We all know having an autistic child can be a challenge—in fact, it can even be stressful at times. But can it be a gift? Can you use the fact your child has autism to your advantage? Absolutely. By understanding him or her, you can have a better relationship with your child not just as a parent, but as a friend.
I have Asperger’s syndrome. My brain functions differently than almost everyone else’s and therefore, I have different interests than almost everyone else. I have a 5,040 piece puzzle I completed all by myself with a plexiglass cover on top of it. You might think that’s at least 4,500 pieces more than what you would prefer, but I loved every moment of it. In fact, I have another 5,040 piece puzzle I’m putting together, piece by piece.
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Your autistic child may enjoy having a puzzle to work on. I recommend you let him or her choose a puzzle to buy, and once you get all of the pieces on the table, you can do it together. Also, in college, I learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I joined our Rubik’s Cube Club and learned how to solve much more advanced cubes. Ask your autistic child if this would be fun to do. If the answer is yes, learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube by buying one and then looking at solutions online.
Trust me, it’s a lot easier than you might think. Teaching your autistic child how to do it could be a massively bonding moment for the two of you. If puzzles and Rubik’s Cubes aren’t your thing, I understand. And maybe your child isn’t old enough for them yet. But when a parent learns his or her child has autism, it is a life changing event. You know your child better than I do, so maybe you could find a different hobby you would both enjoy instead.
Having an autistic child should bring you into new interests to connect with him or her. But the fact your child is autistic can bring him or her into new life-changing you have as well. People with autism love numbers. We love numbers more than Comedy Central loves laughter and more than John Wayne loved horses.
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Because of that, your autistic child can be drawn into sports in a different way. Here in the United States, our two most popular sports by far are football and basketball. Both are bastions of more numbers than you can shake a stick at. Not only are there limitless statistics, but every player’s jersey has a number on it.
Before a game starts, look at the app for your sport and memorize some statistics to share. “That quarterback, number 51, threw for 1,298 yards last season. He broke the franchise record.” Statements like this, not to mention the many statistics that will appear on the screen, can keep your autistic child engaged throughout the game.
It can feel like your autistic child is a distant relative, even if the two of you live in the same house. But I believe you can find a way to incorporate you and/or your child’s interests into a hobby you both enjoy doing together. I wish you the very best on finding a way to connect with him or her. And who knows? Maybe someday, it will be your autistic child who’s asking to do something together as a family.
This article was featured in Issue 94 – Daily Strategies Families Need