What You Should Know About Raising a Child with Autism
Over the last few decades, many people have become more aware of autism spectrum disorder and the expectations and realities of raising a child with autism. But there are still many misconceptions and ideas about what autism is (and what it isn't).
At Goodman, we have many trained and supportive therapists well-versed in family therapy and experienced working with kids with ASD. If you need guidance, please reach out. If you’re wondering what it’s like raising a child with autism, here are the truths that autism parents and therapists wish everyone knew.
Raising a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Parents raising a child with autism may go through a range of emotions. They may feel overwhelming pride and joy as their child reaches a developmental milestone or when they enjoy a breakthrough in connecting with and understanding their child. At the same time, they may feel frightened, worried, or even frustrated at times. They may think that their idea of parenting has changed, and they may wonder how to meet their child's needs.
Depending on their child's age at diagnosis, parents may worry that they're already behind in certain steps and interventions to give their child the best path forward. Fortunately, with the increased awareness today, many children receive an early diagnosis, and parents can get the assistance and guidance they need.
Raising a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is fraught with many of the same ups and downs as any parenting situation. There are moments when every parent struggles with their child, feels helpless, or isn't sure of the proper steps. While raising a child with autism may require some adjustments to your parenting style, there's no reason to feel alone and unsupported. Getting the right help can guide you through parenting challenges.
Autism Looks Different for Everyone
What's more, it's essential to understand that autism spectrum disorder truly is a spectrum. There are many different symptoms and ways that ASD can manifest. There are different levels of functioning and severity. It's vital that each child is viewed as an individual and that all parties, from parents to teachers to therapists, work together to help that child succeed in their own way.
Many kids with ASD may struggle for years to meet the expectations of "suitable behavior." Even as adults, people with ASD may feel they don't fit in. These feelings are perfectly normal (and genuinely experienced by all people at some point).
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there is a range of many different symptoms. Some people have more severe symptoms than others. Two people with very different symptoms may still have ASD. Some people with ASD may have sensory sensitivities, meaning they react strongly to noise, light, or changes in their environment. Another person may not have sensory sensitivities but may have trouble with emotional regulation. Some people with ASD may struggle with social situations or clothing that feels too tight.
Wanting Children to “Fit In”
Parents raising a child with autism may struggle to deal with their child's behaviors and sensitivities. For example, their teen may carry toys in their pocket to feel safe and reassure themselves. Their child may struggle to find conversational currency with their peers—such as being aware of sports championships, players, team rankings, or game rules. They may not quite connect with peers on an age-appropriate level. But it's essential to keep in mind that wanting a child to be "age-appropriate" can say more about our own comfort level than our child's development.
While diagnoses are happening earlier and earlier, some children aren't diagnosed with ASD until they're four or five. While early intervention is highly beneficial to children with ASD, parents shouldn't worry if there is a delay in diagnosis. In some cases, a “wait and see” approach is appropriate, but under the guidance of a trained professional. ASD has a wide range of symptoms, but most children with autism display deficits in social interactions, language, and imaginative play. In addition, they may have different sensitivities and struggle with emotional regulations.
Parents raising a child with autism often wish people knew that there’s no reason to feel uncomfortable or awkward around kids with autism. Some behaviors may look a little unusual, but they are often coping mechanisms. For example, a child with ASD might wear specific clothing that's comfortable. They may chew or suck on their clothing when they get nervous or rock back and forth as a soothing mechanism. They may carry a favorite toy or sing along to children's songs. They could be obsessed with a specific TV show or love machines like cars and trucks. This can lead parents to worry that people will view their child differently, or they will be left out.
On Autism Speaks, several parents shared the ten things parents of children with autism wish everyone knew. These items include important points: not all autism looks the same, and autism isn't frightening or "weird." It also highlights the crucial fact that kids with autism are intelligent, talented, creative, and thoughtful, but their minds might work a little differently. Our differences are part of being human.
Parents raising kids with autism spectrum disorder also wish people wouldn't judge them. When we see a mom at the store trying to calm her son making a loud noise or standing with a daughter spinning in circles, we may think, "Why don't they discipline that child?" But the truth is, parenting every child has different requirements and expectations. There are many different styles and approaches, and we should not judge someone else's situation.
Empathy and understanding are crucial qualities for every parent to develop. Every child needs love, and every child is capable of love. Being autistic doesn’t mean a child can’t connect with others, nor does it limit their potential. It means they see the world in a unique way that others might miss or overlook. The world needs people with these interesting and exceptional qualities.
Treating Children with Autism
Autism isn't something that can be "fixed" or "cured," nor does it need to be. However, with supportive therapy and intervention, kids can build the skills they need to live their life to the fullest on their terms. The end goal of treatment and support can look different for everyone.
Typically, working with kids with ASD is a long-haul relationship. It requires a slow, methodical approach that meets them on their timeline. We help them build a foundation block-by-block, helping the child as they grow to understand who they are and how they can self-regulate.
At Goodman, we believe every child (and human) is deserving of care and empathy. Every child has something positive to contribute to the world, and through supportive therapy, we’re helping to unlock their potential to be the positive force they can become.
For kids with autism, we also often work with parents and families in a therapeutic setting. We may help parents find support, so they can navigate and understand their child's diagnosis. This approach can ultimately help parents become stronger, more confident advocates for their kids. We can also help caretakers work through many of the feelings that come up naturally for all parents. The parenting path can be filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, so having support in your corner can make a significant difference.
If you’re seeking therapy for your child with autism, your family, or yourself, please reach out today. Our trained practitioners will help you take the steps toward positive changes, growth, and wellbeing.