I’ve often thought about writing out a list of tips and tricks that I’ve collected over the years. I have so much information and so many ideas rolling around my head, that I really need to get them all out on paper (or some digital format). I’ve been holding out for a new laptop, but since the boys got iPads for Christmas, mommy has to wait a bit for her new toy! Hence, the thoughts stay rolling around my head.
Then I saw this post from Nichole on the Fun and Function FB page and decided it was time to put some ideas down. I am by no means an expert at this – I’m just a regular mom trying to find my way through this crazy and sometimes scary and almost always overwhelming world of autism. So, here goes:
1. Trust your gut. Nobody knows your child better than you. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. I wish I had a dime for every time I got ‘the hand pat’ and the ‘head shake’ and was told I was overreacting. My son flapped his hands and walked around on his toes on more than one occasion in front of our pediatrician. Those are classic signs of autism (I didn’t know that then), but I was told that I was rushing to judgment and that I was just being one of ‘those’ moms. And here we are…I wish I had had the courage to stand up to those doctors back then. Now I know better.
2. Get a second opinion. Or a third and fourth, if necessary. It won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, trust me. If you don’t like the doctor (dentist, therapist, teacher) or you don’t feel like they are in tune with your kid, they’re probably not. If you start to doubt yourself, refer back to Tip #1. This might be a bit more work for you, but trust me; you’ll thank yourself in the end.
3. Stop and catch your breath. This is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, it’s more like an Ironman than a marathon. Pace yourself because you have a lifetime of navigating and advocating to do. Pick your battles wisely and remember to conserve your energy.
4. Take some time for you and your spouse. Trust me on this one, it will consume you if you let it and your relationships can suffer. Almost 85% of parents with a child on the spectrum end up divorced. These statistics are no joke. Set aside time to talk to your spouse and then set aside time to just have fun with your spouse and NOT talk about autism. You’ll be glad for both of those later on.
5. Take a little time for yourself. You will need a break every now and then and this trip will be time consuming (refer back to Tip #3). Once in a while, take some time to yourself – get a pedicure, read a magazine or book (one not related to your child’s special needs), go out with a friend. Although you are a warrior, you still need to be a regular person from time to time.
6. Lean on your friends. This can be challenging sometimes. First, because it’s hard for us to ask for help. Second, because those who don’t have children on the spectrum may not quite understand. Their intentions are good, so you need to learn to navigate through that, too. You will also (purposely or inadvertently) develop a network of special needs parents that can help, too. Rely on all these people, because like it or not, you will need their help.
7. It gets better. It gets better because you get better at navigating this world. You will eventually get the hang of it and, although it will still be overwhelming at times, you’ll have done all the things in Tips 1-6, so you’ll have a little more of a steady hand.