If being an Autism parent was a video game, the difficulty setting would the three or four notches above the highest setting. That’s not meant to be a joke. Autism Parenting requires more from a human being than most human beings are capable of. My wife and I are no exceptions to this.
Over the last seventeen years, we’ve had to constantly triage our life, shifting our priorities on a daily basis, in order to meet the needs of our kids. It’s an exhausting way of life because there’s always so much to worry about.
I wanted to address some things that my wife and I worry about as Autism parents, as well as, how we’re addressing them in a positive and productive manner. I’m focusing on things that I have first-hand knowledge and experience with, but that is also likely to be common amongst Autism Parents in general. These may not apply to your life and that’s cool, but please consider sharing them with someone who may benefit.
As a special needs family, we have many medications in our house but we don’t use medications unless it’s deemed to be in the best interest of the person being prescribed the medication. In order to maintain safety in regards to medications, we educate ourselves before bringing any medication into our home. All medications are stored in a locked cabinet. However, for safety reasons, our kids know how to access and use emergency medications such as inhalers or EpiPens.
Being sleep deprived and exhausted Autism parents, we can make mistakes. Mistakes happen but with meditations, it’s extremely important that we avoid those mistakes because they can have serious consequences. In order to reduce or eliminate the risk of giving the wrong kid, the wrong medication on accident, our meds are delivered in pre-dosed packaging.
This means that all we have to do is match the name on the packet with the name of the kid and know whether it’s morning or bedtime. This has been a lifesaver when it comes to Gavin in particular. He’s on a ton of medications but they now come in two packets, one for in the morning and one for bedtime. We’ve been teaching him to somewhat manage his own medications because it’s important that he at least know how to do this. This approach makes that very possible for him to do so.
Check with your local pharmacy about receiving your medications in pre-dosed packages.
We’ve been very lucky in regards to wandering because we’ve only had a few experiences with it over the years. Those experiences, while few, were the scariest moments of our lives, so we take wandering very seriously.
Wandering is something that roughly half of those with Autism will do at some point and it’s extremely dangerous. It’s only happened a few times to us and it was Gavin in all cases.
There is absolutely no way to prevent a child from wandering if they are intent on wandering. The best approach is to limit it as much as possible and immediately intervene if a wandering event occurs.
The best way I’ve found to help reduce the risk as much as possible is to employ technology that monitors every single exterior door and window in our home. That will at least notify us the moment one of these egress points have been compromised and allows us to immediately intervene. We also have motion sensing smart cameras in our kid’s rooms to detect motion at night, while we’re sleeping. If one of our kids gets up and decides to wander around the house, we’re notified the moment they leave their room.
It may seem invasive but for an Autism family like mine, it’s all about safety.
We use smart technology provided to Autism families by The Vivint Gives Back Foundation. This is a non-profit organization that provides families of children with a propensity to wander, free smart home technology to help keep their kids safe. The monthly monitoring service is based on each families income and in my family’s case, we pay $15 a month. This has been a godsend because we couldn’t afford this kind of thing otherwise.
Many kids with Autism, like my own, are very trusting by nature. This can be sweet and endearing but also terrifyingly dangerous because they don’t always recognize that strangers can pose a threat. It’s very important to remember that kids with Autism tend to struggle in social situations. Reading and understanding social cues is inherently challenging for those on the Spectrum.
This is probably the most difficult thing my wife and I have to address with our kids. We can practice all we want but until they’re in a situation where they need to respond, you have no idea what they’re going to do.
My wife and I have been working with our kids from a very early age, about Stranger Danger. We’ve done our best to explain to them that they are never to go with or accept something from a stranger, especially if Mommy or Daddy are not present. I’d like to think that my kids understand how dangerous it is to go anywhere with a stranger, but the truth is, I have no idea how they would react. That scares me to death, so we continue to work on this.
One of the reasons this is so difficult is because while we never talk to or go with a stranger, there are times when it might be necessary. One example would be if they were ever lost and in need of help. My kids are typically all or nothing and understanding the difference here is not something that comes easily.
As such, all I can offer on this topic are some resources that we’ve found useful. I’m absolutely open to ideas and we can discuss them in the comments below.
I also found some information by The Cleveland Clinic and while it’s not focused on kids with Autism specifically, the information may be useful nonetheless. Click here.