Today I offer a perspective from another amazing autism mom. She’s a published author, singer, songwriter, poet, and my best friend. Please enjoy this entry from Stephanie.
There is a movie line that has become almost a cliché, “You can’t handle the truth.” Consider that your fair warning that this particular post will reveal the unvarnished truth about a child on the autism spectrum in all its beauty and ugliness.
I have a son on the spectrum and the pic above shows my daily prescription regimen. From left to right, I take a heavy-duty anti-inflammatory for rheumatoid arthritis, an anti-depressant, prescription strength allergy medicine, an anti-anxiety, and prescription strength Nexium for acid-reflux. All stress related.
Life with a non-neurotypical child is stressful. Stressful enough that parents of children on the spectrum exhibit the same physical and mental symptoms of combat veterans. The health repercussions are real. Even if your child doesn’t have the violent episodes my child does, there are many sources for this stress and they feed off of each other.
Schools are a big problem. Many schools have no clue how to deal with an autistic child, and often you can’t mainstream an autistic child. The common noise of a 30 kid classroom will overload them. They will act out, and another call from the school happens. Your child has been expelled for a week for throwing a chair, or biting a teacher. Now you have to find daycare for the time they’re supposed to be in school.
That leads to childcare stress. Not anyone can watch a non-neurotypical child. That nice teenage neighbor girl down the street won’t know what to do when her charge starts screaming and hitting themselves because the internet went down. Most of my son’s life, I had three people besides me who could watch my son; two of those were relatives who have now told me they can no longer do so. My son at 2 ½ got kicked out of four daycares for behavior, which drove me to seek help from his pediatrician. I hoped I would hear what to do, because I had to be doing something wrong, right? Nope, instead I got a referral.
While healthcare professionals know more than most people who do not live with an autistic person does, however, keep in mind that none of them know more about your child than you do. Don’t hesitate to question them or tell them you don’t think that will work. Once I had to put my foot down and tell a prescriber that I would not fill a prescription for any ADHD medicines because they sent my child into a violent rage. Don’t take everything told to you by a professional as gospel. Autism is still a “new” condition to many doctors, even if it has been around long before Dr. Hans Asperger studied it at the end of WWII.
Researchers have reported that many of our historical geniuses had behaviors on the spectrum. Think of your favorite historical “Genius.” Bet they had ‘quirks’, right? No eye contact? Craving routine and being upset if that routine is broken? How about poor response to social cues? So the possibility exists that your child won’t stay the way they are now. Yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming train. Really.
A child on the spectrum has an intelligence higher than average. That means an adult on the spectrum can make breakthroughs in science or art that neuro-typical people can’t. For example, my child at ten conversed with other adults at an adult level. More than once, an adult has come up to me to tell me how smart my child must be because of the conversation they had with them. Even non-verbal children often grow up to contribute to society. My child has firmly stated that he wants to go to college and get a degree in biology. With as much willpower, also known as stubbornness, I’ve believe he will.
There is hope, but you have to ride out the awful before you can see the good. That sucks, believe me I know. My best piece of advice I can give you is get as much help as you can. See a doctor yourself on a regular basis, and most importantly take care of you, too. Take a break from your child. Every chance you get, there will never be too many of those don’t worry, spend a night when someone else is responsible for your child. Rest a while then go back into the struggle.
You love your child. Your child loves you. Don’t let the stress win.