I tell you it is a relief to have a diagnosis that fits for my eight year old son, but it doesn’t make parenting any easier. Having a special needs child, that doesn’t need special education isn’t easy. Also, having a disability that isn’t really a physical disability, is difficult as a parent. More often than not, I find myself making excuses for my son, really it’s not excuses, it’s honesty. You see, there is a wide range of uneducated people in our society who have not a clue about disabilities that are invisible to the naked eye.
As a parent to a child who has high functioning autism, it’s rare one will notice his disabilities, they are not obvious and really they can come off as if he has a bad attitude or is not a polite kid. That is not the case. You see, Aj sees the world in black and white. It’s really simple, but we all usually live in a grey area, that small space in between the black and white thinking that my son exhibits. Not only is raising a child with autism difficult, parenting your other children who are not on the spectrum can be hard. Aj’s siblings have to remember that he needs a solid answer; if he asks you something you have to commit to a yes or a no. If you are asked about a time of an event or a specific time allotted for electronics, you have to be very clear cut and honest about the limits.
As a free spirited person by nature, it’s hard for me to pull in the reigns so to speak and be that grounded parent all of the time. I have a lot of sarcastic responses for my children and while Aj is starting to get my sarcasm a little bit, he still struggles with it and one sarcastic comment on a bad day for him, could set him into a mood. My mission as a parent, to all of my children, is to ensure their home is a safe place, a place where they can be free to be who they are without any guidelines other than common courtesy, respect and manners. I want all of my children to thrive in the ways that work for them. Aj has his own ways about him, what gets him ticking is video games or YouTube. You see, Aj likes to watch YouTube videos about the latest and greatest video game releases. Aj is the child who can know a game inside and out before sitting down to play it. It’s amazing how smart he is and how well he learns just from watching YouTube.
At one point in time ,we discussed getting rid of game consoles altogether, but have found this is something that makes Aj happy, while we may see it as an addiction and really it borderlines that at times, overall it’s a research tool he enjoys using to calm down. If Aj is wound up or in a rough mood, he can watch a YouTube video and feel better. While Aj has other tools he can utilize such as coloring at school, his safe place at home, is where he prefers to use YouTube for calm down time. The other way Aj calms down, if too wound up and I take electronics completely away, is to sit on the recliner with our pug and pet her. I love how therapeutic our pug is for Aj.
One thing I have noticed with Aj is that he is one way with me and another way with his Dad. I noticed he internalizes a lot of his feelings and opinions when he is with his dad. This means he will do a lot more on his own at his Dads but then come home to me in a mood because he held things back for the whole weekend. I hope to change that for him, because it is no fun missing your child for two days just to have them returned all bottled up and frustrated. Aj’s world needs to be very predictable and as you all know, life is so unpredictable, but what I can do as Aj’s parent is to ensure people around him realize this and have compassion for him.
I am not about coddling, but reality is Autism is very unique and every child with Autism has their own unique ways about them. If you were to ask me what autism is, I would say it’s nothing more than you and me. We all have our own quirks, do you have OCD? Do you have anxiety? Are you a sensitive person? Those are traits that can be expressed by autistic people and it’s easy to work with once you get to know that person and work in ways that benefit their individual growth! I truly hope that more people who are not experienced in invisible disabilities, will open their eyes and hearts to those suffering from the stigma that comes with invisible disabilities.
We are all different, it’s time to embrace that and be there for your fellow human beings with love, compassion and kindness!