You can find a lot of literature and books that list all the effective traits of being a good parent. Most often than none, those traits are very true. But what does it take to be a good autism parent? What does it take to be a good special needs parent? The parenting styles and traits are not comparable to parenting neurotypical kids with no disability. Since being a mom to two boys on opposite ends of the spectrum, I will tell you what I have learned that works with my boys.
1. Sacrifice- You have to sacrifice. You sacrifice sleep. You sacrifice things that you used to do. You sacrifice almost everything. If you don’t sacrifice for your child, then who do you sacrifice for?
2. Patience- This is another must. Parenting children in general takes patience but parenting children with autism takes patience to a whole new level. It’s a level that is only understood in the autism world.
3. Consistency- Consistency is the key to many things in life but it is the largest key you will ever see with families raising kids on the spectrum. The slightest bit of a “bend” in your consistency will make it all harder, if not, impossible to achieve with autism. There is no bending the rules just once…nothing….none of that or all the hard work and money put into helping your child will not be as successful.
4. Flexible- You have to be flexible. As a parent of two boys, I have to be ready to do what they want to do even if I like it or not. If I don’t feel good or just not in the mood for what they want to do, it doesn’t matter. It is only something that autism parents can know and understand. If you aren’t flexible, then the meltdowns begin and the rest of the day is ruined.
5. Love- Every parent loves their child. Every grandparent loves their child. However, with autism it takes a lot harder work to feel that love back. It takes A LOT of extra work to have that “special bond” with your child.
6. Dedicated- I must remain dedicated to my boys in order for them to have the best life. They need me by their side, being their voice, advocating, and educating in order for others to understand how their life is. I cannot chose to be a “fair weather” parent and do it when I want to. I have to remain dedicated at all times. Hence, my life is dedicated around the boys.
7. Being There- I have to “be there” for my boys at all times. I can’t choose to “be there” when I want to be. I can’t choose to “be there” but not really be there. When I am around them, I have to “be there” and give them my undivided attention. My boys learn in a different way than neurotypical children. How can I engage and try to bring them into my world if I’m not paying attention to them? For instance, the other day I was at a public place with Andrew and I was just having a ball playing with him. I stopped and looked around at all of the other parents and every one of them was on their phone not paying attention to their child. It just broke my heart for all the children there. Special needs parents can’t do that. It takes just one second for our children to get out of sight.
8. Adjust- I have to adjust my parenting style almost daily. First and foremost, my parenting style is not comparable to neurotypical children’s parents. Autism parenting is a whole different ballgame and almost every child with autism has their own unique style that they learn better from. During certain periods my boys do better with a certain technique. The next month it may be different…..I have to learn to adjust everything at all times.
9. Eyes on me- Like every child, my boys’ eyes are on me at all times. They learn by what I say and do. Therefore, I have to lead by example just like neurtopical children’s parents do. However, mine is times 100! I have to be knowledgeable of what to do and say at all times when they are watching me.
10. Advocate & Educate- I have to find times for these daily. If I don’t, then my child has a much higher chance of being bullied, not understood in the world, made fun of, past around from here to there in the education system, etc. A lot can happen if parents don’t speak out about their child’s disability. Others have no way of understanding and educating themselves if the parents do not do it.
11. Enter into his world- If I don’t enter into his world at times, how can I expect him to enter into my world? He has to see me in his world before he trust me enough to enter into my world
12. Children first- My boys are first at all times. Their needs and wants are put before mine at all times. After all, I do not have autism. I don’t have to battle their battles so the least I can do is to do EVERYTHING that it takes to make them better! I can’t do that without ALWAYS putting them and their needs first!
Many other things can be listed above. It truly does take special people to parent children with autism. I am not saying that the parents can’t take breaks; they most certainly can as long as others are willing to help with the children. It’s just autism parents are unable to get the breaks like other parents are. I am sure that is why the divorce rate among autism parents is up to 80%. Many people are unable to do what it takes to be a good autism parent. Autism parenting is in a league all of its own, just like our children. I am proud to be in that leagueJ