Article on parenting autistic children, by a psychologist parent
How can I be Happy when I have an Autistic Child?
By Dr. Leslie Carter
(503) 807-7413 www.DrLeslieCarter.com
I am often asked, “How can I be happy when I have an autistic child?” I am a parent of an autistic child. Some days are very difficult, trying and sad. Others days seem more routine and less stressful. I have come to accept that my family life will always be different from other families because of autism. I do not love autism, but I do love my autistic child. I have come to accept that some autistic children get better and others do not. If my child does not get better is not my fault. I have tried many different treatments to help him get better. Other treatments are too expensive, experimental, or far away to try. I have spent more hours than some parents trying to help my child and spent fewer hours than some parents. I am only human. In times of acceptance, I find peace and happiness.
I have come to accept many things about life with autism:
1) I accept that I am raising an autistic child. I may not always like it, but it is a fact of my life.
2) I do not love autism, but I do love my autistic child. I will do my best to care for and love him/her as I would any other child.
3) I accept that raising my autistic child may not be an 18 year project, but may be a 30+ year project. I cannot wait to start caring for myself or living my life until he/she moves out. I must find balance in my life now.
4) I accept that this is not a sprint to the finish, but a marathon. I pace my progress along the way so I don’t get burned out. I am never critical of someone who is tired of parenting their autistic child. It is very difficult.
5) I accept that even though my child may not show much love I will find ways show my love to them anyway.
6) I accept that I am the parent and when my child is having a bad day I must be the bigger person. I enforce sensible rules they can understand. I forgive their angry outbursts, just like I forgive my own. I try not to hold grudges.
7) I accept that sometimes I must be my child’s advocate. Nobody else is going to do it.
8) I accept that my greatest challenge is to help my child discover what his/her strengths/gifts are and learn to embrace them. This is the mystery of autism.
9) I accept that ultimately I am responsible for deciding what treatment my child does or does not get. Autism is not well understood. There are lots of different types of treatment. No one knows for sure what is best for any child.
In times of acceptance, I find peace and happiness.