If you’ve recently learned that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, you’re probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and a diagnosis of autism can be particularly frightening. You may be unsure about how to best help your child, or confused by conflicting treatment advice.
I can tell you that raising a child with autism is a long journey and you won’t have all the answers you’re looking for right away.
These are 10 things I’ve learned about raising a child with autism.
It’s not easy
I’m not going to sugar coat it, parenting a child with autism is not easy. We all have dreams about having the ‘perfect’ child and when that doesn’t happen it’s a serious blow. Managing the repetitive behaviours, meltdowns and outbursts is exhausting and stressful. The realization that your child is different from everyone else’s takes time to sink in.
It’s an uphill battle
Parenting, in general, is hard. Parenting children with specific special needs is filled with unimaginable stresses, difficult decisions and endless battles to ensure our kids are receiving the best care and access to the fullest lives possible. Our children’s needs don’t fit neatly in a box and as parents we need to adapt and understand this.
You are your child’s advocate
I didn’t anticipate facing all of the obstacles I have encountered as an advocate for my son. Since he cannot advocate for himself, I am his voice, I am here to ensure he gets the proper care and education he is entitled to. I advocate for my child with the hope that people will begin to empathize a little bit about what I, and many others in similar situations, deal with on a regular basis. If people know and understand, change will be more likely to occur.
You’ll have good days
Our children have their challenges and delays. Your child will make some amazing gains. big or small, and those are the most satisfying and exciting moments. Cherish and savour the good days.
You’ll have bad days. Really, really bad days
The bad days are exhausting and stressful. You might feel defeated and ready to throw in the towel. You might be thinking “this isn’t fair” and “why me?” But don’t give up. Find support. Get some much needed respite. Do what you need to do to tackle the bad days so that you’re ready to take on a new day.
You have to work hard with your child
Your child is likely receiving various therapies to further his or her development. However, the work doesn’t stop once the therapy is done for the day. As a parent, you have to continue implementing the strategies at home. It may seem overwhelming but don’t try to do too much at once. Select one, two or three strategies to choose from and do what you can. Your child’s therapists are there to support and guide you along the way.
Don’t compare your child to others
This is something that is easier said than done but it’s a super important rule to follow. Every child develops at a different pace and comparing your kid to one who is talking up a storm or a social butterfly doesn’t benefit anyone.
Be prepared to battle the school system
It’s a very harsh reality, one I didn’t think would be so difficult. I have learned quickly that the public school system isn’t going to greet us with open arms. You’re going to learn about IPRC meetings and IEP’s, etc. Ultimately, you want to put your child in the best possible position for a successful education.
Our children have a different way of learning
Every child is different and therefore every child has their own unique way of learning and absorbing information. Your child could be a visual, auditory or gestalt learner. These are a few examples of the learning styles of children with autism. You’ll quickly learn which style suits your child best.
Follow your instincts
You know your child best and if your gut is telling you something, nine times out of ten you’re probably right. Don’t ignore that inner voice.
This is your life now and this is your ‘normal’. There are no guarantees it will get easier, you will just get better at it with time.