I am a mother. I have three kids, two on the Autism Spectrum who also struggle with Sensory Processing. This fact permeates pretty much all factors of our lives. It determines which events we choose to go to, when and where we vacation, and which foods we eat.
It has created constant stress around school. The phone ringing during school hours brings a jump to my stomach and an automatic, “Uh oh.” from my lips. What happened now?
Instead of sports or music activities, we’re more concerned with getting speech, occupational or social therapy set up. (And making sure insurance will cover it.) Birthday parties, while exciting, are also oh, so scary. How will my child react to all the change and noise?
Autism/SPD literally brings shaking heads and wagging fingers of elderly people in stores. It brings looks of disapproval from mothers with pretty little girls looking quietly at their dolls. It brings uninformed teachers labeling your child with a scarlet “D” for delinquent before they even get out of Kindergarten.
Every parent has this to a certain degree. I know that. But what people without autism/SPD in their lives don’t understand is that the judgment is so constant. You know that every-once-in-a-while interaction you have because of a bad day?? It is a common occurrence in our house. And not because our kids are bad kids… in fact, they’re amazing, thoughtful, creative and loveable. Just like your kids. They just have autism/SPD.
The issues autistic/SPD kids struggle with just happens to show itself behaviorally. Some parents may think the way they would parent would create a different outcome. But trust those of us in this growing community when we say that it would never happen. You can’t parent autism or SPD away. We’re all trying hard, day and night. We love our kids fiercely and fight for them daily. The very fact that we work so hard, makes those “lazy parenting” looks sting even more.
As an INFP personality type, I would feel every one of those judgmental moments to the core. Somewhere along the way I’ve learned I have to be thick-skinned to parent a child with autism. I try to just do the best I can and ignore the ignorant judgers around me… but being human, it still gets to me at times.
So do you want to know what you can do? Being an ear to your friend is good. Talking about autism/SPD Awareness is even better… but do you know what will change their world?
If you understand.
It is almost painfully simple.
Understand that our kids try so, so hard. Much of the time the world feels like a bombardment of the senses. Restaurants have noises that cling and clang and that feel like nails down a chalkboard to my child.
Understand that if my child covers his ears when your baby cries, he’s not being overdramatic or rude. It truly is hurting him.
Understand that if my child is playing with his iPad at the table while we eat, we’re enjoying the fact that we’re able to be there and the distraction makes it possible to be out as a family. It’s not because we don’t enjoy each other’s company.
Understand that if my child has headphones on and doesn’t look engaged, he is and if we’re still there he’s doing awesome.
Understand that my child is whining because, although he is 3 ½ years old, he is still learning to speak. In fact, he just started using 3 word sentences! The whining is a work in progress. And, just trust me, we’re working on it.
Understand that I have researched, I have prayed, and I have cried over my children. I have also cherished every moment I’ve had with them and celebrated their amazing accomplishments. I honestly feel blessed having been given the chance to walk this life with them.
Remember when you see someone having a hard time and you think you understand why, you’re only seeing 30 seconds of that person’s life… look past the 30 seconds.
Please understand, because before being a special needs mother, I was simply human, simply a person, simply a friend. Just like you.