Life comes with a lot of uncertainties and a child’s autism diagnosis can bring even more. We have no idea how our children will develop, how much progress they will make, and more than ever we worry about what will happen to them when we are gone. Even with all these uncertainties, here are some things that I know for sure about autism parenting:
Parenting a child with autism is not easy. It will take an emotional and financial toll on your family. There will be days when you will break down and cry. There will be days when you will need help and no help will come. There will be days when you will doubt yourself and feel guilty that you are not doing enough. You will wonder if another therapy, or gadget, or school will make a difference. In the end you will realize that all you can do is your best because this journey is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
Parenting a child with autism can make you empathetic. Remember the days when you used to look at that big kid in the stroller and shake your head? Or maybe you saw a kid having a meltdown in the grocery aisle and you wondered why his parents couldn’t control him. When we become parents of children with autism, it changes our whole perspective on parenting. Instead of being judgmental, we think that maybe that child is in a stroller because he wanders and bolts and that is the only way his parents can keep him safe. We know what it is like when our child has a meltdown, so when we see one in progress we offer a kind hand or even a look of reassurance to say it is okay, we get it.
Parenting a child with autism will make you become their biggest advocate. As parents, we have to fight and we have to fight hard to make sure our children get the education and services that they need. We know that if they are to have a fighting chance in this world we have to put as much into them as we can when they are young. Not only do we become their advocates at IEP meetings, but we become their advocates when they are out in the community. We know that in order for the world to accept our children we have to continue to speak up for them and make the world more aware of what autism really is.
Parenting a child with autism will make you appreciate the little things. So often we hear and read about what our children cannot do. As parents of children with autism, we take every chance we can get to celebrate every milestone big and small. It could be something as small as our child saying sorry in context or putting on their own shoes. We know the hours of speech and occupational therapy they needed to make these things happen. It brings us joy to know that progress is being made. The milestones we celebrate do not come on an age-appropriate chart. We never know when they will come or if they will come but when they do we rejoice.
BMWK: What has being a parent of a child with autism taught you?