It’s hard to believe I have now been an autism mom for seven years! I remember those early days that seem so far away now. Tough days outnumbered good days. I couldn’t answer the riddle that was my child. I felt overwhelmed.
If I could go back and tell my early autism-parent self some things, this is what I’d tell her. I’d tell her to log off the computer, grab a piece of chocolate, and focus on breathing for a few minutes. I’d tell her to stop doing these three things.
Comparison comes easily to autism parents. You compare yourself to other superhero parents. Parents who have more children than you, whose children have more needs than your child, who seem to run on no sleep and seem ok. You compare your child to another child on the autism spectrum. You feel guilty because your child can talk and other children can’t. At the playground, you compare your son’s coordination with other boys his age. Compare, compare, compare. Comparison drains you. It puts you on edge. Comparing pushes downward. Instead of comparing, focus on something else. Focus on what your child can do. Change your perspective to one of gratitude. Think about ways you can help others. Comparison starts in the mind, so play mind games with yourself to change the way you’re thinking.
This may seem counter intuitive. After all, don’t I want to do the best for my child with autism? Yes. But if you’re like me, you may research yourself into a black hole. You can’t think of anything else. You can’t have a conversation with your friends unless it’s related to autism. You lose joy because you’re overwhelmed by the massive amounts of autism information out there. Rather than drown in research, take breaks. I chose what are the best ideas for our circumstances at that time and let the others go. You have only so much time, so much energy, and so much money. Train yourself not to feel like a failure if you don’t get to every potential therapy or treatment. You can look for new information in six to twelve months or more when you attend the new autism conferences.
Autism naturally comes with a lot of struggle. Our kids struggle because of their challenges. Parents struggle to find solutions. Family and friends struggle to understand. Why add more struggle? Instead of fighting with your child all of the time about various things, do what the old adage says and “pick your battles”. This is vital to your survival! You simply cannot survive always being in fight mode. Let me give you an example. I forced myself to give up societal dress code expectations. I had to loosen my standard. By allowing soft clothes that didn’t necessarily fit the expectation, I gave my son the ability to focus his attention on things other than his uncomfortable clothing. I also gave up on my carpet and other pretty household items. Frankly, with all the meltdowns I was dealing with, beautiful carpet just didn’t matter anymore.
Please know as I say these things, I’m talking to myself as well. I’m not up on my pedestal talking down to you. I’m in the trenches with you and I need these reminders just as much! If you can find a way to reduce fighting, minimize researching, and stop comparing, I think you’ll be a much happier special needs parent. Or at least less stressed overall. And that, friends, can make a huge difference in helping your child with autism succeed!
Jenny Herman wants to live in a world where dark chocolate dispensers reside on every corner. As a homeschooling special needs mom, she’s been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine, Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum, and various blogs. If she survives the onslaught of testosterone in her home, she may take a moment to blog, read a book, try a new recipe, or loom knit a gift. You can find Jenny’s book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life Amazon. Discover her tips for special needs parenting, hands-on homeschooling, and pressing on at jennyherman.com.