriated. I scooped up my son and said, “How do you know! Just WATCH HIM!”  As we walked out, I was determined; my son WOULD be a success. 

But raising a child on the spectrum is a long, hard road. 

My son was fearful of everything. He cried, I cried. Gradually, he started achieving a few milestones, then overcame his fears. Years went by and to help him thrive, we used a combination of love, strategic parenting, and therapy. 

He learned to read. He learned to swim, bike, play organized sports, and even graduated high school. 

Not only did he achieve everything the therapist said he wouldn’t achieve, he also snorkeled with giant sea-turtles, sailed a 54’ sailboat in the Caribbean, learned to ski, and caught a roosterfish while deep-sea fishing. 

Now, my son attends college, works a job, and drives a pickup truck. He volunteers with disabled and disadvantaged children.

He became successful because we believed and had a vision. I knew the process forward would push us to our limits.  But I believed in him. Eventually, he caught his own vision and made things happen for himself. 

Maybe you also started out with dangerous dreams, but then, tragedy struck. Perhaps you woke up one morning with chronic health problems or you lost a relationship or a job.

Those dreams you had got shoved aside. Now you just hope. Someday, hopefully, I’ll get promoted.

Someday, hopefully, I’ll be able to quit my soul-sucking job and start my own business. Someday I’ll find the partner of my dreams and fall in love.  But hope isn’t a strategy to fullfil the life you want. 

How do you achieve goals even after bad things happened to you? 

Here are the 5 things I learned about success through raising a child on the spectrum. 

1. Resilience and Persistence Pay Off

My son’s friends were crushed when they received bad grades or didn’t make sports teams. But, my child already overcame so many challenges, he simply set to work on solving the problem. 

He learned resilience. 

Be persistent towards your goal and keep your eye on the end-game. Promise yourself you won’t quit, even if you have to face challenges.

2. Optimism is more important than achievements

No matter how much you achieve, if you are a pessimist, you will never truly be happy. 

Optimism is something you can claim, right now. Focus on your desired outcome and dump the fear. Think about the good things and good things will come. 

3. Self-confidence sometimes comes through incredible hardship

My son didn’t start out confident. He was afraid all the time. Asperger’s children have their fight-or-flight response switched on permanently.  

With each success, he grew bolder. 

You may not feel confident every day, but you can credit yourself for making it through the tough times in your life. 

Look back on your life. If you had a rough childhood filled with poverty, abuse, or tragedy, you are a survivor. Other people would have given up, but not you! Give yourself credit for surviving. . 

4. Risks are scary but necessary to succeed.

My son was paralyzed by fear when he learned to swim. 

He literally thought he was going to drown. In order to put his head underwater, he had to convince his mind to calm down so he could take the risk.  

Yes, sometimes risk is utterly terrifying. But, step outside your comfort zone anyway.

When you say yes to opportunities, you’ll be rewarded with success.  

5. Unshakable Belief Means Never Quitting 

You’ll encounter obstacles and twists and turns. When you raise a child on the spectrum, it seems like success is one step forward, three steps back. 

It’s so frustrating, because you can’t see the progress you’re making and absolutely nothing is predictable. 

It’s the same with your own success. One day things are great, the next it looks like the world is crashing down. Success comes to people who don’t quit. Go all in, and don’t look back. 

Success isn’t determined by our upbringing or the amount of moneyin our bank accounts, it’s the ability to stay the course when life gets rough. 

So when the world insists you, “can’t succeed.” You can proudly say, 

“Oh yeah? Just watch me!”


My son at age 13, St. Croix U.S.V.I.