When you have kids, there’s always good days and bad days. Some days, the kids behave and you feel like you’re finally doing something right. But other days have you wondering if you ever do anything right!
If you have a child with high functioning autism, the good days and bad days are even more obvious. With autistic kids, when little things can easily turn into big things, both positive or negative, it’s easy to drive ourselves nuts trying to work it all out.
I believe one of the most difficult parts of being a mom to a child with high functioning autism is that we don’t know what our children’s futures will hold. Of course, that’s also true for typical kids, but it just seems that our autistic kids have more odds stacked against them.
We wonder and hope and pray that our kids will grow up to become independent responsible adults who will get a good job, support themselves, maybe even go to college, get married, have a family.
So when a bad day comes along, or when those tough times seem to happen more often than not, that dream slips farther out of reach.
Those times can be incredibly discouraging, especially if you don’t have good support to remind you that it’s going to be okay.
I’ve met in person and received countless emails from moms who have kids with high functioning autism. I’ve heard an overwhelming theme over and over and over: “I’m so tired, I feel so alone, and I just want him (or her) to be okay.”
I hear you.
I have tough days with my son, Nathan, too. He’s almost 13 now and I’ve learned a couple things that really help me get through the challenges. It won’t magically make everything better of course, but it’s really helped encourage me and see the overall big picture.
1) Stop comparing your child to others. Especially other typical kids, but even kids with autism.
You’re probably thinking “But I know not to do that!” Maybe you don’t compare your child to others, ever, and that’s great.
But I think most of us do, even occasionally just a little bit, and that can be very disheartening.
When you see how your child’s peers are speaking in full sentences and your child is just pointing and, if you’re lucky, saying one word, it’s not easy.
When other kids are playing nicely with their friends and your child is off in the corner lining up row after row of cars again, that can be discouraging.
When you’re called into school because your child lost control again, you might just want to curl up in a corner and cry.
When you can’t even get your child to put socks on without a battle and it’s zero degrees out, you might be tempted to smack the mom who complains because their child has too many activities.
Often our kids seem to be doing well on their own, but when we, even accidentally, compare them to someone else, discouragement sets in quickly.
Sometimes it’s almost impossible not to see the differences between your child and others. But I beg you to try to see your child for who he or she is without letting anyone else cloud your vision.
And that brings me to my favorite point.
2) Do compare your child to himself; look back at how far she’s come.
When your child has thrown another tantrum because you told them it was time to get off Minecraft or they’re screaming at their siblings for doing something relatively minor, it’s so easy to get so frustrated and feel like your child is taking more steps backwards than forward.
I want to encourage you that yes, it is frustrating in the moment, but don’t lose heart.
For years, my Nathan would go through a good phase, then revert backwards and I’d be so discouraged. Especially because there often wasn’t an obvious reason for the change.
One day, I realized I needed to look back farther. Instead of a month ago, I started looking back to how Nathan was a YEAR ago. Suddenly, the difference became obvious and I began to see just how far Nathan has come.
It used to be very rare that I could get a photo of Nathan both smiling and looking at the camera. But now, he does it all the time. (Those are blueberry stains on his hands in case you’re wondering. He had just made his favorite afternoon smoothie.)
Sometimes a year may not be enough and you need to look back farther. But if you look hard enough, it should be there.
Dear moms, take heart. I know it’s hard. The bad days can sometimes seem to outweigh the bad days, but you’re doing good. Hang in there and remember, you are not alone.
For more posts I’ve written on autism:
- Dear Mom of a Child With High Functioning Autism
- When Someone You Know Has a Child With Autism
- 3 Essential Changes That Could Transform Your Autistic Child’s Life