Autism in Children: Raising an Autistic Child
A Jump Forward
My son is 16 now. He was diagnosed with PDD-Autism-NOS at the age of five. I on the other hand knew he had autism shortly after his first birthday. Call it mother’s intuition if you will, but most momsjust knowwhen something isn't right. As a parent I have dealt with severe and violent head banging tantrums, developmental delays, odd behaviors, a mix of teachers, frustrating ARDS, IEP’s, dismissive pediatricians, reluctant diagnosticians and more. I took to the Internet early on and researched anything and everything related to autism. I even ended up with 18 hours of special ed. college courses and became certified. Not necessarily to teach in that realm, but to understand their perspective and to apply my knowledge with my own son.
A Retrospective, Back to the Beginning
Analysis begins with questioning. I've always been somewhat naturally inquisitive. Motherhood only enhanced my need to answer my inquiries. It was becoming more and more evident to me that something was very wrong with my son. Everyone disagreed with me...EVERYONE. I was constantly evaluating myself and wondered if I was being overly concerned. It was almost as if they brushed off my concerns and ignored my questions. I needed acknowledgment from those around me that they where witnessing the same things. Nothing...I got nothing and I was beginning to feel very alone and confused.
Eventually others began to agree. This was not without elders stating my son needed discipline and a swift spanking. However, I found my defense and advocacy through Isabel. Isabel is my first cousin and she had moved in with us about one month before Tony's birth. The idea was for her to live with us as Tony's nanny for at least 3 yrs. None of us had realized what was truly in-store for us. God is truly a master planner. Needless to say, we were blessed to have her as Tony's live in nanny for close to 11 yrs. Tony would not be where he is today without the love, guidance and support Isabel provided Tony as well as for our immediate family. Isabel was steadfast with Tony's needs and yanked me up whenever I slumped. She was Tony's living guardian angel and quite frankly one for me as well. Needless to say, Isabel and I faced constant questioning from family members. Questions from family members were addressed to her because they didn't want to approach me directly (we don't want to offend the mom right?). Others suggested that she and I were confusing my son in regard to a maternal role model. I know our family members meant well, but it led to quite a bit of questioning and hurt feelings. Fortunately, Isabel and I had a steadfast strong bond and a unwavering determination in helping and guiding Tony through the rough spots. I truly love Isabel as the sister I never had and we are also blessed to have her as a Godmother to both of our children. The love, patience, tears and perseverance she displayed towards Tony those 11 years is undeniable.
Mama finds momentum
Those of you that are moms will understand this next segment. Whenever we have a newborn it is almost as if we become one with our baby. We learn to anticipate their needsbeforethey cry. We become a living clock for feeding, carrying, changing and bathing. We develop little cues so our little one will know what we are up to. This is what a mother of a child of autism HAS to continue to do if they want to stay ahead of autism symptoms. You have to anticipate what your child is going to need or expect. Yes, you have to become a mind reader of sorts. I know, not exactly an easy task, but you need to train yourself to identify the antecedents that provoke tantrums and distress. You need to stay ahead of the game if you want to gain progress. Learn your child's expectations, study them and sincerely try to understand their point of view. Perspective is everything - theirs NOT yours. The hard part is getting over the power struggle. If you have the type of attitude that states, "You will sit when I say so" then you are up for a steep uphill battle. Now before you throw your hands up in the air I want you to consider something. Once you begin to effectively analyze your child's needs you can then begin to develop control and expectations for your child.
Let's look at this from a different perspective. If an elderly person such as your grandmother wanted something would you do everything in your power to make that happen? If a 4-month-old baby needs a teething ring would you deny them their source of comfort? We need to learn to respect and honor the things that other humans need and expect, within reason of course. Once you learn what comforts them you can begin preparing a plan for reward. Cause and effect is EVERYTHING when it comes to autism. Something causes their behavior and it is usually something that they expected to happen. The main idea here is this. If you begin to thoroughly understand what your child expects you can then begin to set up an effective pattern. Eventually you will learn the art of bargaining. Plain and simple -you want this? You have to do this first. I'll show you how I did this in another chapter. Essentially though - this is what is going to help you develop communication, expectations and overall development within your child. You need to find what they like and what soothes them. This will be the key for you to move forward.