Before my middle child receive the final diagnosis of High Functioning Autism, we knew he had some autistic tendencies, one of which was the requirement of a predictable, routine driven environment. I am a spontaneous, fly by the moment, live life adventurously type of person so when the counselor told us we would need to try to enforce some type of routine within Aj’s life, I lost it. I genuinely thought I was going to be miserable raising this child, because I do not much like the constraints a routine driven environment brings. With that being said, I do know children thrive on a consistent parenting style, but Aj was going to require a strict more predictable lifestyle than I was ready to offer.
I was basically told that I have to do what I need to in order to raise my child to the fullest as well as to work towards keeping meltdowns to a minimum, routines and predictability seemed to be what Aj thrived on. This was new to me, after all I raised a pretty adaptable little girl who went with the flow of things and really didn’t seem to care if we hopped in the car for a sudden ride or trip, she was my first born and to this to this day, she is still an adaptable, resilient child. Aj is not his sister, nor is his brother like him either; each of my three children bring on a different style and level of parenting for me. Aj was my first experience of raising a second born child, who was not at all like his older sibling. I am always up for a challenge, but when I found out I would need to get a handle on setting up some form of visual routine for Aj, I nearly lost it.
My anxiety hit me. I didn’t want to conform to such tight rules and regulations in my life. I did not want this at all, but I did want and love my child. I knew I had to suck it up, find my unselfish ways within and learn to become even more selfless than I already was as a parent. I could do this, but it would take some time. Within a year or two, I was able to nail down a pretty solid routine that I wrote up on a poster board. My first experience of setting and enforcing a strict, predictable daily routine was during Summer break. I felt Summer break brought a more lax time for us as a family and in turn would be the most opportune time to set forth my experiment in seeing how well Aj did after he had a more predictable world.
Aj thrived. Aj became more adaptable and he quickly built trust within the four walls we called home, beacuse he felt secure and safe, he knew what to expect on a regular and in turn learned to adapt without a meltdown to rare unpredictable moments. Aj will turn 9 in August and anyone who knew him back in the day can see how far he has come; it took his Dad and I a lot of long, hard work as parents to get Aj here, but we did it. I no longer need a poster board routine up on the wall, because our lives have become so routine driven for the benefit of Aj that we all simply mold to that naturally. Brother and Sissy know that if they want to go to the beach spur of the moment or take a trip to Grampa’s that we need to prepare Aj for it.
We all work together to make sure the life we have as a family unit works. We go by our family motto; Peace, Love & Happiness, every single day. Raising a child with high functioning autism has opened our eyes to have a deeper level of education and empathy on special needs children. We are so blessed to have Aj in our lives, more so than he even realizes. My advice to you, as parents, is to remember that sometimes our kids do not mold into our standards or expectations, sometimes just sometimes, we need to mold to form our parenting style to our children, even if it means changing how we have lived our own lives forever.
Children are a true blessing that we must work hard to educate, raise and love … no matter what.