Guest Blogger – Teri M. Book RN, MSN, CPNP Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Hi, my name is Teri Book. I am the Nurse Practitioner at The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, a division of the department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine.  Our Blog Host has asked that I write a guest blog for her, she says she thinks I might write something that could help others…so here goes.

I have worked at The Center (previously known at as For OC Kids) for 12 years now.  I started here at the request of Dr. Pauline Filipek, a noted expert in autism, after she diagnosed my daughter with autism.  My daughter was 7 years old at the time.  I met Dr. Filipek at a Nurse Practitioner conference, where my suspicions were confirmed about my daughter’s unusual behaviors.  And so began a long journey with ended up with me being here.

I have learned many things in the 12 years I have worked in this center.  The most profound happened on my first day, when I met a mother who was a nurse like me.  She had a very involved child who had acted out and had been recently moved to a county program to help manage her many inappropriate behaviors.  The thing that struck me about this woman was how normal she was.  I think for the longest time, I felt that it was somehow my fault that my child was so unusual.  That if I was a better parent, or if I did things differently that she would seem less weird,  In my heart without really recognizing it, I think I believed that I was a less than person because of my inability to reproduce a “normal” child.

In this one interaction and in the many interactions over the next few months I came to realize instead of how resilient parents of children with autism can be.  I began to realize that I belonged to a group of intensely dedicated individuals, who face challenges on a daily basis.  I remember Dr. Filipek saying one time:  “I don’t know how she does it?”  My reply was: “She doesn’t have a choice.”

And so began my awareness and appreciation for the strength and character of the parents I work with everyday.  I am blessed with the opportunity to see people making a difference in their child’s and family’s lives.  Is it easy…no.  Would we be happy to step aside and let this opportunity pass to some other unsuspecting slob…you bet…well may be not.

Let me share a little of what else I’ve learned as a parent/professional.

  • That love means accepting.
  • I’ve learned patience both with myself and with others.
  • That one should be careful not to live their lives based on society’s idea of what it means to be successful.
  • That what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger
  • We are all much stronger that we realize until we are put to the test.
  • I have learned that kindness is a minimum criteria, it is so easy to give but often seems in short supply.

I have appreciation for others in a way I never would have learned without both my daughter and the foresight of my friend and mentor Pauline Filipek.  Today is a good day to be happy, no matter what your circumstance, because that’s all we really have.