Parents of children diagnosed with autism are often left feeling like they are in unfamiliar territory and then there is the fear of the unknown. There are many things a family can do to help their child thrive and find success. If you are a parent of a child with autism and you are reading this post, you know how difficult it can be to manage your expectations and understand what it's like to live with a child who has autism as best as you can.
The following 10 things are things I wish I had known when my child was first diagnosed.
1. Autism is a spectrum disorder, it's a part of the condition, not the whole picture.
Autism presents in different ways for different people. Some people have sensory challenges, which might include hypersensitivity to sounds or an aversion to certain smells. For others, it might mean an affinity for patterns or an obsession with numbers and anything mathematical. Autism isn't a struggle, it's just a part of the condition and there are a wide range of ways to manage it. Autism does not get better or worse, it just is. It's different for everybody
2. Autism comes with challenges, not struggles. Autism isn't a death sentence. You don't need to cure autism, just help your child to cope with it.
Parenting a child with a disability can be tough and while it does come with some challenges, it is definitely not a death sentence. There are many people who go on to have a successful career, a family life, and have plenty of friends. It’s not about restricting yourself or holding yourself back to protect your child. It’s about enabling your child as much as possible.
3. Autism isn't a child's identity, it's just a part of who they are. It doesn't define your child, it makes them who they are.
The word ‘Aspergers’ or ‘autism’ can be scary to some people. Remember it’s not your child’s identity. It’s a part of the whole picture of who they are. Autistic children need to be understood, and their needs need to be fulfilled. Kids and adults living with autism, like all of us, can experience happiness and success with the help of empathy, understanding, and support.
4. Don't feel guilty. It's not your fault, It's not your spouse's fault. It's not your child's fault. It's not your friends' or family's fault.
If you're a special needs parent, it's very likely that you'll feel guilty - for a long time. You will experience feelings of guilt, sadness, fear, and anxiety. You might believe that your child's disability is because of something you did or didn't do. But it is not so. Remember not to let guilt settle in. You or anybody else or your child is not to be blamed for the diagnosis.
5. There will be tough times but don't worry.
There will be tough moments as a Special Needs Parent. The paths that come with parenting a special needs child are not straight, and they often come with several twists and turns. You will have bad days, weeks, months, and years. You might also get frustrated because your child will not be able to do something that they’re supposed to be able to do. It’s important to remember that your children are just going through a stage and that everyone has good days and bad days.
5. You are not alone.
There are other parents out there in the same position as you are. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You will get support and great advice from them. If you're the primary caregiver, you can also claim benefits. Check with your local council too for help. Get in touch with charities and organizations. Look around. There are so many good resources and support systems.
6. You'll make mistakes. You will mess up.
As a Special Needs Parent, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up at some point. Don’t beat yourself up, life goes on. When you mess up, just get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. We're all human, after all. Sometimes mistakes are what make us better people. Never give up and trust that if you're putting in the work, you'll make it.
7. Know your rights.
As a special needs parent, sometimes it can be difficult to know your rights and understand what you can ask for. So it’s important to know your rights. Your rights as a parent to advocate for your child are vast—and it’s the law. You should know what your parental rights are and how to take advantage of them. It’s also important to understand that the people who are around your child every day may not be aware of the rights that you hold as a parent. This is your opportunity to educate them too and get all the help you need and deserve.
8. Read as much as you can about autism.
There’s a great deal of information out there about what it’s like to raise a child with autism. So do your research on the condition and do your best to understand what your child is going through. Educate yourself about their condition, from day-to-day life as a parent and your child’s future. Read literature from parents who have dealt with autism themselves and find out as much as you can from experts in the field. Knowledge is power and reading as much as you can will help you know what to expect from your child, the support they may need and how you can provide it.
9. Go easy on yourself and remember to take care of yourself first.
It's important that we look after our own needs to be the best parent we can be for our children. Remember to "take care of yourself so you can take care of others." When some days are challenging, you will forget about your own needs. Make sure you spend time each day doing things that make you feel good. It could be anything like a walk or reading a book, watching TV, taking a bubble bath, or going out for coffee.
10. Don't expect your life to go back to normal - Autism will change your life.
Autism will change the course of your life. You won’t be able to go back to the way things used to be. You’ll need to arrange your life a bit differently. There are many things to consider, which include financial obligations, time commitments, and changes to your current lifestyle to accommodate the needs of your child. Sure, things will be tough at first but you'll find your feet and learn what works best for you and your family. And there will always be a light at the end
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If you have a child with Autism in your life, be it your own child, a relative, a friend's child, or a student, then Magic and Meltdowns is just the book waiting for you to pick it up.
It is the journey of the young aunt of an Autistic child Emma, who is also a part caretaker and Godmother to her. There are not merely words to read in this book, but emotions to feel, experiences to teach you, and a whole lot of research that will answer many of your questions about Autism.