Sometimes I feel like “2007 Britney” ain’t got nothing on 2017, 2018, and 2019 Brittany. I quickly snap out of it, realizing that people all over the world struggle. Many of which, struggle with the same situations and scenarios. HOWEVER, each person that is struggling is affected in a much different way than the other. This is very similar to autism.
Autism is defined as; “A neurological condition that means your brain processes information differently.” It is lifelong, and comes with several developmental disabilities such as; communication or speech complications, some children being completely non-verbal, lack of social skills (which is always fun explaining at another child’s birthday party), and a different sense of how they see the world around them (not always a bad thing, especially in todays times), just to name a few. It is a spectrum condition. Meaning two individuals that share certain difficulties will be affected in different ways. Did you catch that? It affects everyone differently!!! So instead of trying to make small talk with a caregiver, saying their child “doesn’t look autistic,” (because I don’t even know what that means…is there an autistic “look?”-asking for myself (eye-roll)), ask how their child is doing, ask how the caregiver is doing. Trust me, we would all like to hear it.
Things that keep me up at night aren’t your typical scenarios; bills, oven on, clean kitchen, snoring spouse, neck cramp… No, added to the above list there’s a whole slew of items that indeed, keep me up, in regards to my son; meltdowns, speech, therapy, eating, sleeping, clothing, school, bullying, sounds, birthday parties, dental hygiene, babysitters, friends, being taken advantage of, obsessive compulsive disorder, wandering, and super human strength. I am in a constant state of worry if he is going to be okay. I know kids fall down, scrape their knees and get hurt, but this is different. Any caregiver with a special needs child can relate. Many autistic children are considered wanderers, with no sense of danger. My son is very much this way. We had to double latch the front door, back, and garage with a lock he could not reach. We also have to set our alarm system to panic mode just for it to be loud enough for us to hear, and jolt us out of bed should he ever reach the latch and exit the home. He walks without fear. Without fear of running into the middle of the street unaware of oncoming cars, without fear on going up to literally anyone and invading their personal space, (yes, it’s cute now, but without redirection, unfortunately this will become a problem as he gets older), without fear of trying to place his hands on the red-hot stove, just to name a few. My son lives his life as if there are no consequences for his actions. Can you imagine? Society rules are set in place for a reason, so people don’t get hurt, or hurt other people. Meaning, I have to work overtime to ensure my son understands all of this, again, with no eye-contact, and minimum verbal response. It can be somewhat stressful.
There are numerous things parents can do to help their child better understand and learn concepts one being ABA Therapy or Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy. We were blessed enough to get into an ABA program through our diagnosis center, once a week, for 12 weeks we were trained on ways to help our son. I know that sounds crazy, “help your own son,” but I needed to know how to get through to him. I needed him to see me, hear me, eventually tell me he loved me. Up until about a year and a half ago my son couldn’t tell me he loved me- I would tell him all the time, and he would stare through me, I was lucky if I received a smile. So to be clear, I would walk through fire to help my son, and I know I am not the only one. ABA is not for everyone, and can be quite expensive depending on the type of insurance you have. Unfortunately many leading insurance companies do NOT see autism as a medical condition(yay, stress!), but I won’t preach about that just yet. I also suggest doing your research on your child’s school. Do not wait for the teachers to tell you something “might be wrong,” if you as the caregiver have a gut feeling something isn’t right, and you see your child struggling, ask for testing, ask for in-class support. Ask for a meeting, and document everything. Ask your pediatrician, and document everything. Children with special needs are protected under IDEA- the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It ensures they are given an education TAILORED to fit their needs. I encourage everyone to look up this act and know its benefits. Early intervention is key in all of this to set our children up for success.
Okay, let’s wind down. I can get pretty amped when it comes to talking about my kiddos, especially when they are in need of something. To reiterate, the autism spectrum is very broad. Hence the name spectrum. Regardless where your child falls on that spectrum, the ONE thing we all have in common, is the love for our children. Never forget that! You may have rough and stressful days, but that doesn’t compare to what they are going through trying to communicate with you, trying to find their place in this world, simply trying. So always squeeze those babies one last time before bedtime, and take care of yourself. Our kids need the very best version of ourself! Let’s chat soon ❤