When I think back on this journey of parenting a child on the autism spectrum certain bullet point topics stand out to me that will define your journey as a parent, your child’s journey as a person with autism, and the journey for those who can selflessly join in for the ride.
What stands out to me most are: behavior, communication, and friendships. When you pick these further apart communication stands as the top tier because through therapy we have been taught that behavior is communication, and how do you have friendships, honestly relationships in general without communication.
So I want to talk to you about the evolution and importance of communication within an autism family .
You need to learn to communicate about self-care. Asking for a break does not equal selfishness or weakness, it shows that you are strong enough to recognize when you are not your best self that your child, family, friends, whoever needs you to be and by speaking up and asking for a break you are actually stronger than I was three years ago.
Communicating with your spouse or significant other things like “I’m sorry that I lost myself to “saving” our son.”, or “I’m sorry I ignored you, and your needs because I only thought his mattered could be the difference between marriage and divorce.
Speaking up to demand evaluations or referrals from your doctor could mean the difference of receiving early intervention services for your child or waiting until they are school age…… had I not questioned our pediatrician for over 6 months we wouldn’t have had the amazing services that we received for YEARS before even beginning school programs.
Speaking honestly with your family and friends about your child’s diagnosis changes your life. I will forever be grateful for the mama who came to my table and said “I am not ashamed of autism, and you shouldn’t be either.” And truthfully I was, I was hiding a secret that was eating me alive, it ruined friendships, strained relationships, because I was afraid those who knew would look at me like I did something wrong. I had no idea the compassion and help that would come from the truth.
Speaking up and letting friendships go isn’t a sign of weakness mama, it shows that you are smart enough to recognize what is building you up instead of tearing you down. I’ve said goodbye to friends, even family members on this journey who couldn’t recognize when I was in my darkest days, who didn’t care to reach out to try and lift me up, who judged me instead of sat in my corner. Don’t stress over these people friend, because the tribe who will be waiting to lift you up is coming ten fold…… I know, I have them for the first time in my life, and not only do they see me and support me but they’re rooting for my son too.
It’s ok to say “this just isn’t working out” to a therapist, a clinic, a doctor…..it happens! There is always someone who won’t click with your child, and don’t force the round peg into the square hole to try and make it work. Preserve the friendship, and carry on. Find what works, don’t add stress to your load and your child’s just by trying too hard for too long.
And finally communicate with your amazing and brilliant kiddo. Narrate the days even if they can’t respond. Remind them how brilliant they are while you look into their innocent eyes. Sing to them while they can only hum along. And NEVER stop telling them how much you love them because with a word, or a touch, or a squeal they will tell you that they love you too If you just learn to communicate.