the next right thing


A fellow mom asked for my help the other day. She was overwhelmed and needed someone to tell her she was going to get through the place she was in.

I’m a pretty good person to go to when you’re in the Land of Overwhelm. I know that place like the back of my hand. I used to give tours, but well, they got overwhelming. But as a frequent visitor, I get it. Like I really, really get it.

So I offered this mom the words that have been offered to me over the years. The words that have served as a bridge from the land of Overwhelm to the land of Action. In part they come from my friend Emily, one of the dearest souls I’ve never met. In part they come (indirectly) from Luau’s mom. In part they come from my dad. And in large part they simply come from knowing what it means to feel paralyzed.

I’m not sure that the mom that I sent them to ever saw them. If she’s reading this, I sincerely hope she’ll check her Facebook messages so that she can see the note in its entirety. But in the meantime, I thought that perhaps she wasn’t the only one feeling like it’s just too much. Wondering how the hell she’s going to get up and face this all again today. And tomorrow.

So I share my response to her here. From someone who gets it.


You will do it my dear. You will just like we all do – one baby step at a time. One ‘next right thing’ at a time. Even if the ‘next right thing’ on some days is brushing your teeth.

When the mountain is overwhelming, I look not to the peak but to my feet. When I look up, I get paralyzed. When I set my focus instead on the mechanics of each individual step, I can keep moving.

And I say it to myself over and over. Just do the ‘next right thing.’

The prospect of a (second) diagnosis is terrifying, I know. But if it comes, it will bring with it knowledge, understanding, access – the lanterns that light the path forward.

I know you feel alone, but there is help out there, where you are. The Autism Society of [removed]* has chapters all over your state. There is a listing of local chapters here: [removed]*

Call them. They will be able to help. They have tons of resources and can help connect you with the services and support that you need. That’s what they’re there for.

It’s the next right thing.

Hang in there, lady. You can do this. I promise.



*There are a number of places to find resources right where YOU are. While they don’t exist everywhere, there are more and more LOCAL advocacy groups popping up all the time. Google “(nearest city) autism resources” and see what comes up. If you come up dry, there are many national organizations that can offer assistance and may be able to connect you locally. Some are listed below. Feel free to add yours in the comments. And remember, if there isn’t anything near you yet, you can always create a group of your own.

Autism Speaks

Autism Society of America

National Autism Association

The Arc

17 thoughts on “the next right thing

  1. Most days i feel like there is no way out of the Land of Overwhelm. There are always new challanges that brings back the feeling of helplessness and fear. Even after 5yrs since my son diagnosis i still experience from time to time the grieving process that comes with the realization that your child has autism.

  2. Last night was one of those nights that made me want to throw in the towel. I had to inform my little lady that the Kyle doll that showed up in her bedroom was not her’s as reported by her twin. It would appear that Kyle (yes, from southpark…I have no idea how she knows about southpark and I am a bit mortified that she does!) belongs to the language arts teacher at school. Twin reported it went missing around the same time that Kyle came to live with us (I was told Kyle was a “prize” at school from the little lady). Twin has been offered a reward for the safe return of Kyle. So, I informed my little girl that Kyle was not her’s to keep that she was just watching him for a while and that tomorrow, he needed to go back. And the devestation began. I redirected, I talked about putting Kyle on her Christmas list, I offered a “star” for letting Kyle go back without tears…I got nothin’. Then, in the midst of all this, twin decides he wants to “talk to me”. He tells me he does not think it is appropriate that I offer a “star” for returning the doll she took! YES! I know it is ridiculous, but I was only trying to avoid a meltdown and now I have a 13 year old calling me out on it! I finally walked away after getting everyone to bed and grabbed a glass of wine.
    As always, thank you for reminding me to stop looking at the peak, and concentrate on my feet! Becky

  3. cleaning up poop on the floor and many pairs of poopy undies lately totally overwhelmed. All the running every day to therapies and then the other 2 need a mom and to be picked up as well. I feel like my big girl undies have elastic that is shot. I can put them on but I have no idea how long they’ll stay up!

