Here’s why it’s essential to have a network of supportive individuals who can carry you through your autism parenting journey.
I often hear that I am a strong mother for raising an autistic child on my own. As humbling as this statement is, I cannot sincerely accept all the credit. My 19-year-old son Julian has a wonderful support system!
Our village allows me to advocate for my son because I have the resources and support to move in the right direction. These beautiful individuals are part of our extended family, our #GoBlue4JuSupporters.
However, it was not always this easy raising a special needs child. My family and I pledged to treat Julian the same as any other child. Along the way, I have learned to speak to Julian and not at him. I allowed him to fall and pick himself up, never overreacting. Julian is the oldest of three boys and he is treated like the big brother he is.
My son’s diagnosis
My son received his diagnosis at the age of three, and we had no idea what autism was. I did not know where to turn and no one in my family had this disability. In 2001, parents did not have as much information as we do today about pervasive developmental disorder and autism.
Being an educator for over 20 years, I have access to resources to help myself and others in my circle. Throughout the years, I acquired knowledge from teachers, diagnosticians, principals, nurses, para-professionals, and parents living with disabilities. This is when I decided to create “JoyofJulian”, a support group for my son and our family.
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Never do it alone—take care of yourself
One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that I cannot do this alone and it truly takes a village to raise a child! It is imperative that you surround yourself with people who support you and understand the daily needs of raising a special needs child.
You have to open up and realize that you will need the support of others, even if it is for 10 minutes of alone time. That’s right! You are no good to your child if you do not take care of yourself.
Our babies feel our energy, and we must stay strong, positive, and healthy, physically and mentally. We want to believe that we can handle it all and that we have the superhero emblem embedded in our hearts, however, everyone has a breaking point.
A few more tips I’ve learned along the way—parent to parent
- Never be afraid to ask for help!
You will be surprised at how welcoming people are once you tell them you are in need of resources
- Create a routine
Be as consistent as possible and make sure that part of your child’s routine includes activities of his/her interest
- Carve out a minimum of 30 minutes a day for yourself. Self-care activities could include meditating, reading, dancing, or working out
Please do whatever relaxes you and helps you to de-stress
- Celebrate the small things that you and your child accomplish
It may be as simple as using the appropriate food utensils at home and in public.
- Never be embarrassed of your child because he/she belongs to you
Give praise to your child when he/she accomplishes a goal, no matter how small it is
- Monthly play dates are essential
This helps with your child’s social skills and gives you the opportunity to meet parents who can relate to your situation.
- Join a support group
Joining a support group reminds you that you are not alone in your journey with autism. It is just as important to listen as it is to speak
- Speak with your special education director or case manager
Speak to those in charge of educational departments near you if you have any questions about autism or a special needs program
- Talk to your pediatrician
This is where you can receive a wealth of information that is specific to your child
- Keep it short and sweet
Last but not least, the educator in me wants you to remind you of K.I.S.S. (Keep it Short & Sweet)
All of these things can be accomplished once you create your personal village. It may consist of family, friends, coaches, or individuals who have knowledge of working with autistic children. Once you open up to the idea of receiving and accepting help, just sit back and watch your village grow.
This article was featured in Issue 125 – Unwrapping ABA Therapy