Autism, family, Parenting

The Autistic Parent

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First, it needs to be said that I think there are many more autistic adults alive today than people realize, or are willing to admit.

Second (but still kind of first), it needs to be said that most not-on-the-spectrum people don’t understand that this is a lifelong condition. And that there’s nothing wrong with that. That we’re born this way, and while there are aspects of our natural responses to things that will make our lives very difficult, that’s no reason to determine we’re invalid as human beings.

Third (but really still first and second), it’s sad but true that many other parents just won’t get this. Not from a truly understanding and accepting point of view. For many, this simply comes out of not having the experience or the education, and lots of people are willing to change their perspective if they receive these criteria. But unfortunately, there are some that will probably never change, and that’s an ongoing battle (also a discussion for another post).

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I am autistic. I am also an adult (based solely on my age), and a parent of two sons. My oldest is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum; my youngest is showing no signs of being anywhere near the spectrum. Though research is tending towards autism being genetic, this isn’t uncommon, to have a “blended” family.

There are pros and cons to being a parent and having autism. You tend to be more patient with your children’s personal growth (“so he’s 16 months and not composing a symphony yet — and?”), more receptive to children who want to do their own thing (or “take the road less traveled”), and care a lot less about what other adults will think of your social status or whether your kids wear brand-name everything.

Sometimes, you’ll have a really short fuse, or attention span, and there are times when your kid really, really wants you to build blocks with them, and you just truly need to spend half an hour by yourself in another room. I’ve learned (mostly) how to push through and keep going when I hit the wall — especially if I’ll be the only “responsible” one home for another 90 minutes.

After a while (say, by the end of the week), I’m usually pretty tired, and really need someone else to step in and do most of the parenting for at least an afternoon. There are evenings when I simply don’t have much left to give in terms of emotional affection or playful engagement. It doesn’t for a second mean I don’t love my kids, or that I’m manipulative or a control freak. (These are common misconceptions.)

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Please don’t ask me to join the PTA, or be involved in lots of meetings with people around. Going to the special ed committee reviews is a necessary evil (and quite frankly, I’ve been told I kick butt there). If you’re a teacher/administrator, etc. and really need to speak to me, email or a phone call is best. I’ll be less nervous and more articulate in my own environment, with less other humans around.

Self-employment is often ideal, or at least working from home, but some of us can manage to work at “regular” jobs. I made it through 3 straight years of daycare before my second child was born. But being around that level of noise and conflicting stimulation for 6-8 hours, 4-5 days a week, got to be too much. So now I’m trying to work from home.

We frequently have “hidden” talents. Despite not liking to be in a classroom of 18 yelling children, I hold a High Honors degree in Early Childhood, and have also used it to teach dance to much smaller class sizes. Expressing myself in writing comes very easily, so I’ve finally decided to heck with the majority opinion (i.e. “an autistic author? ahhh, no?”), and am readying my first novel for self-publication.

Time management can be an issue to overcome. Some chores are just going to be difficult, too — sensory concerns (like the smells of cleaning solutions, or something like changing the baby) may just get in the way. And certain errands that involve getting into very stimulating situations (think going Christmas shopping — or even shopping on a random Tuesday) may present challenges that will never completely go away. But since we’ve been able to fly under the radar for so long (God knows I was never diagnosed as a child), chances are, we can develop coping skills for getting through such, again, necessary evils.

Being at home with a very energetic, very NT (neurotypical) toddler gets to me, too, sometimes. But this I know I can do. And growing up with a parent and a brother who are autistic, I bet Muffin will be very tolerant, very broad-minded, very willing to accept others as a work in progress.

And if things really do happen for a reason, then it’s no accident White Fang and I are how — rather, who — we are.

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8 thoughts on “The Autistic Parent”

  1. I loved this post and getting to know what it’s like for you!! My sister is raising two Autistic preschoolers and one NT and they’re all such amazing kids but very different obviously, heh.

    Liked by 1 person

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