  4. Oh, I know the place of overwhelmed too. I just had a parent/teacher conference last Friday for my son. They *hinted* around to the fact that he may need to put on medication for his “hyper and impulsive” behavior. They also *hinted* that his behavior could put him at risk for being taken out of his mainstream classroom. I’m not knocking the school. We have a great relationship and work towards the same goal. I just never thought I would be faced with contemplating medicating a 6 year old. I feel like this may be his last resort. I’m overwhelmed that it’s do this or else. Of course, all of this is weighing heavy on mine and my husbands mind. I’m looking forward to his doctors appointment to see what he thinks about it. I’m just taking it one day at a time. You gotta put one foot in front of the other and do the best that you can.

  5. I have an extended visa to the land of overwhelm. Your words, as they often do, helped me realize that there are so many others in my situation. I am not alone. Thank you….

  6. Excellent advise. As the grandmother (Gigi please, I’m much to young to be a grandmother:) of an 11 yo on the spectrum, I have seen my daughter (his Mom) go through so much. We are lucky–when she has been down – I have been up and visa versa. We are a “well oiled machine” when it comes to brainstorming, etc etc etc. There are times when the machine slows to a mere crawl, but then something happens and it starts chugging away again.

    As Billy Joel says in the song, “Don’t forget your second wind”. Blessings to all.

  7. Thank you for this Jess! The Land of overwhelmed is trying to make me a permanent resident! We just started the process of working towards a diagnosis for our oldest child, 2 on the spectrum. At this point though, I realize that, in the case of my oldest, the diagnosis would be just that, a piece of paper that would enable her to get the help she needs, we have already been walking the path of 2 on the spectrum , the meltdowns, the sensory issues, the social quirks, speech issues ( or just a total lack of it completely) , the bully issues…for a while now. There is so much else going on behind the scenes, the daily battles with schools, dr’s, bus drivers, and even some family members. I feel battle worn, and exhausted.

    I have to remind myself that I CAN do this, that my kids NEED me to stay strong, because If I don’t, who will? The little engine that could ( one of my son’s FAVORITE books) comes to mind. “I think I can, I Think i can, I think I can…”

  8. It will get better, you will learn how to laugh again, and you will learn not to take the little things for granted. Baby steps lead to big strides. Yes, it will get better. Not perfect, but better. I’m amazed. I thought it never would.

  9. I have found that the phrase “it takes a village” couldn’t be more true than when it comes to raising a child on the spectrum. Everyone needs a village.

  10. Baby steps can take you great distances if you never stop taking them.

    I’ve been there too. And if I were guessing, I’d guess her child is in elementary school, and she has other kids. (Oh, wait, I’m describing myself a few years ago.)

    My Overwhelming child is now in 6th grade. It gets better. They learn. You learn.

  11. I am so proud of you. Please consider adding this to the “If you only read one” thing list (after changing the title from “one” to “two”) so people can go back and back to this post.

  12. Thank you Jess, just what we all need to hear! Also, I just received the Puzzle Piece earrings benefiting Autism Speaks that I ordered from your mom. I love them!!!!

  13. Sometimes when he cries when a new place, person, experience hits that nerve, I cry too. Frustration of wanting a regular (even dull) experience for a change instead of one fraught with whatever emotion comes bubbling out. Frustration stemming from the well-intentioned, but still dont get it looks of loved ones. And then we get right back at it and find something wonderful to glean from our “scary” new experience and keep moving forward.

  14. In many ways we (autism moms) are all living parallel lives. For those of us who blog, we tend to have similar themes/topics. I guess that’s what makes this whole thing easier. Knowing that you’re not alone and making connections so that we can make life better for our children. A few days ago I wrote about “eating 1 bite at a time and the next thing you know you’ve cleaned your plate”. Sometimes, it’s all we can do. Focus on the next thing … not the ultimate thing.

  15. I just wanted to tell you I came across your blog after googling “do the next right thing” a phrase I heard last night during therapy. Your response is inspiring and encouraging to anyone needing just that. Thankn you, I’m keeping it as a daily tip to remind myself to keep going, keep moving forward. Thank you.

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