When becoming a parent there is a lot to learn, but learning your child is different from what you expect, it’s like having to relearn new ways to parent. For me it was hard at first to learn how to cater to his needs however I feel like he has helped me in so many ways to tune into his needs in order to get him through daily with things he struggles with, not only this but to make all our lives easier.
I never thought that I would be in the position where my child was teaching me things about life but everyday I feel as though I’m learning. Here are some of the things I have learnt from my son.
Patience was one of the first things he taught me, keeping my cool during his meltdowns helps to diffuse the situation, actually not just even meltdowns, on a daily basis I find being calm makes him feel calm and safe. I find I have to change my tone rather than get louder in order to make him understand what I need from him.
When talking about patience I learnt giving him the time to get ready and do things at his pace helps to prevent meltdowns, yes I may need to give him and extra 30 minutes or so for little hiccups we may have in the morning before we get out of the door, but that is worth it for him to feel happy with what we’re doing.
The next thing he has taught me is about judgement, in a number of different ways, he taught me that other people’s opinions don’t matter, don’t get me wrong in the past I have had issues when someone I don’t even know would make comments, and I came to the realisation that these people know nothing about him or me and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks or says about him so why should I, we know what’s going on and that’s all the matters. Another way which he has taught me about judgement is that it is horrible to be on the receiving end so I don’t want to judge anyone else, on the flip side of the previous statement I know nothing about someone else’s life why should I judge another person on what they’re doing.
Accepting him and his little quirks and the way he deals with the world is so important to me as dropping expectations of him and what he should be doing has made me a lot less stressed on a daily basis, learning that he needs to do things when he is ready has made us all a lot happier knowing that we can find ways to help him with things he might be struggling with.
Accepting him for who is truly is has helped him to bond and interact with us in ways in which he may not have done before.
My son taught me more empathy and I mean true empathy. Obviously I have felt empathy for people before but never someone that souly depends upon me to help explain him as a person and how and why he does things. I had to walk in his shoes, see the world the way he does, things like the sensory overload and just generally why and how he does perceive the world. This has helped me build a solid and safe place in which he can truly be himself and knowing I’m giving him the support he needs is satisfying because I feel this has helped him to give the best of himself and show who he truly is which is the happy, funny and kind little boy I’ve always known him to be, his autism isn’t who he is it’s just part of him.
He’s taught me to relax stop thinking about the future and what ifs and how will he cope with this and that etc, he’s taught me to focus on the hear and now and take one days at a time. Autism can be so unpredictable, you don’t know how he’s going to cope with things from one day to the next., but it’s not about me, it’s about him. Yes there may be days that are particularly more stressful than others but that does not mean everyday will be like this. Ive started to be more laid back and focus on the positives, as he grows in confidence and I see a glimmer of the little boy who I believe can achieve anything.
Underestimation is something I feel people will do a lot with a child with autism, heck I do it a lot some days, for example, I’ll need to go on the bus to go somewhere and he will have to come with me and I will worry that maybe today he wont cope with this or are he may have a meltdown if we don’t get off at the same place we usually do, but most of the time he actually proves me wrong, sometimes I find it is our own anxieties about our children that hold them back from doing things they’re perfectly capable of.
Another underestimation I also feel like I have been guilty of is what my son actually understands, he has limited speech and sometimes I think he’s not listening normally because he is distracted by something else, which makes me wonder how much he actually understands, but then when I talk to him he always shocks me with how much information he remembers or can process at one time.
Lastly I always thought he found anything practical rather difficult. Now this is something he struggles with as he gets very anxious, even the simplest task like climbing a ladder on a slide, or walking across a rope bridge, I used to think he wouldn’t even try because it was something that would scare him so much, but one day he pulled me towards the ladder and I held him so he could learn how to use his legs one at a time and move his arms at the right time. He knew straight away from then he could do this himself and the confidence was beaming fro him… it was then I learnt confidence is so important for him and me thinking he couldn’t do it may have held him back and the little bit of assistance from me is what he needed to build that confidence. Honestly, every time I see him trying something new I now think, wow thats my boy overcoming the struggles a four year old with autism faces, and just because he is Autistic doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to do what his peers are doing, he just needs the extra help to get there.
Finally my son has taught me how to truly be aware of autism and that not everyone is so. Yes even though I know his quirks and how his brain works, not everyone does, and that is ok. You don’t need to know exactly why he does the things he does but the more you make people aware the more they might want to understand and learn. I hope eventually more people, even adults with neurotypical children will want to learn and understand what autism is and raise awareness for it. Even though you may not have a child who experiences the world in this way, you may have children who will come into contact with autistic children and helping them understand more about it may make the lives of our children a lot easier.
We will soon be holding group sessions within YMCA North Tyneside where parents and guardians can meet up and share experiences and tips regarding children who have different needs. If this is of interest please click the button below and let us know when’s best for you to attend.