As parents, we had an inkling that one of our toddler’s might be on the Autism spectrum but hearing those words from the psychologist and seeing it written on the report took the wind out of us. The day (about 13 months ago) our child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) occasionally replays in my mind and I vividly recall sitting on the floor and crying once the psychological exam ended. What? Why? How? Immediately I attributed the Autism diagnosis to things I did and didn’t do as a mother. The mom guilt flowed in abundance as we embarked on a new way forward.
Here are the 5 things I have learned and continue to gain insight on as a parent with a child with Autism:
- Get over Myself- Mom/parent guilt has a way of sucker punching you over and over again without merit. My child’s diagnosis was not about me but I spent so much time blaming myself. I kept wondering if there was something I could have done to switch course or if I should have noticed things/signs sooner. In reality, I was burning time and energy that could have been used to address the current situation. Once I allowed logic and wisdom to join the equation, I was able to release the blame placed on myself and navigate the obstacles ahead. So, if you’re wondering if I ever book a trip back to the guilt train the short answer is yes but I only ride for a couple of stops then hop off.
- It Takes a Village- After my child’s ASD diagnosis, the early intervention therapies went from 2 hours per week to 23 hours per week. It was during the pandemic so thankfully I was working from home and could be present for each session. The term “it takes a village” has taken on new meaning for our family and we are grateful to have a strong support system in place. Our dedicated team of specialized teachers, therapists, social workers, doctors and loved ones has contributed to my child’s growth and development. Additionally, I have been able to connect with other parents with children on the spectrum. We share experiences, challenges, techniques and lots of jokes about chicken nuggets.
- It’s a Family Affair- Early on we decided to share the Autism diagnosis with family and friends. It was evident that our toddler twins were at different developmental stages. While we could have easily attributed the differences to their individuality; however, I found it to be emotionally liberating to inform our loved ones. Plus, if we needed babysitters, it was best if they knew how to appropriately care for the children. Furthermore, we took the opportunity to educate our oldest child who was starting to make comparisons about their twin siblings. We wanted our oldest child to know about Autism, not only because of our family composition but it’s important to know when interacting with their peers at school. We want all of our children to treat others with respect, compassion, and grace.
- Communication is Everything – While our child is able to label things, repeat phrases, write words, and read sentences, much of their communication is predominately non-verbal. We have to use observational skills, learn cues/gestures and rely on visual aids as forms of communication. This has allowed us to tap into our creative side with the use of charts and picture magnets. While this can be a source of frustration for our child we want to empower them to use various types of communication to express their wants/needs.
- The Unknown Future- Since our child’s ASD diagnosis I have often wondered about what the future holds. I think about as they grow older, advance at school, meet new people, travel to new places, and explore career aspirations, how will they do and how will the world treat them. Then, I paused and told myself I have the same worries for my other children, and my job as a parent is to instill in them essential core values and equip them with the skills/tools necessary to succeed. I don’t have control over what happens next but I can guide my children to be ready for the ups and downs in this thing called life.
This is my first time writing about our experiences with ASD. I am still learning so much about Autism and our child but I know there are other families out there who can relate. Feel free to post a comment below and follow me on Instagram at Mommy_Scoreboard.
Hello and welcome to Mommy Scoreboard. It’s been several years but I remember starting my college application essay with the sentence, “You can always find me with a pen in one hand a basketball in the other.” I enjoy writing but the sport of basketball has been my ultimate joy. Fast forward and now I am the proud parent of three children, a happily married woman and an accomplished recreational basketball player. If I had to update my essay sentence it would read, “You can always find me with a pen, a basketball, a kid or two, a mobile device, a skillet, random toy part, a sippy cup, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and face masks in my hands”…WOW, have times gotten better!