Being a parent has a way of challenging you and making you grow, Sometimes in ways you never thought possible. Before I became a mom, I thought about what it would be like. I would think about holding my brand new babies, watching them sleep, taking them on walks.
God decided to bless my husband and I with our son Garris, who has autism. I had never thought about being a parent of a special needs child before. It comes with its own unique set of challenges, but I will say it has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I see things from a different perspective now. This journey with my son has taught me so much that I don’t think I would have learned with a Neurotypical child.
I thought I would share a few of the lessons I have learned today.
Don’t Be Hasty To Judge
God has definitely humbled me in this area. Not only do I have a toddler who is currently going through a phase of constantly testing his limits, I also have an Autistic son who is often times misunderstood.
My oldest son is non-verbal and we also think he has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). He is leaerning how to communciate but sometimes it just talkes a little while. He gets frustrated easily when he is unable to communicate his needs or when his routine is abruptly interrupted. These things can make him overly upset or lead to a meltdown.
When he has a meltdown, it usually involves crying, yelling. Sometimes this happens in public, like at the grocery store, and when your child melts down in public, it isn’t uncommon for people to react negativly and send some rude comments your way.
Rude comments hurt. I have even cried before. I don’t understand why people can be so mean with their words when they actually don’t understand what is going on.
Experiencing these things has made me realize that just because a child is crying hysterically in a store doesn’t mean they are being a brat. The child could be overtired, frustrated, have trouble communicating (like mine) or a lot of other things. Just because a child is being loud in public does not mean the parents aren’t diciplining their child, or that they are bad parents. There can be a lot of reasons thses things happening.
Instead of assuming the kid “wasn’t raised right”, it is better to have some compassion and understanding. Maybe instead of casting judgement, go up to the distressed mom or dad and tell them “hey, you’re doing a good job. Keep your chin up”. Tell them something encouraging, or leave them alone. I can promise you, they do not need anyone’s snide remarks.
Not to long ago, Garris had a meltdown in the grocery store. I was a little flustered. A very sweet older woman walked up and gently put her hand on my back. She said “you’re doing a great job. Don’t get discouraged.” Then she smiled at my boys and went about her day.
The few words she said to me made my day and gave me the mental strength to keep going. You don’t know everyone’s story. Be the person that offers encouragement instead of judgement.
Patience and Understanding
This is a big one. By nature I am not a very patient person. My level of Patience is being challenged every day!
I have had to learn to be patient, and really i’m still laerning. Garris has sensory sensitivities and like i stated previously, he is non verbal. He is very slowly learning to talk again, but he still has a long way to go.
Him not being able to speak can make him incredibly frustrated. This is where patience comes in. I have laerned, and am still learning, that when he gets frustrated and I don’t understand him, I need to be patient and try and understand what he is trying to tell me.
This in and of itself sounds very simple, however in the moment it is often times not. Many times his frustrations lead to crying and sometimes a meltdown. Although the meltdowns happen less frequently as he gets older.
My Child Does Not Need To Be Fixed
One of the most prominent messages I have gotten, either from articles I read online or just comments from others in passing, is that my son needs to be “more normal”. He needs to be “just like everyone else”.
Yes my son does have areas where he needs extra help, like with his speech.
It is a very common mentality of nerotypical people to speak about autisic people as people who need to be fixed. Who need to be more “normal”.
WHen Garris recieved his diagnosis, I kind of looked at him like this. Not that I saw him as broken, but I constantly thought about things that needed to be changed about him. Like his speech. I was so focused on gettin ghim to talk to he CAN communicate, that I didn’t understand I needed to find another way he can communciate, because the fact of the matter is, he may never be able to have speech be his main way of communicating.
My focus is helping my son learn how to work through the challenges he has. Not because I need him to be “normal”, because I don’t, but so that he can have an easier life. He can’t talk, so we focus on how to help him communicate where he is at right now.
I personally believe, from my experience and from hearing the opions of adults in the autisic community, that seeing my son as a person that needs to be fixed is harmful. It is harmful to him. I will NOT have my little boy grow up constantly being told that he isn’t whole.
I have found it to be way more constructive to meet him where hes at. Help him through the struggles he is going through, not because he needs to be like everyone else, because he doesn’t. But because thats what you do for your children, help them through their struggles.