It’s not very often that I outright give anyone advice. I may stress the importance of certain things, but I dislike telling anyone what to do because everyone’s situation is so different and I’m not walking in your shoes.
Having said that, and in the spirit of Autism Awareness month, I thought I would break from tradition and offer some advice for those of you out there, just beginning your Autism Parenting journey.
One of the things I remember the most upon hearing that my son had Autism, was a profound sense of my world crashing down around me. I felt like I was unprepared for this new journey and frankly, I was.
I was heartbroken, angry, scared, confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t know what Autism was, let alone anyone who’s been down this road before, who could help guide us. I wish someone had been there to share this with me at the time, but at least I can offer it to you now.
My goal is to give you some things to think about and hopefully put into your tool bag, to use as you see fit.
- An Autism diagnosis will change your plans, but you’ll learn to adapt, make new plans, move forward and find happiness together.
- Stop the blame game. Don’t even go down the road of searching for someone or something to blame. People often blame themselves, vaccines or even God. So many parents get hung up here, and there’s absolutely no benefit to this, so move forward. Deal with the now, it needs your attention.
- Doctors and Autism experts have gone to school for a very long time and know a great deal about Autism in a clinical manner. They are an excellent resource that should be utilized whenever possible. You are, however, the expert when it comes to your child. You have the real life experience that many doctors and specialists don’t. There’s a difference between clinical or book knowledge and shit smeared on the wall, ear shattering meltdowns, sleepless nights, sensory overload and having to face the real life consequences of your decisions kind of knowledge.
- Become an expert in your child. Learn about every diagnosis your child has and use that knowledge to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Both allow yourself to feel and forgive yourself for any unpleasant emotions that you experience as an Autism parent. It’s not an easy job, and you’re only human.
- Make connections with other Autism families, they can be a tremendous resource and can help you feel less isolated. Always remember though, that everyone’s experience will be different. One of the best connections you can make is that of Autistic Adults. They are a truly amazing resource and most are very happy to provide you with invaluable insight that can help you better understand and meet your child’s needs. Autistic Adults have been a lifesaver for me on many occasions and have become some of my closest, most trusted friends.
- Don’t just expect your child to enter or engage within your world. You need to be willing to engage them within their world as well.
- Always hold your child with Autism accountable. In the real world, everyone is responsible for their actions. It’s important only to hold them responsible for things within their control though. You don’t punish a blind man for not being able to see, but you would certainly hold them responsible for getting behind the wheel of a car and running someone over.
- Always trust your gut. You’ll learn that you have an innate sense of what’s going on with your child. You will know better than anyone else when something is wrong. I always hear people tell me; I wish I had just trusted my gut. Learn to trust your gut, even if you end up being wrong.
- Throw your expectations in the trash. Allow your child to be who they are. Guide them through this life with love and compassion. Embrace how they see and experience their world because it’s truly amazing. You may even find that your child with Autism is the one teaching you about life and not the other way around.
One thing that I left out of this list because of how important it is, and wanted to mention on its own is this. For the love of God, please take care of yourself. You’ll be driven towards putting all you have into your child but that will only be sustainable for a limited amount of time and your kids need for the long haul. Make yourself a priority. Make your marriage or parenting partnership a priority. A wise man once told me that before I can be selfless, I must first be selfish….