(Inside: Autism isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, but it also isn’t a tragedy. These 5 steps to take when embracing autism is hard is a must-read for parents in the trenches who are struggling with their child’s autism.)
I embrace my own autism, and I embrace my son’s autism.
It’s kind of a big deal to me.
With that said, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes embracing autism is hard.
Two nights ago I had a major meltdown over something that really didn’t matter.
I struggled to breathe. I cried. I shook and couldn’t stop moving.
My husband had to go get my weighted blanket and help me to calm down.
That day? It wasn’t so easy to embrace autism.
But not only is it important to embrace autism, even when it’s hard… It’s almost more important to embrace autism when it’s hard.
But how do we do that? How do we embrace autism when we’re really struggling?
5 Steps to Take When Embracing Autism is Hard
Before I jump into these steps… I just want to take a second to tell you that you are not a bad parent.
If you’re struggling to embrace autism today, that does not mean that you’re a “warrior mom” or that you’re harming autistics and your child.
This is honestly just a part of parenting.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to embrace my son’s giftedness. Sometimes it’s hard for me to embrace my daughter’s sassiness.
Sometimes it’s hard to embrace raising boys. (Seriously, why can’t they just aim!?)
Everyone has days when parenting is hard. The fact that you’re here reading this post about how to get back to a good place with your child’s autism instead of posting negative things on social media complaining about your autistic child tells me that you’re an excellent parent.
With that out of the way… How do we get out of this funk and get back to embracing autism?
#1 Remember That Your Child is Going Through a Hard Time, Not Giving You a Hard Time
This seems cheesy, I know, but this simple mindset shift will immediately help you to reconnect with your autistic child and remember that you’re on the same side.
It’s hard when your child is screaming in the grocery store.
It’s even harder to be a child out of control and overwhelmed at the grocery store.
Take a moment to remember that your child isn’t trying to make your life harder.
Now take it a step further and remember that your child’s autism isn’t something that happens to you, it’s a part of who they are.
Just like a child being a boy isn’t happening to you, it’s a part of who they are.
#2 Take Some Time For Self-Care
Self-Care is often the last thing on your mind when you’re overwhelmed and struggling to embrace autism… I know.
In fact, after Miss S was born I was really in the trenches.
We were taking two boys to five therapies between the two of them. Chris was always working, and I was always alone.
I actually went about six months seeing no adults other than Chris, my kids’ therapists, and my mom (who watched the other kids while I took the kids to therapy).
Eventually, I broke completely.
My best friend came and took the kids for a weekend while Chris and I got away.
It did wonders for my mental health.
Now, I know that not everyone has the opportunity to escape like that.
So I came up with a few simple ways to prioritize self-care as a mom of autistic kids.
#3 Seek Out Extra Supports
Many times when parents feel it’s hard to embrace autism it’s because you’re on this journey alone (or it feels like it).
Maybe your spouse doesn’t really support the therapy sessions.
Maybe your parents think that autism is an excuse for bad behavior.
Maybe your friends don’t come around anymore.
I get it. I promise I do. I’ve dealt with a lack of support and it can feel seriously demoralizing.
This is when it’s so important to seek out extra supports.
Maybe that looks like connecting with other parents of autistic children in Facebook groups.
Maybe that looks like getting respite care through your state.
Maybe that looks like having your spouse take something off of your plate, or hiring a mother’s helper for one afternoon a week.
Whatever the solution, when you’re struggling to embrace autism, it’s time to get more support!
#4 Vent in a Safe Space
Sometimes you need to vent.
I vent all the time.
In fact, I have two specific people who I vent to on the regular:
- Friend one and I are “freak out partners” for each other. We rate our problem on a scale of 1-10, and we give each other a timer. “You can freak out for seven minutes and thirty-four seconds.” We are then free to vent, scream, cry, and freak out until our timer’s up. Once the timer is up, we’ve got to shift gears and start doing something to fix the problem.
- Friend two, I can say “I don’t care if this is completely my fault, I want NO logic in this conversation”. She then knows that I’m about to vent and she has to be on my side, no matter what. Once I’m done, she helps me to actually see the logic, but not until I’ve vented plenty.
These friends both know and love me, AND know and love my kids. So when I complain about my kids, I know they aren’t taking that vent and using it to form beliefs about my kids.
In other words, they’re safe.
Now, not everyone has these friends. So where else can you find a safe space to vent?
Closed. Private. Facebook groups.
Emphasis on private.
Find a group that’s supportive of autism and neurodiversity. (hint… you can find details on our Embracing Autism Group here!)
You can explain your struggle in a safe group and know that the members in the group will help you to clear your mind and know what next steps to take.
#5 Remember the Positives of Autism
When you’re struggling to embrace autism, I challenge you to take a few moments to remember the positives of autism.
If you’re really committed, grab some paper and write it down.
It doesn’t need to be fancy… Just think about what positive things have come from your child’s autism.
- Your child experiences joy over things that other people see as small and insignificant.
- Your child remembers EVERYTHING.
- Your child’s autism taught you how much of a fighter you could become.
- Your child’s autism helped you understand neurodiversity and opened up a new world to you.
- Your child finds things they love and embraces them fully.
- Your child’s autism taught you things about yourself that you never knew.
Obviously, those are all examples. Your child will have their own strengths and your journey with autism will have its own positive sides.
Regardless, taking time to remember the benefits of autism will do wonders when you’re struggling to embrace autism.
But how do you make that vital shift? How do you stop seeing autism as a negative thing and start actually embracing all that autism means for your child’s life?
In my book, Embracing Autism, I cover the keys to understanding, accepting, and embracing your child’s autism diagnosis… One step at a time.
With chapters covering things like understanding and handling meltdowns, finding your autism tribe, and focusing on the positives, plus over 10 Autistic Advocate Highlights showing you exactly what type of a future is possible for your autistic child, Embracing Autism will encourage you every step of the way on your autism journey.
If you’re looking for a safe space with other parents on a journey toward understanding, accepting, and embracing autism, you can enter your information below to join Embracing Autism on Facebook!
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