There are a zillion handbooks for parents – even for parents with autistic children – but no handbook can answer a parent’s persistent questions about their own individual situation. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Should I be doing that differently? Why is my child having such a tough time – is it my fault?
When you’re a parent with an autistic child, all those questions multiply, both in number and in intensity. Did I choose the right therapies? Did something I did or didn’t do cause my child’s disability? Am I doing enough (or too much) to help him/her develop new schools, engage with peers, take part in life? Am I pushing too hard, or not hard enough? And what about…???
Sometimes, though, it’s nice to hear “you’re doing a good job.” How do you know? Here are some signs that your parenting is just great!
1. Your Child with Autism is ProgressingKids with autism may take a very long time to learn skills that other kids learn quickly. That’s just reality. But if your child with autism is moving forward, even at a snail’s pace, it’s likely that you’ve found a combination of therapies, people, and settings that are positive and helpful. Well done!
2. Your Children WITHOUT Autism are Progressing
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in autism that you neglect the signs that other siblings are having difficulties
. But of course every child needs a parent’s attention, support, and involvement. If your other children are progressing, even with some normal ups and downs, it’s likely you’ve found the time and energy to attend to their needs, listen to their concerns, and respond. Nice work!
3. You Have Solid Adult Relationships
How does having adult relationships help your child with autism? Without outside connections, you have no opportunity to replenish your emotional well. Your ability to vent, have fun, and feel engaged in the world means you’ll have the energy and patience to be there for your child with autism, even when he or she is having a tough time. If you’re finding the support you need
4. You Are Not Making Decisions for Your Child Based on Desperation or Panic
Should I spend my other children's college funds on risky, unproven therapies that -- who knows? -- just might work? Could my child benefit from the high-priced and controversial therapist I heard about in the ladies' room at the local autism conference? It's easy to get carried away by others' enthusiasm for a particular therapy, therapist, school, or program, especially when you are feeling panicky or desperate about your child's autism. But when you make choices based not on reason or logic but on desperation or panic
, you are likely to make the wrong decisions. If you’ve avoided that pitfall, good job!
5. You Recognize and Celebrate Your Autistic Child’s Abilities and AchievementsIt’s easy for parents of children with autism to get wrapped up in their child’s challenges and deficits. After all, the entire American system of special education and disability care is focused on challenges and deficits. It takes a strong parent to take time away from those concerns to notice, delight in, and celebrate an autistic child’s abilities and achievements – especially when your child is not a “savant” whose abilities amaze others. If you noticed and praised your child for asking a question, waiting patiently, responding appropriately, or otherwise doing something that is difficult for him, you’re doing a great job.
6. You Keep the Bar HighAutistic children often get a “pass” when it comes to high expectations. All too often, when a child with autism does not do his or her best, the response is “oh, well, that’s okay. He’s autistic.” This attitude means that many children with autism are not challenged to do their best – and as a result, they fail to reach their potential. It’s easy to fall back on lower expectations, and to do things for your child rather than do the very hard work of teaching skills and discipline. If you’re keeping the bar high, and seeing your child achieve at her real level of ability, you’re doing a wonderful job.
7. You Have Fun with Your Autistic Child
It’s not always easy to find fun activities in common with an autistic child. Kids with autism may not do the things you’re used to doing – playing ball, going to loud concerts, hanging out with groups of friends. They may not even have the language skills to converse. So it takes work to find activities that you and your autistic child can enjoy together. You may need to discover a new interest in trains, comic book heroes, legos, or chase games. You may even need to initiate every interaction. If you’re having at least a little bit of fun with your autistic child, and building emotional bonds
, it’s wonderful!
8. You’re Thinking Ahead for and with Your Autistic ChildAll too many parents focus on their child’s here and now, without giving much thought to the future. Schools provide parents as well as students with structure, meetings, goals, and programs – and some parents assume that that level of support will continue indefinitely. As a result, their children with autism wind up, at age 22, without the supports and direction they need. All too many autistic people finish school without a vocation or a plan for their adult years, and all too many parents wonder what to do next. If you’ve done some research and planning for your child’s adult years, you’re ahead of the game. Good work!