Written by: Ashlee Viesca
Parenting is hard. However, parenting a child on the autism spectrum takes parenting to a whole other level. It is not easy to be the parent of an autistic child. There are joyous moments, but there are also many challenges parents face that take a toll. When you’re raising an autistic child, it is like everything is elevated. The challenges and tribulations take a big toll on parents. But, the rewards and victories, both big and small, mean so much more.
Parents of autistic kids are experts — on their own kids. While many of us have done our fair share of research and have surrounded ourselves with knowledgeable people who can advise us about issues regarding Autism, we could never claim to be an expert on autism altogether. We know everything about our children on the spectrum though. So, when a teacher, therapist, or doctor tries to tell us what is best for our child instead of asking the parents to collaborate about what was best for them, not much progress will be made. Parents of autistic children want to be asked, not told, how to best interact with our child or work with our child because we are the experts on our children. Not the doctors, therapists, and teachers.
Many autism parents are always prepared. Of course, we always hope for the best. But, just in case something goes wrong, we like to be prepared. We carry a bag of emergency supplies and have a backup plan in place at all times. We know where all the exits are of every public place we go to. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst applies to the long term for our children as well. We have to have flexible plans for our child’s future as an adult. Unfortunately, some of our children may not be ready to be independent until much later in life than the average child.
Parenting autistic children can be exhausting. All parents are tired. However, parents of autistic kids are exhausted. There is a huge difference between being tired and being utterly exhausted. It’s not just the physical rest we sometimes give up. It is also the doctor appointments, therapies, and added stress. There is so much stress. A disability, like autism, is often emotionally taxing on the family. Thankfully, there are support groups and places that offer respite for parents of children on the spectrum. These support groups and opportunities for respite help make things easier on families.
Sometimes, parents with autistic kids are defensive. However, there are valid reasons for it. We have learned that not all children or adults are kind to us based upon past incidents. Several of us have had some really bad experiences in the past with our child’s peers, other parents, therapists, teachers, and even doctors. We have also learned that, because our children are different, they are often watched and singled out.
Despite all of this, autism parents are friendly and approachable. We want you to talk to us. We want to spread awareness about autism. We would much rather explain things to you instead of having you guessing and making assumptions. We will gladly answer any questions you may have. Instead of staring at us or our children, come over and talk to us. We love to talk about our kids just like every other parent out there.
Parents of children on the spectrum hurt when their children hurt. Sometimes, our kids struggle and have to do really hard things. Whether it challenges them physically, academically, or mentally, we often have to watch, with our hands tied, as they struggle. At times, our child’s pains, anxieties, and fears are incapacitating, and as much as we want to, there is nothing we can do to relieve them. It sometimes gets to the point where we become ill ourselves while watching our child struggle.
Autism parents need encouragement, not pity. We love our children with all our hearts and wouldn’t trade them for the world. They are our pride and joy. We celebrate smaller milestones than other parents do because raising autistic children has taught us to appreciate and value the little things. We do not often feel sorry for ourselves. An encouraging word means so much to us though. A simple phrase like, “Your kid sure is making great progress,” or, “You’re doing such a great job with your child,” means more to us than you will ever know.
Overall, raising an autistic child is very rewarding. The small things are often reasons to celebrate in our world. And, the little victories often end up becoming bigger victories in the future. We know, without a doubt, that we were meant to raise these incredible children. Not only have we been watching our children grow and thrive at their own pace over the years. But, we, as parents, have grown as people alongside them. Our children have taught us so many life lessons. They’ve taught us compassion, patience, joy, and empathy on a level that we could have never imagined possible before we ever became the parents of autistic children. This journey of raising an autistic child has truly been the most rewarding experience we have ever had. And, we wouldn’t want it any other way.