Parenting Aspergers Children and Teens: Mission Impossible?
I’ll admit it. Eleven years ago, I cried.
Sitting on the floor in my living room, holding my precious 3-year-old son, I rocked back and forth with him, sobbing.
I’d just come back from the early intervention school psychologist, who told me my son had autism.
Looking back, I’m a bit ashamed that I knew so little about autism.
But I had bought into the unfortunate stereotypes about autism, and all I could think of were the worst possible outcomes for my child.
Interestingly, my son was smiling and laughing while I cried.
I think he knew he was going to be one of my life teachers, blessing me more than I could ever know.
I don’t know where you are in your parenting journey.
Maybe you’ve just found out about your child’s diagnosis.
Or maybe you’ve walked the journey a long while.
Or maybe you’re in between.
When David, my son, was first diagnosed, I thought, “We have to sell the house and move to an area where there are better school districts!”
I had a lot of other thoughts, fueled by fear and determination.
Then I started reading about how much many families spend on interventions for autism.
Many parents spent over 40 hours of time in therapy per week!
My thoughts have changed over the years, tempered by all the great autism bloggers and writers who have increased my autism IQ.
First, I didn’t realize that, while my son has neurological differences, it doesn’t change him as a person.
Second, I didn’t realize how helpful interventions can be to manage aspects of autism.
Nothing worthwhile in life comes without sacrifice, commitment, and dedication. The money and time you invest to help your child be the best version of himself is well worth it.
My goal is to help you gain hope as you think about parenting your autistic child. I believe God gave me my son because He knew my wife and I would be good parents to him. And I believe the same for you.
Gain Hope as You Answer These Parenting Aspergers Children and Teens Questions:
What is autism/Aspergers?
Take time to learn about and study autism and Aspergers.
When living with a neurological condition (or with a loved one who has one), it can be very easy to focus on the challenges and limitations. But in my life, I have found that focusing on abilities, finding new ways to adapt, have been crucial to my successes in life. Seeking those solutions can even be seen as a form of creativity.
Although, like anyone, I have my moments of discouragement, I’ve learned to use my challenges to push me forward. I believe what Dr. Sacks says is very important. There is much more to a life on the spectrum than just deficiencies and deficits, and those “deficiencies and deficits” can very well be strengths in certain circumstances.
Constantly work to understand life from an autistic’s point of view –
Here’s quote from one of my favorite writers, herself an Aspergian, Rudy Simone –
Imagine a world where Aspergers was the norm, and non-autistics or neurotypicals were the minority. Let’s try it: Those who feel the need to constantly be with a variety of friends are considered fickle. Those with no propensity for computers and science are called geeks. Those with no special interest are thought to be ungrounded and lost. Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.
Who do you visualize your child becoming?
I visualize David as a happy young adult, having graduated college, and maybe graduate school (depending on his goals). I visualize him confident, aligned with his values, surrounded by loving friends and family. He’s developed life skills to operate in a neurotypical world, while advocating for himself and his strengths and challenges.
I also visualize him following his own path, not one that I have particularly chosen for him. I’ll also want him to be aware of healthy role models, including famous people with autism.
What kind of parent do you visualize yourself becoming?
I visualize myself as a kind and compassionate, yet firm father who provides boundaries, but also lets his children make their own decisions, and increasingly so as they become adults. I set goals for myself to increase my parenting skills, and I evaluate myself periodically, with input from my children. As an adult, I become less of an authority, and more of a friend to my children, as they become young adults.
What is my personality type? Check out this free personality quiz, based on the Myers Briggs personality inventory, to develop a better understanding of your personality. Then think about your child’s personality, and how your personality may affect your parenting.
You can also take a free DISC test here to better understand yourself. (You will have to provide your name and email if you want to take it for free)
What was my experience of being parented, and how might that affect how I approach parenting?
Who is my child?
The DISC test would be an easier way to understand your child’s personality type. Think also about her strengths and her weaknesses.
Study your child well.
Spend quality and quantity time with your child, showing interests in her interests.
Study Parenting Blogs
Mark Hutten’s blog, My Asperger’s Child, enumerates lots and lots of autism facts and tips to help us understand every facet of parenting Aspergers children and teens.
Read SRSalas’ to better understand how to be sensitive to your Aspergers child’s needs. SRSalas is herself autistic, and has children on the spectrum.
Answer These Questions Today:
What am I happy about right now (about my child?)
What are her special accomplishments?
What are some of his most endearing traits?
What do I most enjoy about my relationship with my child right now?
How can I build upon these areas in the next 90 days?
Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I’m not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don’t lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people? Also true that I probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.
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