I am in the middle of a parent training course for social communication and one of the parents reached out and sent an email to all the parents in the class for advice and feedback on how to best handle helping an Autistic child move forward. The parent was hoping that participants in our course would come to the class one hour early and have coffee and share some advice and experiences. So I thought I’d put my thoughts down on paper so to speak because I will never be able to get to class early.
“I understand where you’re coming from and the road we are on and the road our child is on is a different one then we were expecting when we first decided to have kids. I think that reconciling all the hopes and dreams we had for a child versus where they are developmentally can be hard. I think it’s okay to feel like you do because that’s your child and we only want the best for them. But I think for me what helps is at some point I finally just truly excepted Johnny for who he is. It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to advocate hard for him to have all the help and tools he needs to succeed. Instead it means that I’ve accepted that he is going to keep moving forward but at Johnny pace not at his peers pace or at what I originally thought he would do. Once I decided that in the end he’s going to be always autistic and with autism there’s a whole bunch of incredible things that are positive as well and I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and off my sons shoulders so he can open up his wings and start to really move forward.
As Johnny has become more of a talker and (I would say that would be age 5) we started to really get to know him more and I’ve discovered that the reason he would get so frustrated and upset in the past was when he tried to do things and he couldn’t. He is his own worst critic. He expects himself to do everything and anything that his peers can do. He pushes himself superhard and maybe I didn’t see that before when he was nonverbal. If I ever thought it was hard to get him to do a certain type of therapy maybe I wasn’t paying attention to how he really felt about it. Maybe he liked doing something else and once I listened to that then again he moved forward. I feel the pressure to put him into social groups, camps etc but I am beginning to realize that down time to be just a kid is super important too. He needs to be able to generalize skills he learns and take that to the playground and play dates.
So I guess what I’ve learned is that whatever Johnny’s interests are, whatever his extreme focuses are on any given minute I give into that and then I think of ways that I can add something to it to get him to see it from a different point view. I try and “roll with it” more and more and not force things.”
That in a nutshell is how we help Johnny to move forward and for us as parents to be able to handle any challenges as we all move forward as a family. We accept that he learns differently and sees the world from a different perspective and if we want to help him forward we need to try and see things from his perspective. Why? How can we expect him to see things “our” way if we don’t take the time and show him the respect by “trying” to see the world the way he sees it. How can I expect him to learn to be a more flexible thinker if I am not doing it or his teachers?