Journal It


Your pen will not judge you. Just promise yourself that if you write about the bad, you need to share all the goodness in your journal too.

For the past few years, I have been writing a book discussing the challenges involved with raising a child with autism while being in the military. Raising a child on the spectrum can be stressful and challenging, but with multiple
PCS moves, deployments, trainings and being told where to live, you can feel like you are operating in hyper-drive with no signs of slowing down. About two months after Broden was diagnosed, I started a journal. I would drop off my son at ABA therapy and then I would go to a local coffee shop and start writing. I would write about anything I was thinking about that morning. I was conscientious of not censoring any of my ramblings or the length of my
writing each day. Did I have a reason for why I was journaling? Absolutely not. I just felt like writing because I needed to calm my mind and find a way to process Broden’s diagnosis. If I was angry, I would yell in my journal. If I was sad, I would write and cry. The little green book became my friend who only knew how to listen.

One journal turned into two journals and eventually I was storing them in drawers and bookshelves around the house. Last week, I visited those tattered books again. The first journal I wrote was very angry. The pages were filled with scribbles and questions like, “Why is this happening?,” and “What are we going to do?” As I grew to understand how important ABA therapy was to Broden’s progress, I started writing questions about how we were going to find care for Broden at the next installation. Would the EFMP be more engaging than the last EFMP? The fear of the unknown consumed me. As I read through my journals, my style of handwriting started to change. I wrote down stories of meeting other families who had children with autism. I shared my fears, but then would have a side
note of an organization or point of contact that I could reach out for assistance. In my journals, I found first
names and phone numbers of people I had met in local supermarkets who had children on the spectrum.

After reading my journals, it was apparent that writing was an important part of working through my healing process. If I could write about it, I had a choice to either revisit it or close that chapter and let it go. There were some pages I wanted to read over and over again because I documented the first time my son said “I love you,” and the moment I held my son singing a song, and he made eye contact touching my lips as I sang, so he could feel the
words. My journals have shown me how far we’ve come, showing the highs and lows. The pages revealed the ugly
moments, and the moments when I realized tomorrow would be another day to try again. It is easy to focus on where we need to be, or which of Broden skills are still difficult for him to master, but it’s good to revel in how far our son has come. The more I thought about it, these journals reminded me of how far he can still go.

I’ve started to keep paper and a pen by my bed. There is no need to hold on to regrets or let dreams that I have for our son be lost and forgotten due to the daily grind. If a thought is written down, it can stay with you as long as you want it to stay. I encourage you to start a journal if you haven’t started one already. Your entries do not have to be elaborate. If you’ve had a bad day, knock it out on paper. Be honest. Your pen will not judge you. Just promise
yourself that if you write about the bad, you need to share all the goodness in your journal too. You’ll appreciate it when you revisit your life history on your bookshelves because then you’ll realize that all the hard work you have put into raising your family has been worth it.•

Your pen will not judge you. Just promise yourself that if you write about the bad, you need to share all the goodness in your journal too.

Journal It
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Hood, TX. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.

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