As parents or guardians, we all want one thing – and that is to give our children what’s best for them. There’s nothing far greater than that of a mother’s unconditional love for her son or daughter, and there’s no stronger shield than a father’s arms when he’s protecting his little princess or young prince.
Oftentimes, we care so much that we sometimes forget the important things. Guilty as charged but with all good intentions – plenty of parents prioritize the happiness of their young ones only to discover that this happiness isn’t helpful at all in the long run. Some are even baffled as to how their reactions or discipline just can’t get their points through. The key to the balance of good parenting for children with “special” needs is KNOWLEDGE. Because experience is the best teacher – we’d want everyone to hear our compilation of information from parents of autistic children around the world.
Here are the top 10 things autism parents want you to know.
1. We have questioned everything – even vaccines
When your child is given a diagnosis, your mind is flooded with possible causes or risk factors. It is human nature to question, and to take everything into consideration. It is also natural to wonder, as a parent, is there something you could’ve done to prevent your child’s diagnosis?
The false claim of fake researchers that the use of vaccines on children led them to develop Autism is 100% untrue.
According to Healthcare Triage (2014), there was no valid credible source and trustworthy research done to prove that children who were receiving vaccines directly linked that event to cause their Autism.
The 1998 Lancet study that claimed vaccines for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella gave 12 children gastrointestinal and neurological disorders was fully retracted and proven false and misguided. It wasn’t a controlled research study – it was a description of what kids experienced!
Even in the face of scientific research, remember it is okay to question and explore all of your options as a parent.
2. It’s not the child’s fault
"Love because you understand, and not because you are understood."
Autism is not the child’s fault. No matter how annoying or frustrating it might get to care for your child; never, blame your child for having autism. They never chose this path themselves. As they have a huge difficulty expressing who they are and what they need, the tendency for caretakers to get fed up is at an all-time high.
A study made by PubMed Central (PMC) entitled “Caring for a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Parents’ Quality of Life: Application of the CarerQol” showed that caregivers had undergone a drastic change in their lives when dealing with the special needs of children on a long-term basis.
It is extremely hard to parent a child with autism. Parenting itself is hard as it is, and adding autism in the mix makes it all the more difficult.
Know that you are not alone with this experience, and learn to speak out to friends and family – they will hear you out and that will help alleviate some of the heavy load. Don’t take it out on the child. They too, are having it hard like you, internally and externally, and even more so than you can imagine.
3. It’s not your fault either
Sometimes we look to place blame, but it’s no one’s fault. It’s not your child’s fault or your fault that your child has autism. Sometimes, it’s easy for us to beat ourselves up in stressful situations.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.), scientists do not know the exact cause of Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research suggests that there may be a link to genetics, and that the environment may also play a role. However, there is no known cause for certain.
Keep your chin up and don’t blame anybody for the situation you’re in. Again, remember that you’re not alone and that you can handle this. Quit the blame game and focus on what matters most – your child’s needs and future.
4. Know and understand the disorder
Knowledge is power.
It’s very important to know everything about your child’s disorder, or as much as you possibly can, because without that knowledge, you won’t be able to understand the why’s and how’s behind your child’s disorder and behaviors.
Today, with the new age of science and technology, there’s no reason for us to not seek out the truth and knowledge in order to help not just ourselves but our child as well. (Remember, we’re doing this for their future.) Take out that cell phone, laptop, or tablet, do a quick but carefully chosen Google search and you’ll get the information you need. Make sure to use credible sources. Shy away from websites that do not quote sources or are heavily suggestive without concrete evidence.
Remember, there was a time when people were convinced that vaccines were directly linked to autism despite the fact that it was already proven that the statement was false and untrue to begin with. This is primarily because when someone lacks the true knowledge and understanding of all the facts and studies involved with Autism, they become susceptible to believing anything that sounds “new” and “convincing” without proper research and proof.
Of course, nothing beats talking to your medical professionals.
5. Good intentions are not enough
Though good intentions are a great start to our actions, it's not always best to go ahead and perform everything you think is right for the reason of good intents and purposes. As mentioned previously, you can’t handle the care of your child properly if you don’t have any knowledge to back it up. We can end up harming our child without even knowing it.
Take this child with ASD exhibiting a yelling indication common to most children with ASD: Watch video here
You could try to discipline your child in attempt to keep him quiet, but that likely won’t solve anything and you’d just be adding frustration to your child. We have to understand they are different, and the best way to learn how to deal with them the proper way is through knowledge and experience.
6. Always consult a medical professional
Rather than taking advice from people who think they know what to do (when they don’t have substantial knowledge or experience on how to raise an autistic child), listen closely to your medical professionals. These are the guys who are specially trained and knowledgeable of your child’s disorder. Find doctors and professionals who you trust and have confidence in. These are the ones who will be with you all the way and want only what’s truly best for the children.
Pediatricians, special education teachers, nurses, neurologists, psychiatrists among others are the professionals who will be working with you through this journey. Listen and learn from them. And, be sure to voice what you know about your child. Make your voice heard for you and your child as well!
7. Keep yourself healthy
“How can I help you if I can’t even help myself?”
“Be strong, not just for yourself but for the child.”
Don't lose sight of yourself or taking care of yourself when you have a child with autism. Without a strong foundation, your child will not be able handle this on his or her own. In order to be the solid rock that your loving child can firmly grasp on to in times of need, you need to keep yourself healthy and strong! Eat healthily, get enough rest, and stay away from things that are bad for you.
This all helps too because aside from feeling and looking great, you’re always available and will have the energy to care for your child. You’re setting a great example as a role model too!
8. Have a great outlet for stress relief
Closely connected to the previous message about taking care of yourself, it is also key to have a great outlet to relieve all of your pent up stress, anxiety, anger and worries. This will ensure that your mental focus and integrity will remain intact.
Seek out healthy and inexpensive ways to relieve stress. For example, you can take a vacation outdoors like camping or hiking. Exercise also plays a key role in releasing that stress, such as playing sports for leisure. Read a nice book or watch a movie, too.
9. Keep yourself updated
Did you know that back in 2012 Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and other neurological disorders were once separate disorders, but in 2013 they were newly classified under a single illness of what’s called Autism Spectrum Disorders? (medlineplus.gov, 2017)
To remain updated means to keep track of the recent advances and discoveries in science and technology. Every year, discoveries are made and breakthroughs in medicine are applied. Even as there’s still no cure for ASD, we don’t know what the near future holds.
So, keep yourself up-to-date with everything. What was once effective may now be even more effective with a new finding!
10. Be happy
As we approach the last of our top 10, we’d like to thank you, the reader, for having the strength and perseverance of a Superhero to take good care of your child.
Setting aside their struggles, parents and guardians of children with autism never seem to claim their child brought them unhappiness. It has been much of the opposite – they frequently boast that their child is a blessing, and they talk about the happiness their child has brought them. Did they want their child to have autism? No. But do they want happiness with their child nonetheless? A big whopping yes!
Parents around the world see happiness in their child’s eyes. Being “different” doesn’t erase the parent’s love and dedication. It merely fueled the desire to see them grow happy even more.
So, why don't you all give your child a hug. Tell them you love them. And give yourself a pat on the back. They may not be able to say it because of their condition, but you know deep down inside they are saying, “I love you too. Thank you.”
Sources and links:
Grolier’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge, 2012. “Autism” pg. 290