Kristen Raney is mom to a sweet little boy who just happens to be autistic. She is a freelance music teacher and the voice behind the prairie lifestyle blog, Shifting Roots. When she’s not doing these things, you can find her drinking coffee or walking around her neighbourhood dreaming up her next big idea.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and being that I have an autistic child, I feel as though I should probably write something about living with Autism. I think the perception in society is that Autism is this terrible disease that ruins lives. It’s not. For us, it’s just our way of life.
Yes, there are challenges. However, once you know how to manage your own child’s particular set of sensory needs, the only thing that’s frustrating is the way that strangers who don’t really know what Autism is react to your child.
For the record, our family is really lucky. Our son is high-functioning. we have a really supportive community around us, and so far he’s had very sensory-aware teachers and made a lot of progress in school.
I also realize that in writing this article, I can’t possibly cover what every Mom of an autistic child thinks. So please bear in mind that these come from my particular experiences and that moms with children at other spots on the spectrum may have differing opinions. To read another Saskatchewan mom’s experience, please check out my friend Wendy’s blog, My Unexpected Journey.
Alright, with all that preamble out of the way, let’s get to the article!
6 Things Moms of Autistic Children Wish You Knew
If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism. As annoying as the saying is, it really is true. Kids with Autism can be verbal, non-verbal, varying degrees of social, and have many different sensory issues that can sometimes change from day to day. Whether our kid is high functioning or low functioning, we all want the same thing: for our kids to be accepted for who they are.
Please believe us when we tell you our child is Autistic. I’m probably showing my high-functioning-autism-privilege, but it’s really insulting when strangers don’t believe us. We understand that you mean it as a compliment, but we’re really sensitive about it. In our minds we think of all the times we’ve gotten dirty looks because our child did something socially unacceptable, the judgement for our child’s extreme picky eating, or all those physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech appointments we’ve went to. However, honest questions about Autism and how it affects our lives are always welcome.
Please don’t ask us about vaccines. Anti-vaxxer or not, it implies that Autism is worse than life-threatening diseases. It’s not. For the record, my son is up to date on all his vaccinations and I’m happy we live in a country that provides them to us for free.
Our children are social and experience emotions. Quite frankly, I believe our kids experience everything more deeply than the average person. Part of the reason Autistic children find eye contact difficult is that they have so much sensory information overloading them that they can’t handle one more thing. Let the child get to know you better and he or she might eventually be able to give you some eye contact.
Moms of autistic children want to bring our children to playgroups, but are sometimes terrified to do so. Please be understanding if our child is all over the place, really loud, doesn’t play with anyone, says something socially awkward or we have to leave early.
We are really grateful for sensory-aware schools. Dimmed lights, natural materials, and fewer visual distractions might seem weird, but they really make a difference to an autistic child. Solid class routines are a lifesaver and a teacher who is willing to tell you in advance that she will be missing a day is GOLD.
We don’t want to “cure” our children. We suspected that our son had autism since he was 18 months old, and after a lot of reflection I really believe he’s been autistic since birth. The conclusion I’ve come to is this: I wouldn’t want him any other way.
Yes, some of his sensory issues can be frustrating to deal with, but if he didn’t have Autism I wouldn’t have all the gifts that come with it. He’s quirky and sensitive, loving and sweet, and I love the way he sees the world. While all the other neuro-typical boys his age are into trucks and superheros, my boy wants to know about the animals of the high mountains, the order of the planets, and how chameleons can change colours.
Do I worry about how society will treat him? All the time. But my husband and I are determined to build a community around him that sees his strengths instead of his weaknesses.
If you want to know more about Autism, or are looking for some information to help you along your own child’s journey, here are some resources I’ve found so far that have helped me.
And Next Comes L is a blog that provides so many amazing free resources for young kids with Autism and Hyperlexia. Tons of free printables and “hidden rules” resources.
Amalah While she doesn’t blog about Autism as much any more, reading the archives of her oldest child’s journey is really helpful. I love reading her blog anyway for her wit and sarcastic humour.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child was the book my son’s OT recommended. It opened my eyes to how he experiences the world and was the turning point in how I parented him. I finally realized that a lot of the times when I thought he was being bad, it actually had something to do with a sensory issue. (Not to say that my child never does anything wrong!)
Neurotribes helped me understand the history of Autism research and why different generations of people react differently to my son. It’s a long read, but very worth it in my opinion.
Facebook Support Groups. I personally belong to this Saskatoon based one, but if you search Autism and your location, hopefully you’ll find that someone has created a group near you. If you live around the Saskatoon area, we’d love for you to join us!