Over the course of my career I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of children who fall somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, way too many to count. These children are amazing to watch as they tackle the everyday normal obstacles of childhood in addition to all the extra stresses Autism brings. Not only do they inspire me with their strength and determination alone, but working side by side with their mothers I often find myself blown away. Before I go any further, let’s get a few facts straight about Autism.
- As defined on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, “Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.”
- The CDC reports the prevalence to remain steadily on the rise, current numbers citing 1 in 88 diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- While there are risk factors that have been identified, an actual “cause” of Autism remains a mystery.
- Autism does not discriminate; children of all races, gender, and socioeconomic groups are affected.
- Autism is more common in boys than girls; 5:1 odds being reported by the CDC.
- There is a huge range of severity on the Autism Spectrum, from very mild to moderate to very severe.
- Research shows us that with the appropriate treatments and therapies, children can make significant progress. Early intervention is KEY.
It’s no secret the families who are affected have their challenges. I have learned so much from working with them over the years. I had the opportunity to meet with a few moms of children who have Autism recently and we talked about some of these daily challenges life brings them. As I listened, I couldn’t help but notice there were some common topics that came up time and time again. Based on those conversations as well as conversations I have had when working with other moms, I decided to make a list to share some of these unique challenges they have told me about, that they wished others knew too. I feel it is something so small that I can do to help bring awareness to this puzzling disorder and also to the moms out there who breathe, eat, and sleep Autism day in and day out. So, here goes….
What Moms of Children Who Have Autism May or May Not Tell You:
1. They don’t always have time for a social life. We all know how busy it is keeping up with our childrens’ schedules week after week; now throw into the mix speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills groups, and increased doctors visits. Enough said. Be patient with their friendship and don’t give up if you’re having a hard time connecting.
2. Be careful of who you judge when out in public. Or better yet, just don’t. If you are out and about and see a much older child clinging to a lovey or sucking on a paci, think twice. Children who have Autism look like any other child (no physical distinctions), and it is not uncommon for these moms to get looks from others when their older child with Autism needs to self-soothe out in public. I had one mom report to me someone actually came up to her and asked, “Isn’t your son too old for that blankie?” No lie.
3. Don’t take it personally if they turn down an invite to Chuckie Cheese or any other loud, over-stimulating venue. Children who have Autism can be overly sensitive to sounds, noises, and visually stimulating places. They often avoid these places like the plague. Consider this if you are planning to invite a child who has Autism to a special playdate or event.
4. Their child would love to be your child’s friend. These moms are usually the first to admit their child can come across as if they are completely fine to play all alone, but do not be fooled, they are not. They want and need friends just like any other child does. They are loving and caring and often make good friends when approached correctly. Don’t hesitate to ask a mom of a child with Autism you may know how you could foster a friendship between your child and theirs. They will appreciate that more than you will ever know.
5. They do not want your sympathy. Many moms I’ve talked to have told me that while they do not enjoy watching their child struggle with all the challenges Autism brings and they would take it away if they could, they do find plenty of joy in the everyday. Not only that, but many are in fact thankful for the new perspective they have on life they might not have had otherwise. They are masters at savoring the small stuff. The first word, the first playdate, the first time in a typical classroom, all of this and more takes on a whole new meaning they may have easily taken for granted before. We could all learn a lot from them.
6. They dream BIG. Just like any other mom, they love their child more than anything and have big dreams and goals for them. Autism may have showed up and altered many things for these families, but in the dream department, it did not. When I ask these moms what their goals are for the future for their child, 9/10 times they say, “to get married, get a job, be relatively independent, and be happy in life.” Sounds very similar to the goals many many other moms I know have for their children who do not have Autism in their life.
Well if you made it to the end of this, THANK YOU so much for reading! Share what you learned with others and spread the word, all year long, not just during April for Autism Awareness Month. 1 in 88. That’s a huge number. A huge number of children diagnosed with Autism, and also a huge number of moms (and dads) directly affected too.
If you have any additional comments, questions, or insights to share on this topic, please do so in the comment section. Let’s educate ourselves and help where we can!
*For more information from the CDC on Autism which some statistics were cited in this blog entry, click here.