Parenting a child with autism doesn’t come with a manual or a set of instructions. We dive in headfirst and search for answers along the way.
Here is some advice I would offer to parents who might be struggling or having difficulty coping, as I did years back.
1. It’s not your fault.
In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis.
I wasn’t aware of this at time of my sons diagnosis. I remember thinking that his ASD was somehow my fault. I constantly blamed myself. How could this be? What could I have possibly done to my son? I didn’t read to him enough. I didn’t take him to as many play groups as I should have. What did other mothers do with their children that I didn’t do? These were some of the many irrational thoughts running through my head. I now know it’s not my fault.
2. You’re stronger than you realize.
“You never know how strong you are. Until being strong is your only choice” -Bob Marley
This journey has required persistence beyond my wildest dreams. Max and I work as hard as we can and then push even harder. The days turn to months and the months turn into years that have come at the snap of a finger. I have found strength I never knew I had.
This isn’t about me, it’s about my son and his needs. I can’t sulk. I can’t complain. I can’t be selfish. I am my sons rock, his warrior.
3. Reach out for help.
I am fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive husband and I’m grateful that I’m able to lean on him during the difficult times. However, it is very important for families dealing with autism to have support from family members, friends and caregivers. You can’t do this alone.
4. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
I have come to understand that my child will develop and learn at a different pace than his neurotypical counterparts. Setting realistic goals and expectations for my son, and for myself, is the only way to approach this. I can’t expect my child to “catch-up,” or mature with age when I expect him to. All I can do is breathe in and take it one day at a time.
5. Believe in all of the possibilities.
In the early days, I focused on the things my son couldn’t do. What he wasn’t doing. I constantly asked various professional’s working with my son if they thought he was ‘high-functioning,’ It consumed me. Once I was able to see through the fog and educate myself, I got a grip on our reality.
I see so much potential in my son. I believe in him and I’m certain he will find something that he is truly passionate about. I know my son will do whatever it is he is meant to do. No one knows what the future may hold.
6. Take time for YOU
My son is my number one priority and that will never change, but it doesn’t mean I don’t need a break from time to time.
Ensuring he has everything he needs, driving him to and from school, to and from various appointments and programs, managing his behaviours, caring for him on my own when my husband is away on business and running a household, can take its toll. It can be draining and stressful and my free time is never taken for granted.
Whether it’s going for a manicure, taking a gym class or meeting a friend for lunch, we all need respite and time to ourselves.