I’ve Become a Better Parent, Thanks to Autism

Yes, it may sound strange, but I am a much more informed, aware and understanding parent…thanks to autism entering our lives.  I’ve learned to slow down, not take anything for granted and acknowledge the positive behaviors of my children. Before autism, I didn’t realize a lot of things; like how poor of a diet my kids ate. I thought since I cooked meals and we ate out only on occasion, that they ate healthy. Before autism I didn’t cook with foods that were free of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. The processed food, and the artificial ingredients in their snack food was affecting my kids’ health and behavior. If it wasn’t for autism, I wouldn’t have researched countless hours on diets, supplements and the understanding of ingredient labels.

I also didn’t see right away what exactly “attention seeking” behavior was, until behavior therapy entered our lives. Learning to spot the signs and how to deal with it was an education. And yes, I’m more aware of it now, although it does catch me off-guard every now and then.

Autism introduced us to sensory issues and sensory seeking behaviors. I used to think my older son’s sensory seeking behaviors were just something he did that drove me up a wall. Occupational therapy introduced me to the concept, the reason behind them, and what exercises or techniques that are helpful for my sons’ sensory integration.

One of the biggest challenges I face with autism is my fast pace.  I’m a multi-tasker, and can being doing one thing while rattling off a request or answering a question, all the while planning my next task.  Not good.  I have learned that I must stop what I am doing, walk over to my child, obtain his attention by touch when necessary, and calmly state my request. This works best, but is not always my first instinct. I’m still practicing this parenting skill, and should have it mastered by the time they go off to college.

Autism has been a daily lesson in patience and understanding. I am definitely not a saint in this area, but I am trying…and counting…and breathing deep.  It has helped me understand the needs of other kids in both of my son’s classrooms at school. I’m more tolerant and can see through some of their behaviors and try to get to the core of their issues.  Kids on the spectrum are not the only ones with focus/attention issues, sensory integration problems or social skill deficits.

Lastly, autism has given me perspective on what is important in life. To celebrate the little things, appreciate each developmental milestone and simply enjoy the moment. How many parents can come home from a seven-year-old’s birthday party and be on cloud nine that their child fit in socially and had a wonderful time without any meltdowns?  It’s those little things in life I appreciate that would have passed me by before autism. Thank you autism. For making a difference in my life.

One Response

  1. What a wonderful post. Thanks to you for recognizing that autism can also be a gift. We have a school in Guatemala City for children with neurological differences. 25% of our students are on the spectrum. Our sister school in Houston has a larger population of children with autism. We love our work, everyday is a joy and a learning experience. Through overnight experiences with our students, we feel, in a very small way, the daily struggles and joys of being a parent of a child with autism. Maybe autism IS a gift and a way of helping us all to learn how to stop, observe more, learn more, love more…

    Thanks again for this post.

    Tran Templeton
    Colegio Monarch Guatemala

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