Just a plain, ordinary, loving, proud parent

I started writing about autism, specifically about being an autism parent, just over three years ago. One of my goals was to provide information that would be useful for parents who have recently received a diagnosis of autism for their child. This post is my attempt to give you, as a parent of a newly diagnosed autistic child, an idea of what you will likely find as you try to understand what that diagnosis means to you and your child.

Parenting is a challenge, no matter who your kid is. No matter what you do, someone somewhere will tell you that you are doing it wrong. If you are already a parent, you know what I mean. How many times have you heard someone tell you that your kids should spend more time outside, less time on the computer or with their video games, more time reading, less time on the phone; that you should spend more / less time with them, give them more / less independence, etc etc.

It is no different being the parent of an autistic child, except maybe for the passion with which complete strangers will tell you how poor a job you are doing. A few things you can expect to hear from others, or read in blogs, etc:

“You’re going to screw your kid up if you get him vaccinated.”
“You didn’t vaccinate? Why the hell not?”

“If you don’t start with intensive early therapy and treatment, there is no hope for your child.”
“If you start with all that intensive early therapy and treatment and try to change him, he’ll be emotionally scarred for life.”

“Why are you trying to mainstream him at school, he would be better off in a special placement.”
“Why aren’t you pushing for a mainstream placement, that is where he should be and the school just needs to suck it up.”

“You can’t blame that person for getting upset, that outburst was quite disturbing and invasive to others.”
“Screw that person. They need to just get over it an realize that everyone is different and has the right to be who they are.”

“You need to cure your child of this terrible affliction, recover him from the damage that has been done and get on with your life the way it was supposed to be.”
“Your child doesn’t need a cure, you need to accept that he will be different, that your life will be different, and that you need to just get on with it.”

These are, of course, examples from the extremes. But you will quickly find that there is not, in general, a lot of middle ground in terms of how people will judge you.

In your readings and explorations of autism, you will find that there is no known cause, and that some people think that vaccines are the cause. Some will even say that there is no cause (or least no need to find a cause). Those who think it was caused by vaccines will try to convince you that you need to cure your child through diet or other types of medical procedures, some will say you need intensive behavior therapy. Some will tell you there is no need for a cure. These are all things you will have to decide for yourself.

As you learn more about autism, you will also find yourself learning more about autism advocacy and all the forms it takes. There are groups of parents, medical professionals, and others that will tell you your child has been poisoned by vaccines and that you need to cure – sometimes referred to as recovery – him through diet or other medical treatment. There are those that will tell you that you need to cure your child through intensive behavior therapy. Many, though not all, of these advocates will also help you understand the accommodations and supports that you will need and are entitled to. Then of course there are all of the organizations that have formed to promote these various forms of advocacy. Importantly, the vast majority of these advocates are not autistic themselves.

Once you realize this, you will discover a separate world of autistic advocates for autism. You will quickly find that, despite the stereotypes, all autistics are not the same. You will hear that your child wasn’t poisoned by vaccines, or anything else, and that there is no need for a cure. You may also hear or read that some autistics do want to be cured. You will get plenty of advice – some good, some not so good – about how to raise you child from the perspective of someone who used to be an autistic child. You will hear from autistics diagnosed as adults, and learn what their life was like as an autistic child without the benefit / burden of a diagnosis.

About two months ago, autism blogger Lisa Jo Rudy challenged parents to “quit autism for just one day.”

Your child with autism may always be autistic, but there are places and circumstances in which it either doesn’t matter – or in which your child’s special talents make autism irrelevant. Whether it’s at the beach, in the woods, at a concert, or creating a work of art – just for one day – go somewhere where autism doesn’t matter.

Just for one day, quit being the parent of a child with autism. And become just a plain, ordinary, loving, proud parent.

Everything I’ve learned about parenting an autistic child can be boiled down to an incredibly simply stated idea (provided to me by a fellow autism dad): Parenting is parenting. My response to Lisa’ challenge reflects this attitude:

Just one day? Every day should be like that. At the very least, every day should start like that. You can’t always control how a day will end up, but only you can control how your day starts.

