Life lessons of an autism parent

5 April 2018

Dear Friend,

I am mum, mam, mummy, mama, mother however you want to pronounce or say it. I am the female parent to my children. It can be relentless, frenetic, exhausting, a world full of school runs, lunch making, cleaning, washing and juggling commitments. But it is an amazing job to have, I would argue the best in the world! 

To be perfectly honest Motherhood hasn't quite been the trip that I expected. When we were thrown the curve ball that is autism it quite frankly knocked me off my feet. But several years later, I know that actually, being a Spectrum Mum has taught me many positive life lessons for which I am extremely grateful! 

Unsplash Photo Janko Ferlic

Life Lessons

Prioritise: Pick your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff. As a perfectionist this is difficult but I am learning what is really important in the scale of things and sometimes choices have to be made e.g. wearing sweatpants V smart trousers,  special V 'normal' school, trying something new V eating pizza again.

Expect the unexpected: just when you think you know how the big lad will react he surprises you. I can tie myself in knots trying to protect my child but the unexpected response is sometimes a blessing. I have learned that I cannot plan for every eventuality. I can not always be in control.

Keep a positive attitude: my son approaches every new challenge with a smile on his face, full of fun, enthusiasm and mischief. A positive attitude helps you cope more easily with the things life throws at you.  

Accept help: at big lad's last review meeting there were ten people present. Over the last 6 years he has seen many therapists, psychologists and Drs. He accepts the help without question. We are learning to open up and ask for help too. Asking for help is not weakness, it is a strong person that acknowledges their vulnerability.

Take time out for yourself: after a long day at school the big lad needs time out. For him this is usually gaming. I am learning to take time for myself. It is too easy to ignore our own needs and prioritize others.

Forgive & Forget:   The big lad is incredibly loyal, a friend is a friend, no matter what. Give people the benefit of the doubt and accept them for who they are. No judging, no recriminations. Everyone makes mistakes.

Be yourself: there is a massive amount of pressure on us to conform, to follow the majority, to fit in. It takes a huge amount of courage and self belief to go against the majority to stay true to yourself. Autistic children have no falseness about them. He is not striving to fit in, to be normal, he is only striving to be himself!

Challenge yourself: step outside of your comfort zone. Do things that you didn't think you could. Try new things. But mostly challenge those stereotypes and don't be limited by others' expectations or beliefs. Reach for the stars and never accept the words can't or won't. 

Lighten up: It is easy to get caught up in the negativity surrounding a diagnosis of autism. But it isn't all doom and gloom, in fact autism can be really funny! 

Celebrate the small victories: Very often we are so busy trying to conquer a big goal that we forget to acknowledge the small victories along the way. Autism teaches you to celebrate every small step on the ladder to greatness no matter how small the victory what matters is you are heading in the right direction. 

Persevere: it amazes me how resilient my big lad is. Learning to ride his bike, using a knife and fork, climbing the frame at the park, learning to swim, it may take longer but he always gets there. He never gives up!

You are the expert when it comes to your child: I listen to the advice of Drs, Psychologists etc and I take on board what they say but I am the expert when it comes to my son as I know him better than anyone. Professional advice is not always right! Go with your gut. 

Love Unconditionally: I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming, all encompassing, crippling love that you feel when your child is born. There are times when I feel that the strength of my love is being tested by the big lad but as the saying goes, you always hurt the people you love the most. Being a parent has taught me the real meaning of unconditional love: choosing to love someone for who they really are.

What has being a parent taught you? Let me know in the comments. 

This is a revised post that was originally published in February 2015.

Check out more autism posts here.

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