Friday, April 26, 2013

Parenting and the autism spectrum

When my children were first born, I had the same hopes and dreams all parents have. I envisioned driving lessons, dance recitals, and late nights waiting up for them to return home safely. I was eager to teach them, counsel them, and help them become unique and independent beings.

Early into my parenting journey, I realized that my expectations had to drastically adjust to what was becoming our reality. We now have two children with autism. They are bright, beautiful, and full of life. But, they also quite disabled.

My eldest son does not speak. He is heavily reliant on us for most of his day. He has an incredible belly laugh and smile that is super contagious. But, he requires constant support and supervision.

My daughter is not nearly as reliant on us, and thankfully has speech that is continuing to develop. She as a stubborn will to succeed, coupled with intense anxiety in new situations or environments.
She loves the outdoors, exploring, and animals.

I also have a precocious typical son thrown into the mix. He is my absolute hero. He supports his autistic siblings in every way he can. He is able to find constant joy in his life, that can be quite challenging.

When you are parenting children with autism, everyday routines and excursions can be challenging. Sometimes you feel judged by those that have no frame of reference for what you are going through. Other times, you feel incredible support from parents who are like yourself, or at least make an effort to appreciate and value your child as a unique and important member of our community.

The fact is, autism is incredibly common. It would behoove all of us to learn what we can about this ever increasing disability.

My advice to those that know a family with an autistic child, or children, is simple. Remember they are children first. The disability is secondary. Autism also varies greatly in severity for each individual. Get to know the child. You might be quite surprised just how much they do know, and can do!

I am a proud parent of 3 very unique and spectacular kids. Two of them, just happen to have autism.