I am the parent of a trampolinist. I am the parent of a horse-back rider (equestrian?) I am the parent of two pianists. I am the parent of two high school students. I am the parent of two avid gamers. I am the parent of an autistic son and an NT son.

I am, to use your words, “just a plain, ordinary, loving, proud parent.”

Every day.

Everyone will have something to say about how you raise your autistic child, most everyone will judge you in one way or another. In the end, of course, the only person’s judgment of you as a parent that matters is your child’s. All you can do is be a plain, ordinary, loving, proud parent. Everything else is just details.

0 thoughts on “Just a plain, ordinary, loving, proud parent

  1. Yep! I agree wholeheartedly with your post today -just accept them for who they are and appreciate them for the things they bring into our lives. Some days, living with an autistic child can be very challenging, other days, calm, even serene -but the myriad of issues that come with raising an autistic child often are not any different than they are when raising a child the is NT. Or at least that is what I’ve found with respect to my two little grandkids -both autisitc -after having riased three children who were NT’s. They do pretty much the same general things all kids in their age range do although they each may have a different style, pattern, speed of learning life’s necessary skills. Sometimes, I rail at people who say what a shame it is that they have this, the autism, “wrong” with them and I say, there isn’t anything “Wrong” with them at all because they are still just beautiful children at the end of the day but I/we have to learn to adjust and tweak our parenting styles to accommodate how each one receives information, has different tastes, and ways of learning things.

  2. thanks so much for responding to that post – I felt strongly about it, and several responses were, in essence, “there’s no such thing as quitting autism, even for one day.”

    one misconception that parents of children with autism have is that typical kids are easy to raise and problem-free! in fact, all kids require lots and lots of time, love, patience, creativity, and – of course! – humor!!

    best,

    Lisa Rudy (www.autism.about.com)

  3. I am new to your blog but I can’t stop reading.

    The part in this post that hit home with me the most was the “what to expect from other people quotes”.

    My son is 3 and PDD-NOS, his language has exploded but he his very echolalic and lacks social skills, so when we are out and about people will say hi to him or ask him how old he is and he either stares or starts repeating something. I always get some kind of odd look and then I never know whether to explain and see the eyeolls or looks of pity, or to just leave it alone and let them think he is shy or whatever.

    Teh number 1 thing I cannot stand from strangers in regards to his echolalia “oh you mean like rainman”

    Sorry I am getting rambly but i wanted to thank you for your blog and let you know you have a new frequent reader.

  4. Thank you for such a lovely post, it really hits home. I think every child is so different, NT or autistic, that it is difficult to compare. My 7 year old autistic son is actually in most ways much easier to raise than my 3.5 year old son, who is NT. I go for days when I don’t think of “autism”. Our lives and norm are different from many people, we approach life differently, but it is our norm. I take such great delight in both my boys, they are each so unique and fun, and sometimes exasperating, now that they have both learned how to tease each other! We have days that I would rather forget, but they are few and far between. They both continue to learn and grow, at different paces and in different ways, but both are utterly delightful! I consider myself to be one of the luckiest moms on the planet! :0)

  5. THANKYOU!!!
    Maybe I have world’s easiest kid with Autism but it doesn’t seem like such a huge deal to me. He has some communication problems but we manage to get around that more often than not. When he’s not stressed out his personality could be described as sweet. He really only withdraws or acts out when he’s feeling overwhelmed. I don’t worry too much about his future. His fixations happen to be profitable ones in the adult world. I know that even if I can’t be there for him that God will and it will be OK.
    Sometimes if he’s not acting “normal” ignorant people will give us wierd looks or stare. I feel sorry for them. Where have they been all this time in the world (in a closet somewhere maybe?) that they don’t see that people are sometimes different? Personally, I’d be more embarrassed to be around someone who stares and acts ignorant than have a child with autism.

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