Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t…
Usually my blog posts have three or four pars of intro before really getting to the point – I think that stems from university and a desperate need to waffle in history essays to get them anywhere near the word count.
Let’s forego that this time though, no more set-up, straight into it.
Here are 10 things I think it’s important to remember as a parent to an autistic child.
1) Most parents to autistic children will have similar concerns.
It is worth remembering that you are not alone. If you are battling for provision, or trying to get a school to make reasonable accommodations or feel that local amenities do little to be autism friendly it can feel very lonely.
However, you are not on your own, there are many millions of us trying to help our children navigate a world not set up with them in mind.
2) There is no destination, only progress.
As with any child, don’t stress about where they are against expected progress.
Don’t look years ahead and see some destination in terms of attainment or achievement, instead be proud of each achievement and see it for what it is not a part of some bigger whole.
I wrote about this in more depth in a laboured analogy between autism education and cricket. No, really.
3) You will become the world’s leading expert on your child.
Carry this confidence around with you – listen to others but don’t downplay your own experience and knowledge.
If you are in meetings discussing your child’s needs, others will have more of a formal understanding of autism and. valuable as this is, none will have your very specific knowledge of your child.
4) Spend time with your child.
If they have an interest embrace it as if it’s your own.
An autistic child may not grow up to have a large social group, arguably this makes their relationship with those closest to them all the more important.
Whatever the interest, it a chance to bond and share. My lazy assumption was that my eldest and I would bond over football and cricket. Instead it’s Minecraft and stop animation. it really doesn’t matter, it’s still father and son time. We made this together.
5) Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Things go wrong even when perfectly planned. Everyone gets frustrated. If you have a bad five minutes, don’t let it become a bad hour. If you have a bad day, don’t let it become a bad week.
6) Develop a thick skin.
Your child will have meltdowns, you might have times when you feel the glare of silent judgement from other parents who haven’t got the first clue about autism.
Deal with it, move on and forget about it. Do not allow the past to limit the present. Do not allow people who don’t matter to you impact on the lives of those who do.
7) Don’t overstate the impact of autism.
Every family has struggles, every child is challenging. Do not frame each challenge as if it is caused by autism.
We wouldn’t see a piece of art or a story by our child or kind behaviour ny them and immediately say – ‘ahh, that’s the autism’. Similarly you cannot see a negative and assign it to the autism and so only ever linking the neurology with a negative. The autism is helping to shape the wonderful whole.
8) It’s the environment and society that needs to change, not your child.
The world is not set up with autistic children in mind, that’s not their fault. They need to learn to cope in the world, but not to be someone they are not.
9) Everyone matters.
Remember that although your autistic child has needs so too does everyone in the family unit.
This especially applies to any siblings, their needs cannot be compromised.
10) Right now matters more than the future.
- I have written a book aimed at anyone starting on the journey of being a parent to an autistic child. Rather than being a book full of ‘Do this, don’t do that’ dogmatic advice, it is instead one aimed at giving parents confidence.