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6 Things Parents Of Autistic Kids Need To Remember Every Day

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Parenting Advice For Handling An Autism Diagnosis & Preparing To Raise Autistic Kids
Family, Self

It's the meaning we give autism and how we respond that makes autism enjoyable.

Parents of children diagnosed with autism can experience higher levels of stress, psychiatric issues, and poorer health than parents of neurotypical children.

So every time a new study is published that indicates that the autism prevalence rate has increased again, it also implies there are more and more parents struggling with the identity of being a special needs parent, spouse, employee, family member, friend, etc.

In other words, nothing else in life stops because their child has an autism diagnosis. If anything, life demands more when it comes to parenting.

RELATED: If Your Toddler Has These 6 Traits And Quirks, He Might Have Autism

I know this because I am the parent of 11-year-old twin boys with autism, too. And I have a 2-year-old neurotypical daughter who’s too young to understand this yet. But someday she will.

And we will ensure she has a healthy awareness and acceptance of autism and autistic kids.

Stress, irritability, sadness, anxiety, depression? Yep, I have experienced it all and could easily be a case study for someone wanting to learn more about autism and its effects on parents.

But make no mistake, I love autism, I love my children, and I love the parent I’ve become. I also love the life I have because I have learned to have more good days than not-so-good days.

And you, too, will be able to successfully navigate this journey of autism caregiving.

Here are 6 simple parenting tips and mindset hacks if you're the parent of a child with autism. 

1. Know that you are an emerging expert on autism

You don’t need a college degree nor someone with a college degree in psychology or behavioral analysis to tell you about your child’s autism. Initially, it’s nice to hear the information and resources, but you live with autism every day. Autism is family to you just like your child.

No one else can tell you what autism is or isn’t in your child nor what your child can and cannot do as a result of autism. What you have is more than many students and experts in the field will be able to acquire in their lifetime.

You have experience and working towards an honorary Ph.D. in autism with your child as the professor, department chair, and dean.

Who better to teach you about their autism than them?

2. Be aware that your child is part autism and part everything you raise them to be

It becomes easy to adopt the mentality that you’ve lost your child to autism. Even easier is adopting the belief that you have to find a "cure" to somehow recover your child from autism as if they have been diagnosed with the flu.

Your child is still your child. And their autism is only a portion of who they are and never the totality.

If all you see is autism and an autistic kid, that says more about where you are emotionally and mentally than where they are. And that’s normal, initially.

Children with autism are very capable of whatever you want to see them become. Adjusting to your expectations and timeline are usually the biggest adjustments to be made.

3. Remember that autism doesn’t define you  

Just like autism does not define your child, it should not define you and your parenting skills either.

Sure, life is demanding and nonstop. But that’s true for parents of any kids. You will actually learn to become better focused in many ways. Or simply put, you will learn how to make the main thing the main thing.

Just because you’re an autism parent doesn’t mean you have to call yourself that. It’s the same as identifying yourself as a "typical child" parent. No one does that! But it is OK to address it when necessary.

4. You have permission to enjoy life by a separate set of rules  

It’s easy to become sad and down when you compare yours and your child’s life to others. You begin to feel less than or like life is unfair because you don’t have an opportunity to live life like others.

A cool part about autism is that it does not have to conform to society’s standards. That means your life as a parent does not have to always conform either. You can say no to the company’s family picnic with the co-workers you barely like because you have a better way to spend that time.

Whether it’s professionally, socially (i.e. friends, family, spouse, dating), medically, spiritually, politically, or financially, you can live outside the box of what "normal" is and create your own sense of normalcy.

Why be an average parent when you can be exceptional?

RELATED: What A Normal Day Looks Like When You're The Mom Of A Kid With Autism

5. Know that you did nothing wrong

I don’t care what studies you read, there’s always a hint at something you could have done differently.

For example, you vaccinated your child, you had exposure to pesticides, you had children too late, you didn’t read to your child enough, you didn’t do enough tummy time, or you passed it on genetically.

Truthfully, this list could go on and on. You, absolutely, did nothing wrong, you are not a bad parent, and you have a lot of love to give.

Consider the following scripture from Exodus 4:11:

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

You didn’t do this to your child. In fact, according to this scripture, autism is not a flaw; it’s a different design of human that God creates for his own purpose.

Check out what John 9:1-3 has to say:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

6. You are the chosen one

No child is born to a parent as a source of punishment. There’s a saying that goes, "Children are a gift from God." For some divine reason, He chose you to be an advocate, nurturer, and protector for this child’s mind, body, and spirit here on Earth.

This child could have been born to anyone else, but there’s something unique about you that makes parenting this child, even more uniquely designed by Him, your special assignment in life. Oftentimes in our careers, a special assignment is accompanied by more benefits, more pay, or some special promotion that is later to come without us knowing in advance.

You have been given special talents earlier in life for this occasion. Now is the time to display them.

Autism parenting is not easy. And, in many cases, it can challenge everything you believe about your faith, family, friends, and yourself. But this is what makes us stronger in life anyway.

Just like muscle fibers of bodybuilders tearing in order for them to grow larger, your original thinking about yours and your child’s life will have to be torn a bit as well. The more you work these beliefs into your daily living with autism, the stronger you will become as a parent, spouse, advocate, and overall person.

RELATED: 13 Tough Truths Only Parents Of Kids With Autism Will Understand

Dr. Eric A Williams is a husband and father of 11 year-old identical twin boys diagnosed with severe autism, father of a 2 year-old neurotypical daughter, autism advocate, presenter, and serves on the board of directors for Autism Society of Cumberland County in Fayetteville, NC and Mariposa School for Children with Autism in Cary, NC. He also practices as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Fayetteville, NC.

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