If you've been AWOL the past few days you may have missed the fact it's World Autism Awareness Week #WAAW2017.
Don't worry because the USA has dedicated the whole of April to Autism Awareness so you can always jump in on that :)
Now, please bear with me through the post as some of the things you'll read may seem a little out there and may even stir up some deep routed eye rolling but I promise the end will absolutely be worth waiting for.
So, let's get going!
The first thing I want to say is that being a parent is hard.
It really doesn't matter how many children you have or whether your child has a physical or mental health difficulty.
Children can be super annoying.
They never behave appropriately the times you really need them to - like in the supermarket or around your uptight friends house, yet they're little angels as soon as you step back into your house.
They have a habit of dropping you in it to the person you were gossiping about whilst maintaining an air of complete innocence.
They even have the audacity to make you laugh, smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you're supposed to be telling them off.
But hey, I'm preaching to the converted!
The difference between parenting a child with autism compared to a child without is massive.
As massive as the difference between parenting two different children...
You see, children are just children and they're all different.
As a parent, regardless of whether your child has autism or not you just need to really understand your child.
What's their favourite toy?
What do they love to do?
What do they hate doing?
Where do they enjoy visiting?
Now, yes, it is true that children with autism may struggle to interact socially, some may not be able to speak and others may be super literal ...
But again - it really just comes down to you knowing your child.
For example: if your child struggles to interact socially it really isn't the end of the world.
Also, I would argue they just can't do it yet.
It's a skill we all have to learn and some of us just take a little longer than others.
Or if your child can't speak - it doesn't mean they can't communicate.
There's loads of great tech nowadays which can help and using simple sign language like Makaton can revolutionise how well you all interact.
& if your child is super literal then you'll just need to stop telling all those really naff jokes...
Don't get me wrong, parenting a child with autism can be harder than raising a child without but most of the issues I deal with when I'm supporting families have arisen because somewhere along the way everyone forgot underneath the label is just a child.
Yes, children with autism may need extra attention, love and support.
Your child may be developmentally delayed and the 'terrible two's' has now lasted 6 years...
& I absolutely get that this can be so frustrating.
When you decided to become a mum or dad you thought you were signing up for one of those babies you see on all those adverts.
You know the ones which stay clean, don't cry and just look adorable?
You also thought you'd be at home for your maternity leave and then head straight back to work and get to enjoy getting back to you whilst loving all the great things that come from being a parent.
Instead, this is so far from what happened, that if you're honest, you sometimes wish you'd made a different decision.
I want you to know this is OK.
It's not awful to feel frustrated, upset, overwhelmed and a whole host of other 'bad' emotions.
That's being human.
That's being a parent.
Now, I said that hanging around would be worth your while & here's why:
3 tips to parenting your child with autism.
1. Erase the word can't - whatever you have been told your child can't do forget it. Your child can do all the things every other child can do - it may just take them longer. As soon as you believe your child can't do something you stop giving them the opportunity to learn and to try. Right now your child may not be able to talk - but ask yourself when did you truly last encourage them to have a go? Yes, if they have certain physical complications as well talking may be very, very difficult - but if there's no physical reason then what are you waiting for?
2. Set clear boundaries & stick to them - all children crave routine and boundaries. They need to know what they can and cannot do to feel safe and secure. Allowing a child to run riot because 'they don't understand' causes them so much harm. This is also complete codswallop. Children only don't understand something because we keep changing the goalposts. Ask yourself - would I let my child behave this way if they didn't have autism & if the answer is no then you really need to do something about it.
3. Don't do the things you don't want your child to do - I'm serious. Children (and us adults) learn by watching and copying others. If you sit on the sofa with your legs tucked under you can't expect your child to sit with their legs on the floor. You can't have adult rules and kid rules - it just doesn't work. If you don't wan't your child to do something you really need to make sure you never, ever do it. Make sure everyone is on the same page with this because it tends to be grandparents who mess this one up for mums & dads... You really do all need to be 'singing from the same hymn sheet'
Implementing these 3 tips into your home truly will make a huge difference to how you interact with each other.
But like everything that's truly worth it - it can be difficult to do in the beginning.
Oh one final point, no matter what you decide to do with the 3 tips above, please just remember this one thing - being a parent to a child with autism is the same as being a parent to any child. All you need to do is truly love them for who they are and this alone will guide you to make the best decisions.
Have a fabulous rest of your day & catch up soon - Katie.
p.s. if you need a little more help supporting your child then click the link below to get in touch to book a free no obligation consultation and see if we can help you.
Katie Woodland - A developmental, and holistic psychologist who specialises in educating and empowering individuals, business leaders & school teachers to remove mental health as a barrier to success.
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