The Joys of Raising an Autistic Child
In the world of Autism, we often hear about the depressing and painful parts of raising our kids, rarely do we hear of the wonderful parts of it. Our children are amazing individuals that have countless advances to add to this world as they grow. However, while making a purchase at the store the other day a gentleman asked me what I did for a living - I told him I was a writer and a mother of 2 awesome boys with Autism. His response was that he was “sorry.” He honestly looked me in the eyes and told me that he felt sorrow for me because I have Autistic children. That reopened my eyes to the stigma surrounding Autism and parenting an Autistic child. We hear a lot about Autism throughout April, as it is Autism Awareness Month, now that April is over that doesn’t mean that we should stop spreading the awareness. Let’s start by spreading some awareness to the wonderful parts of our children and our adventures raising them!
The Wonderful World of Autism
When our children are diagnosed with Autism it is often like we boarded a plane to England and landed in Mongolia. It is so much different than what we expected raising our children would be like. Along the way I have learned that with the bad comes the good. The thing is, Autistic children are each so unique it is hard to compile a list of the greatest things about them, but there are some real ringers out there that seem to apply to most children on the spectrum. Whether your child is high functioning or low functioning, they are amazing individuals that deserve praise.
Despite research in the past stating the contrary, our children are extremely empathetic people. Especially the higher functioning kids. They may not always know they’re necessarily being empathetic, but they are extremely loving and empathetic children. They are not just sympathetic when someone is upset, they are empathetic with the person that is upset. They feel your pain and happiness alongside you. They also tend to bring people out of their shells. I have seen people step out of their comfort zones and into ours to better understand my child. That is an amazing gift.
They are hilarious individuals as well. Whether it be the jokes that some high functioning children like to tell or the simple quirky looks that the lower functioning children give their parents from time to time. They are simply hilarious. My son can keep us laughing for hours.
These children are fighters too. They fight for everything that they achieve with an amount of passion and willingness that most people will never muster up in their lifetimes. Every word they say they worked for, every grade they pass in school-they labored extra hard to pass through (whether it be academically or socially), every accomplishment they make is made by clearing hurdles that you couldn’t imagine unless you live the life that we live as parents of them.
Parenting an Autistic Child
As a parent of an Autistic child a lot of us fundamentally identify as Autism Parents above everything else. It is our world, the reason we live and breathe. It is our smile and our laugh. Our children are our world. Growing a strong relationship with our partners is key though. While the divorce rate of parents of Autistic children is higher than the rate of those with children without Autism, the devotion between the parents that stick it out is deeper than any devotion I have seen before in my life. In some cases, Autism causes the love between two people to grow exponentially. Two people that can come together to raise a child with special needs is a beautiful thing. It isn’t as rare as you’d think looking at the divorce rate either. The parent’s that I see working together make it look like a cakewalk. They go through the motions of calming their child or doing their daily routine with such grace it deserves praise. Autism, and really any disability, can really bring a whole family together as well.
It isn’t always the cases where you hear that the in-laws don’t get it, or Aunt Sue can’t be respectful of your child. In some families they learn about Autism together. They help each other like they are a team. The way it should be. Not only does this benefit the parent’s and their relationship to have the family there to help, it helps the child with outside socialization and bonding. There are times when I feel like my family doesn’t really “get it,” but when it comes down to it- they are there when I need them to be there and that makes all the difference. They love my children no matter what. But what about the instances where families do split apart? Even in those situations, Autism can be a beautiful thing.
More divorced parents of special needs children have found ways to support each other in a more civil fashion because of their child’s need for them to be on the same page. Even if you are unable to hold your marriage together, Autism will always hold you together, if you let it.
It isn’t all about your relationships with others either. You learn a lot about yourself while raising a child with Autism. One thing that you will find while raising an Autistic child is that you will take a much more methodical approach to handling work and home challenges. In the past, I kept doing the same things the same way, despite the outcome. I now have the knowledge that so much can be accomplished if I just change my approach. With the schedule and routine that I must follow with my son I have learned that sometimes you really must set down and figure out the best way of doing something, resulting in a much better end product.
Gratefully, I also really learned to define myself as a mother by my son’s Autism. I was young when he was born, and I’d like to think that if he hadn’t been special needs I would have handled being a mother the same way but the reality of it is that Autism slammed into me at a great speed, out of nowhere it seemed, and forced me to grow up; forced me to become a great mother. It also defined me as a woman and led me to the career that I have today.
However, I think the biggest wonderful change for me while raising an Autistic child has been in my own personal “thickening of skin.” While some may look at that and think that it cannot be a wonderful point in my life with Autism that I have had to develop a “thicker skin.” It is. Before raising my son, I was a hyper-emotional person. Every single thing got to me. Raising my child has really helped me get this under control to the point that it is manageable. People can be rude and being able to let it roll off my back helps me daily.
What are some of the wonderful things about raising your Autistic child or adult? What are some of the greatest things that Autism has taught you about yourself or helped you learn to cope with? Let everyone know in the comments.