Recently, I spotted a list called “Some things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism.” It was fun to read, and in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to assemble my own.
Here’s my own version of the things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism:
1. Having my child matured me in ways I never thought possible. But, it was his autism that really made me understand human behavior. I had to learn how to break down human behavior into parts – understand antecedents, deal with responses, and find ways to resolve each issue.
Luckily, I have always been a practical person who calmly deals with panic-like situations. I can be real and in the moment with my child. And, I needed those qualities. I was prepared in that sense, but it was the learning curve of human behavior directly related to autism that I wish I had understood before having my child.
2. My husband and I thought we were alone in this. We were scared and uninformed. As a result, for two years we told no one. When we felt we had a handle on at least being able to explain autism, we started talking about it to friends and family. When I felt more comfortable, I began to locate organizations in order to reach out and help in the autism community. I found a huge and growing community. I wish that early on someone had told me that we were not alone.
3. Early on, in some situations, I would explain my child’s behavior. I would not use the term autism but would say other things like, “He really likes airplanes a lot, so much that he talks about them nonstop. Isn’t it cute?” We did not have the staring issue when he was younger. Cute kids get away with stuff and our child was and still is good looking. He has always had the “Ah, he’s so cute,” thing going for him so no explanation was ever needed.
I no longer “explain” my child the way I used to. At age ten, he runs and flaps and sometimes looks “odd,” If he gets too loud in a public situation, I will ask him to lower his voice. If his running is inappropriate, I will ask him to stop. I handle his adjustments like second nature.And, if I say anything to anyone I usually say my child has autism and he’s regulating his body.
What happens when I say that? I am happy to report that more often than not saying that has led to my explaining autism and then a whole conversation about autism! Now that I can confidently and calmly explain autism, when I talk about it, it sometimes turns out very fortuitous.
4. We had to learn to accept autism which we did not do in the beginning. I knew nothing about autism. When I look back, I once had a long conversation with a new friend who explained what she did for a living. She said, “I work with autistic kids.”
She explained what that meant but I didn’t understand any of it and this was two years before I had my child. I wasn’t even a parent yet. Turned out, if I had really listened to that person, I might have had a better understanding of what she did for a living. It was so foreign to me at that time, I just didn’t understand.
We know our child has autism for life. 98% of kids diagnosed have it for life. But, ultimately, I would someday like to see autism gone. It’s a tough life. I’ve seen it up close and personal and don’t wish it on any future persons.
5. We didn’t understand before we had a child that our child may end up liking very unique things. We had to learn how to accept our child’s sometimes odd interests. For example, we learned to like power poles, sprinkler heads, and populations of countries. Now, I’m happy to report, he has other interests that he shares with others, usually adults.
Recently, he has been into asking adults, “How many countries have you visited?” At least this question is more appropriate than, “How many sprinkler heads do you have in your yard?”
6. We thought we knew this one before having a child, but we still had to learn that with autism, it is even more important to… be a team with your significant other. Back each other up even if you don’t agree with your significant other. (I will discuss this more in a future blog.)
Try to work on disagreements away from your child and support each other in front of your child and all of the various adults working with your child. If you both are strong in understanding autism and the specific way your child is autistic, then a united front is always better.
7. Finally, as I may have stated already, I wanted to become a parent, but I didn’t have a clue about becoming an autism parent. Becoming an autism parent has made me a better person and a better parent – better than I ever thought possible. I have learned enough to be able to pick out “typical” kids verses kids that may have issues. I am by no means an expert, but I can proudly say that I do know a thing or two.
It’s take a lot of work, but it is because of this little surprise in my life – that was totally unexpected – called autism that I have the awesome life that I have.
Turns out, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”