The Amazing Ways My Kids With ASD Have Shaped Me As a Mom
I am the mother of four amazing children ages 21, 12, 10, and 10; three boys with one girl right in the middle. Each one has their individual strengths and weaknesses. With each of my children, I have gone through a learning phase as a parent.
With my oldest, I was a new mom. So literally everything was ‘learn as you go.’ With my second being my only girl, there was that learning curve again. And it wasn’t just due to the gender difference. My two oldest, while they get along great, have very different personalities and very different needs from me as a parent. So what worked with my oldest son, did not necessarily work with my daughter. In jest, I tell my oldest “You did not adequately prepare me for your sister.” Now you will not be surprised to hear that when my twin boys came along, I found the learning curve returned.
Things were very different with my twins from the very beginning, and we rationalized that their delays in speech, self-feeding, etc. were simply because they are twin boys and things are just different with twins. While that may be a true statement, it was different because they are on the autism spectrum.
The boys hit all of their gross physical milestones, but when it came to the social and fine motor milestones, that was not the case. Early examples include when one would wake up screaming in the night, he never woke the other, neither one held his bottle, both had a very difficult transition to a sippy cup, and both were significantly delayed in speech and all fine motor activities.
The biggest difference between my older two and my younger two is that with the twins it seems that the learning curve never ends. My oldest son, when he was a toddler, he would scream like crazy when we said it was time to leave grandma’s house. Once we learned that if we would just give him a five-minute warning before we left, no screaming.
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That was it. That was the solution. It did not change from day-to-day. We did not need to relearn a new strategy periodically to solve the leaving grandma’s screaming problem; we just gave him a five-minute warning every time. End of problem. With my youngest two, it’s not that simple. For one thing, just because something worked today to fix whatever problem we are dealing with, it may not work tomorrow.
There is not just one solution to any given challenge. Sometimes he needs gentle attention and a soothing voice and other times any words spoken in any tone make it worse. Sometimes deep pressure is calming and other times that makes it worse. In addition, just when I feel that we have conquered a problem, it rears its ugly head again.
So, things like chewing on clothes seem to cycle. One will chew the collar of his shirts for a while, seemingly just until he has successfully destroyed half the shirts in the closet. Then he stops just in time for the other to take over the collar chewing duties and destroy the rest. And of course it does not just cycle between the boys, each problem seems to need to be tackled at least a couple of times.
For example, the need for everything to be EXACTLY on time. In the mornings, we leave for school at approximately 7:30 a.m.. If we are in a period where we MUST be on time, it is an absolute crisis if we leave the house at 7:31a.m.. I do my best to be on time, but getting three kids ready for school and one mom ready for work in the mornings has many potential pitfalls that can make a person fall behind.
I am certain that you will not be surprised to hear that despite my best efforts and the assistance of my daughter, we do not always back out of the garage at exactly 7:30 a.m.. And if I forget something and have to run back in the house…. well, let’s just say that it really is not good. I cannot even begin to count the number of cycles that we are on with this particular challenge.
The fact that my boys are twins is a blessing, at times a very challenging blessing, but definitely a blessing. They have learned to interact and play together. The games they play and the way they play is atypical, but it is still social interaction. They cheer each other on in Mario Kart racing and Pac-Man. They play scooters together, and trains, and trucks. They always have each other. Also, they have an amazing big sister who will play the games that they enjoy with them as a peer. We have a long way to go as far as social skills go, but they have come a long way.
I know that I am blessed with an amazing family and all the love and support that comes with it. I know that we are so lucky to have met so many amazing people along the way that have helped out my boys, actually helped out our entire family on our journey through life. I know that, while this is certainly a challenge, my boys have given me the most amazing gift of all.
They have taught me to focus on each of my children’s positive traits, not the challenges. They have taught me to take life day by day and enjoy every wonderful, crazy, and fun part of it. They have taught me that our differences can be a good thing. They have taught me to be a better mom to all of my children, and that is truly the greatest gift of all.
This article was featured in Issue 88 – Knowledge is Power