As a parent, you never want to feel like or be told that there may be something going on with your child. I have experienced both of these occurrences multiple times in the five years I have been a mom. Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be scary, but it is also one of the most amazing things I have experienced in my life. For those not in the know, it is a condition that affects 1 in 59 children, causing sensory issues that can inhibit a person’s social skills. This journey has taught me invaluable lessons. Here are 5 things that helped me along the way.
Patience is Key
Patience was never an attribute I possessed myself. If someone couldn’t do something in the time I thought it should take, I would get frustrated and I’d be ready to be done with them. Now I’m no longer able to do that. The things that my daughter is capable of doing were not learned easily or in a timely manner. I had to understand that she processes things differently and she may not catch on as quickly as a typical child her age. I had to learn to allow her to take her time before I jump in and just do things for her. She has fierce determination to conquer certain tasks, and she typically ends up accomplishing them.
You’ll Need Thick Skin
You have to have skin thick enough for you and your child because people do not always think before they speak. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve heard “she doesn’t look like anything is wrong with her” or “she’s how old and still doing this or not doing that?” There are times where I would love to tell these overly observant people where to go and how to get there, I just resolve to exhale and keep it moving. Ending up on the nightly news would not be a good look and with the current state of affairs in this country, I’m definitely not about the prison life. Sometimes I’m patient enough to explain my daughter’s actions and other times I just walk away from.
Denial Doesn’t Help
Being in denial is one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make in regards to caring for an ASD child. We all want the best for our children, so we have to pay attention and take action when necessary. From the time my daughter was around 9 months old, I familiarized myself with the chart of milestones to be aware of what children are expected to do at certain ages. It is a must that you address any concerns with development immediately to get your child the help they may need. Don’t be embarrassed or worry about what other people may think or say. Being around my child every day, I know right now what she is and isn’t capable of doing. While she is highly intelligent, I am still cognizant enough to know that there are some things she may never be able to do. She has been through Occupational, Physical, ABA and Speech therapies her whole life because I decided to make sure she had all the help and necessary resources she needed. That is my job as her parent.
Cry It Out
Sometimes lying on the floor and crying it out is necessary. I, along with the many therapists who worked with us, had our share of concerns when she was an infant; she was not given an official ASD diagnosis until she was 3 years old. Although I knew it was coming, I still cried my eyes out that day. There have been many days in these last few years that I have cried until I was all out of tears. There have been many days that she needed or wanted something but was unable to use words to tell me. On those days, we got down on the floor and cried together. I know parents of all children have those moments occasionally. When you do, it’s okay to scream, cry, whatever you need to do to feel better. A good cry is almost like a religious experience for me. I always feel better afterward.
No matter what we go through, I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe everything happens for a reason. Even with the rough days and the hurdles she may face in years to come, I know that God gave her to me because He knew I could handle it. I will continue to be her advocate, cheerleader and biggest fan as long as I’m on this earth.
This post was written by Kari Johnson, mother to 5-year-old Dallas and the blogger behind Miss Dallas Does and Petty Young Thang. When she isn’t writing, she’s helping people get their footwork right via her sneaker business K’s Kicks. You can learn more about ASD at Autism Speaks.