What usually excites parents after childbirth is observing their baby’s growth and development. But what if your child starts to manifest somewhat different developmental signs? According to studies, symptoms of autism usually appear even before a child reaches three years old. These include problems in communicating, difficulty maintaining eye contact, nervous mannerisms, and even social withdrawal. It is essential for family members to be able to spot these signs early on to help the child better manage autism.
One day in the life of a parent of a child with autism is a mix of emotions and experiences that are both happy and sad. Here are few of the highs and lows of raising a child with autism:
The High Points
- Developmental Milestones: “Children meet developmental milestones when they are ready. There are ranges of what is considered appropriate and what may be considered delayed.” Francyne Zeltser, Psy.D. elaborates. While autism may alter your child’s development, it does not stop the developmental process. Your child still gets to develop their skills but only in a different manner and pace. Now and then, you will observe your child learning to do things on their own or being able to interact with other people successfully. Celebrate this with happiness.
- Special Abilities: Children with autism also display remarkable skills in particular fields, when placed in situations that allow them to harness such talents. According to a behavior analyst, there are children with autism who can do mental math of huge numbers in a span of a few seconds. Other skill set categories include art, music, and even sports.
- Playtime Like Any Other: If you think that parenting a child with autism is just all about the therapy and the consultations with the doctor, then you haven’t seen the whole picture. Like any other child, children with autism enjoy playing. It is a good way for them to explore and learn things apart from schooling and would also help you establish deeper connections with them.
The Low Points
- Dealing With Other Family Members: Sometimes, extended family members who haven’t had an encounter with a child diagnosed with autism get (and say) a lot of misconceptions about the developmental disorder. This ignorance impacts parents in a very heart-breaking way because, in a society that rejects the unusual, it gets challenging to raise children who seem different. Moreover, the judgmental world around most tremendously affects the children with autism because the external situation only aggravates their already existing mindset of social withdrawal.
The best way to deal with this is for parents to sit down and talk to other family members about autism. It would be good to share with them fast facts about the developmental disorder to weed out all the misconceptions away. Through this, your child will have the chance to be surrounded by family members who are loving, accepting, and non-judgmental.
- Dealing With Emotions: “A trigger is a thought or a situation that leads to undesirable behavior choices. Most commonly, we find that triggers are caused by something in the surrounding environment or by another person’s actions.” explains Barb Roba, LMCH. More than managing what other people have to say, the deeper and more severe feelings that parents of children with autism have to deal with is that of themselves. Some parents blame themselves for their child’s disorder—possibly something about the way they handled the pregnancy or about how they raised their child. Often, it leads to frustration, sadness, grief, and even depression. And the most challenging part about it is that parents can’t be so preoccupied with their own emotions because they would always have to prioritize their child’s needs.
When your emotions start to take a toll on you, it is essential that you do not carry everything on your own. Share it with your partner and process the feelings together. You may also share it with your closest friends or in whomever you find comfortable to confide. Remember that you are not the one to blame for your child’s condition.
- Financial Concerns: Allowing your child to get the proper treatment for autism necessarily entails costs. For one, some parents needed to quit their jobs so that they can focus on their child full-time. They would also seek health and life insurance for children with autism. Aside from that, consultations with the doctor, as well as therapy sessions, will be more frequent. You might probably need a car too, to make travel more convenient for everyone in the family.
Considering recent campaigns for more in-depth and more comprehensive awareness of autism among children, governments are now involved in making treatments for autism more accessible to families through intervention centers. This way, the cost of therapy and medication could be reduced. Within the family, it would be better that one of the parents continue working to support the financial needs of the child further.
“A certain amount of change is a normal part of the transition. However, really drastic or long-lasting changes in personality or behavior may be a sign of trouble and indicate a need for professional help.” Bella Stitt, LMFT emphasizes. Taking care of your child with autism is not an easy job. It would require a lot from you physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially. Nevertheless, what is always important in the end is that you give your best to allow your child to live a normal life as much as possible. While things are never easy, it is never worth giving up on them. They are equally valuable like any other child you may have and are always worthy of your love and affection.