I remember how excited my wife Vicki and I were when her birth pangs started for our first child, David.
Four days later, after two false alarm trips to the hospital, Vicki finally gave birth to David. The whole week was exhausting, and David was born around 4 am.
The staff at Evanston Hospital in Evanston, IL, were amazing, particularly the nurses. They waited on Vicki hand and foot. But more importantly, they knew exactly what to do with this new bundle of life called David.
Three days later, my wife and I looked at each other in shock when they told us Vicki was being discharged, and that we could take David home!
Vicki burst into tears as she and I both realized, “We’ve never done this before! What do we do when he cries incessantly? We don’t speak Baby Language! What if we drop him? How is it that we change his diaper, again? “
I felt like I needed to go take a few classes in baby development before taking David home.
But apparently, the staff felt we were ready, and away we went!
I could have used some parenting tips before taking David home, but there really weren’t any. It was sink or swim!
Many parents feel just like Vicki and I did on the day Vicki and David were discharged from the hospital. They’ve just found out that their child has autism, and they’re totally overwhelmed!
My goal for this article is to shift you from overhelm and insecurity to feeling happy and confident that you will be an excellent parent to your child.
While your Aspergers child is different, she is also a child, and you are her parent, uniquely designed to have what it takes to parent your child well.
7 Free Parenting Tips for High Functioning Autism
1. Learn from Scripture –
The Bible was not meant to be a parenting manual, but it has wisdom from God, who created the human race! There’s a ton of great wisdom in there.
Here are a couple of resources to help you as you parent your child.
Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling – contains Biblical verses for many topics of living –
Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Youth – topics for living, but for junior high and high school kids .
2. Learn from people you respect, who have parented their children successfully.
Find positive parenting role models. Seek out couples who have raised successful adult children.
Look for parents you respect. Especially parents of special needs kids! It’s one thing to parent a child who is “typical", but it takes a bit extra to understand a parent successfully a child who is wired differently. That being said, every child does have a very different personality and temperament, so when you find parents who have parented several kids successfully, you’ll find parents who have been able to be sensitive to each child’s different temperament.
3. Trust your common sense.
John Rosemond was a child psychologist who one day went to school and found out that his child was one of the worst behaved students a veteran teacher had ever met!
He sought out his grandmother’s advice, humbled himself enough to read Scripture, and re-formulated his parenting philosophy. Check out parenting resources at his site.
4. Overcome personal baggage.
Do you need help to overcome hindrances to your parenting? Did you grow up in an abusive home? Do you have personal baggage that could get in the way of how you treat your child?
What is your attitude toward disability, special needs, and autism specifically?
Develop your own personal growth plan for parenting. Seek out your pastor. Seek out godly mentors. Go to counseling to work on overcoming personal weaknesses that may be barriers to effective parenting.
5. Learn, Learn, Learn about the Autism Spectrum.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Effective cross cultural business people take time to learn the culture of the country they will work in. This takes intensive daily study for five years, as a start! But it’s a lifelong journey.
Here are some ways you can start learning about autism.
a) Read blogs written by adults with autism.
Read my article, How Adults with Aspergers Have Increased My Autism IQ.
Read the article, Ten Things Your Child with Autism Wants You To Know.
b) Read autobiographies of adults with high functioning autism.
Look Me In the Eye, by John Elder Robison.
Pretending to Be Normal, by Lianne Holliday Willey.
Twirling Naked in the Streets (And No One Noticed), by Jeannie Davide-Rivera.
I’ve read the first two books, and I’m reading the third. Each one will help you better understand autism better.
b) Join Wrong Planet
Alex Plank started Wrong Planet as a forum site for people with high functioning autism. Today it has over 70,000 members! I recommend the following threads –
6. Ask yourself, What kind of future adult am I raising now? Create goals from your vision.
You help yourself develop a vision for your child’s future when you ask this question. Out of that vision, formulate the following goals.
a) Spiritual Goals
I want my children to know their Creator. But I also want to model their Creator’s love, wisdom, and compassion. I need to learn to become like my Creator, so that I can best influence them appropriately.
b) Relational Goals
How do I want my children to treat others?
c) Values and Character Goals-
As yourselves what kind of character and values you want your child to have as she grows up?
Periodically share these goals with your child in small doses. Invite their input and discussion.
d) Evaluate goals periodically.
Review with yourself and your spouse how your child is developing. Is s/he reaching the goals you have formulated? If not, talk about it in small discussions with your child. Encourage him to think for himself and express his goals as well. Be flexible. Then re-write the goals and re-adjust your strategy to get to desired outcomes.
7. What I’m Not Saying
I’m not saying you are trying to make your child become “normal”, as in silencing who they are as a person. That’s why it’s so important for you and I to work through any negative baggage we may have had growing up. For example, if I grew up in a family who never went to college, and I didn’t go to college, and I’m trying to force my son to go to college, even though he’s more technically inclined and wants to go to a trade school (just an example, not a true life example).
In this case, I’m trying to make my child be someone he’s either not passionate about being, or not cut out to be.
However, your child does need a caring parent to take the lead in raising him to be a well-rounded adult.
In order to maintain a balance in my parenting, I like to read SR Salas’ autism blog. Renee has autism, is raising a child with autism, and writes about advocating for children with autism. I love her perspectives.
Relaxed and Hopeful
We’ve prayed a lot, reached out to successful parents for advice, read the Bible, and have researched autism as best we can.
I write this blog to better understand aspects of David’s life.
What was overwhelming at first has become a blessed journey.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a parent and a dad.
And I hope you are too!
I want to hear your parenting tips for high functioning autism children! Please share in the comments below!