When the Dr. handed us our son’s autism diagnosis, I wanted to know everything I could about parenting a child on the spectrum. Unfortunately, all I got was a stack of papers, a bill, and a paralyzing panic attack.
I was freaking out.
Who was going to tell me how to parent my autistic child?
Sure, there were plenty of books available, but who could I trust?
I was searching for the What to Expect When You’re Expecting Autism Edition.
And I was what the experts call up the creek without a paddle.
You may find yourself up the same creek today, paralyzed by fear and unsure of your next step.
If so, I have put together this list of tips just for you.
A bunch of clorox wipes. You’re gonna need them.
Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. This one is easy to understand and practical. I promise you will have dozens of A-Ha moments as she tells you the reason autistic kids behave in certain ways. She gives you valuable insight & will help you understand your child like nobody else!
I promise this will keep you sane.
Look at the things your kid can do first. It’s fine that you want to build upon those skills, of course you do, but don’t dwell on what he’s lacking. Don’t dwell on what you lack, either.
I’m just going to break it down for you. In order for you to be an advocate for him you’ve gotta be a bada@@. There’s no way you can be a bada@@ and suffer from mom guilt at the same time. Pick a lane and stay in it. You’re either a bada@@ or a victim. You get to choose. Stay away from negative & toxic people. You ain’t got no time for that!
LOCK IT UP.
Buy locks for your kitchen cabinet doors if you haven’t already; a safety precaution and a cleaning hack for parents. If you don’t want to clean up rice on aisle all over your kitchen, you’ll go ahead & purchase these bad boys now.
LOCK EVERYTHING UP.
Speaking of safety, just go ahead & buy padlocks for all of your doors. Kids with autism are wanderers so you better channel your inner Boy Scout and always be prepared.
Get on a schedule & stay on it.
Schedules are important to autistic kids because it helps them prepare for what comes next and get into a routine. Schedules help them feel safe.
Consider a visual schedule to help get your child into a routine. (I wish I had done this sooner!)
CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF.
You’ve gotta watch out online.
Google is an amazing tool for parents-thousands of fabulous resources are available, but there are also some major league lunatics out there, too.
Do not believe everything you read in an autism support group!
Just because someone says they are an expert does not make them one! It has been my experience that if a person labels themselves as a guru, they are probably 65 living in their mom’s basement stealing people’s identities.
SLOW YOUR ROLL.
It takes time. Be patient. Your child will go through different stages & so will you. I swear it took forever to potty train my son. He was still wearing diapers at 3. That worried me to death.
I wish I could go back and do something productive with all of the time I wasted worrying.
Please hear me: It. Takes. Time.
It will be ok.
Get a plunger for every toilet.
A separate one for each bathroom.
I don’t want to go into too many details here, but let’s just say I’ve been up close and personal with way too many toilets since the diagnosis. That reminds me, get a spare spaghetti strainer while you’re at the store.
Take your kid (and yourself) out into the world.
Take him to restaurants, movies, stores, malls, sporting events, whathaveyou. Yes, I know this may make you uncomfortable-perhaps your child’s “stimming” has brought a few glances and embarrassed you-I have been there.
My son once stripped naked in a Dollar General Store and stimmed his little bare booty off on the cleaning supplies aisle while my nine year old ran after him screaming NOOOOO.
Was that fun?
Of course not.
Did we go back?
They know us now.
They know our story. I make sure to tell everybody…
You need a Mom Squad.
A tribe. Friends. You need to get out of your house by yourself, and the grocery store does not count.
If you don’t, you run the risk of getting depressed and trust me; you do not want that.
You need to reach out and touch someone-online-at church-wherever. Do not assume people know you need it! They are not mind readers!
Call your insurance provider ASAP.
You need to know before you need to go!
Chances are your child is going to need Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Get super friendly-and I mean make Best Friends with someone at Blue Cross Blue Shield or whomever your provider may be.
Tell them exactly what is going on.
This may be the first time you say, out loud to a stranger, my child has autism. (There are specific codes they use for every diagnosis so yes, it does make a difference.)
Your provider may tell you they need a letter from your child’s Developmental Pediatrician stating his diagnosis and a letter prescribing the specific therapy.
Go ahead and get the wheels in motion now! It’s incredibly frustrating to have to wait when your child needs something & he can’t get it because of red tape!
Be sure to get a call reference number every time you speak with someone!
Every. Time. Just trust me.
Be sure to ask about the in-network provider and the out of network provider. Make sure they explain the differences in cost to you in a way you understand.
If you are not satisfied with the answer, you may (politely) ask to speak with someone else or go the less confrontational route and call back the next day to get another representative.
Early morning is usually the best time to call-there will be less of a wait. I wouldn’t call around 5 pm. Everyone else is.
Run to the store & buy items for Sensory Bins!
Sensory Play can help your child learn language in the proper context and foster his social interaction skills.
They are super easy to set up, and the materials are budget friendly!
You can also give your child washcloths, scrub brushes, and textured balls for play. See, a lot of kids with autism have trouble with tactile sensitivity, so introducing different textures is always a grand idea.
DO NOT EVEN GO THERE.
Do not compare your child to typically developing children OR other kids on the spectrum.
Comparison is the thief of joy, people!
Measure your child’s success based on his accomplishments and how much he has grown and achieved NOT based on how he measures up to your sister’s best friend’s kid who is learning Japanese in the second grade because she’s already mastered Suzuki!
Take time to love your child for who he is RIGHT NOW.
Not who he’s going to be, not who he was last night when nobody got any sleep, but at this moment.
Take a deep breath and press pause in your chaotic life and remember why you’re doing all of this in the first place; because you love your child.