You Are Not Alone on the Autism Journey
by Lynda T. Young
Parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may include autism, Aspergers (high autism), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar, other brain challenges, or some of all the above.
“My child is an ‘alphabet’ soup child—diagnosed with so many letters (initials). How can we know which ones are even valid?”
This overwhelming journey for parents has ripple effects from family to friends to school/church to society in general. Staggering ASD statistics include 1 in 46 boys and 1 in 87 girls in the United States. Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum walks alongside families in days of exhaustion and moments of joyful discovery they see revealed in their unique child.
“What Do I Do Now?”
After nine months of waiting and planning, Marilyn’s precious baby arrives. She enters every milestone in his baby book and posts pictures on Facebook—every day. This is Marilyn’s first baby. She assumes one day he’ll start babbling like other babies his age, “He’s just quieter like his daddy.” She assumes he’s bright because he laser focuses on lining his tiny trucks in a row, “But it would be nice if he’d look at me sometime.”
On his third birthday, a family member whispers to her, “I don’t want to interfere, but have you noticed he isn’t….” Yes, she’s noticed—he’s just a little different—he’ll catch up. But he doesn’t. An article headline grabs her attention: Early Intervention Imperative for Children on the Autistic Spectrum. It’s time to tackle the ominous task of getting her child tested—her beautiful boy with big blue eyes that never look at her. Overwhelmed, Marilyn wants to know, but doesn’t want to know.
Highlighted below are references to chapters in Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum dealing with aspects of the journey—from the caregiver’s needs, family’s communication (and lack thereof), information on your unique child and handling crises. Information and inspiration to help parents find calm in the midst of struggle.
Taking Care of the Caregiver
“I feel guilty thinking about myself,” most moms say. However, if the caregiver goes down the tube, so goes the family. Put into practice stress relievers for the endorphins to kick in (happy messengers in the brain): deep breaths, sunshine, laughter, sleep (naps when you can), exercise, healthy snacks (to balance out the salty, sugary, caffeinated ones) and prayers.
Communication Lines Open
“I need my husband’s support in every way, but he’s always at work.”
“I stay at work because it’s the only thing I know how to do. I don’t understand my son, and my wife wants to be in charge—well, she’s really falling apart.”
Why do parents react so differently? He’s their child.
Different personalities, upbringing, expectations of child, ways love is shown and received—add in a special needs child and communication falls apart. Chapters on You-niquely Made Personality Study and Love Languages (Dr. Gary Chapman) help families understand and appreciate each other.
Siblings may feel left out, invisible. “I know my parents don’t have time for me. They don’t have any extra energy for anything.” Give that sibling a special gift of time. Ask what she wants to do (not what you think she wants) and then do it if at all possible.
Grandparents worry about their adult child and their special needs grandchild (and other grandchildren)—so it’s double worrying. They want to help, but don’t want to overstep their adult children’s boundaries. They have wisdom, but need to pray as to when to share it.
When Senses Don’t Make Sense
Transitions for your child are huge, so plan ahead. A popular chapter in my book Doctors, Dentists, and Hair Cuts, Oh My! addresses bombarded child’s senses usually not noticed by parents. A handmade booklet walking the child through each step is helpful. The last page is a drawing of home. The child looks forward to and ends in that safe place (also the place in which the parent can collapse).
Imagine having to sit still for long periods in a chair, lean way back (feeling out of control), a bright light shines in your face, loud whir of a drill, strange smells float through the room, and then a stranger standing too close pushes stuff in your mouth! Welcome to the world of your child’s sensory overload. And you’ve picked up on none of those issues—that’s not how your brain works—but it is his. Forearmed, you’ve read the booklet multiple times and brought the tote with his favorite toys, snack and your special needed items.
How do you come alongside your exhausted friend? She needs another adult to talk to at home, help watch her child when outside the home, and simply be there for her. Ask her, and tell her what you can do. Pick up siblings; take them to sports or activities when she can’t. Bring a hot meal. Play with her child while she takes a nap (she can’t imagine doing that). Read blogs and books on ASD for more information.
You Are Not Alone
No matter where your child is on the spectrum, one fact remains: Ask God to be with you in the calm and chaos. He’s been in both.
Lynda T. Young, MRE, MEd is an award-winning author of the You Are Not Alone book series for families of children with chronic conditions (cancer, heart defects and autism). Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum can be found at a Christian bookstore near you (Leafwood Publishing). Her husband, Dr. John L. Young was in cancer research for over forty years. They have four children, fourteen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Lynda has seen the reality of this journey lived out through some family members affected by the spectrum. They have inspired her. To learn more, visit www.hopeforfamiliesonline.com or contact Lynda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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