Alleviating IssuesA few posts back I discussed the plethora of problems and emotions we as parents of autistic children are or may be facing. For tonight's post I would like to dissect these issues and share some things that have helped me and may possible help you. I think I will start with the "toughest", the emotional aspects.
Exhaustion And EmotionsI'll start with the anxiety: While there is no "cure-all" there are certainly a few ways to help you deal. Some of this may sound cheesy but a lot of it is pretty basic. It does help if you can get by yourself for a few minutes (even if it means taking a "time out" from your child,I find the bathroom can sometimes be the best place for me) and take lots of deep,timed,and relaxed breaths. Also I find that being able to vent to someone or something (such as this blog) can help tremendously. I like to call it "emotional vomiting". If you keep it all going around and around in your head all you will find is more anxiety,negativity and depression. I have some major issues in this department. I'm so naturally prone to anxiety.
Fear: This is another one that is tough to deal with. Especially in the beginning (and I'm still in the beginning!). There are so many questions,so many "what ifs". Honestly the best advice I can give you is if it is a "reasonable fear" then I encourage you to seek out the answer,whether it be by your own research or by talking to a doctor,therapist etc. If they are more "unreasonable" then why not try to just shoot for what I call "short-term goals". If you are so obsessed with getting your child potty-trained and it's more feasible that your child learns to express "yes" and "no" then refocus your attention to the maybe easier and more important goal. I have discovered that this is pretty crucial. I could spend all day obsessing over what my son may or may not be able to achieve/do someday but I know that my focus needs to be on the present. Would it really change how you feel about your child? Probably not so do them and yourself a favor and focus on them and their current work towards certain goals.
Exhaustion: This one is an emotion that I am sure we are all feeling,by being a parent in general not just a parent of a special needs child. Kids will wear you out. Having all the extra stress,anxiety etc. can just wear you out. I wish I had a "magic cure" for this but sadly I do not. My best advice is to ask for help. Maybe from a spouse,friend or family member. Sometimes we need a nap,we need a coffee trip,a bubble bath in a quiet house,a chance to read a book,to write,to catch up with friends. I guess this paragraph also can touch on the "social life" issue. While being able to have these resources or opportunities(I can't often!),surely you can at least try. I wish I had more to offer on this one since it seems to be a problem I face constantly and I'm sure a lot of you are as well.
Feeling a lack of support: This one sounds easy but it can be tough. Ask for help,ask for them to educate themselves and keep trying. Chances are they won't work extremely hard to reach out to you so you have to just suck it up and either decided to cut some people out of your life or to fight to keep them in. Having a child with Autism may mean that some people could possibly drop out of your life or you may have to ditch them. Your child and his/her needs are a priority as it should be for any parent. Being a parent of a special needs child requires even more work and attention. If they don't understand and don't try to then they just aren't worth the worry. If they are someone you really want to keep in your life then as I said above: Try,Try,Educate. There's nothing wrong with that.
Lack Of Affection,Marriage And "Comparison Game"Lack of affection:What works for me of course may not work for you but I have come to find that there are other ways to obtain the feeling of love and affection being reciprocated from my son. The main one is squeezing. It's no secret,lots of autistic children love the feeling of being squeezed whether it be by a tight hug or a gentle squeeze of the arm. In fact I decided to try this method based on other stories from parents of autistic children for whom it worked for. I was very pleased with the result. Colton loves being squeezed,I find that if I give him a really tight hug he will reciprocate and will also often ask for "Mo" (his way of saying "more"). I love it! I have also heard about "brushing" I am not educated or experienced enough to give my own opinion but I hear it works great even as a therapeutic tool.
Marriage: Again it is a proven statistic that 80% of marriages that between parents of special needs children end in divorce.This is very alarming and discouraging.However I think there are a few good options out there. I haven't had to go as far as marriage counseling but I do hear it works well for couples who have reached a breaking point and who are at odds over how to raise their child or about the diagnosis itself. I personally think think that the best tool to use is to spend time together. This may not be easy to attain (my husband and I work opposite shifts and don't really have anyone to watch our son) but it can happen.You have to make it happen. Even if it means trying to have frequent phone calls,text messages or late night talks in bed. You can find at least a few minutes a day to connect. When I say "connect" I mean by taking time for each other that doesn't involve "autism talk",errand running or arguing. This can be tough to do since you have to make you child the center of everything,the main priority.I like to bring my husband dinners at his work or send him goofy text messages or remind him of inside jokes.These little things make a difference,it's how we still stay "us".
"Comparison Game":This one simply can be overcome (at least for the moment) by instead of choosing to see what your child cannot do to chose to see what he/she can do,what they excel at. Every child has something they are good at.Many autistic children often are advanced in many areas their peers are not yet. For instance Colton can pick out all letter in the alphabet correctly,or the fact that he knows most all of his colors and can sort objects into groups by their color.I find these things amazing and wonderful and when I often find myself talking to other people about their child's development or they are asking about mine I choose to push aside the anger or depressed feelings and brag. Every parent brags about there child why can't we?!
"Know It All" Doctors,Waiting Lists And Insurance Problems"Know It All" Doctors: This one can be conquered simply. Change doctors or insist that they listen to your appeals and intuition. I've come to find that if I educate myself before an appointment I get my point or goal across much more easily. If I know what doctor,therapist,neurologist and/or treatment plan I want I tell them flat out that I want a referral and this is who/where/what I want it to go to. Simple as that,if they don't listen then again just find a new doctor.Trust me you will go through many different people on this journey anyway.
Waiting Lists: This one is not as easy.My best advice is to keep calling.Sometimes,albeit rarely they do have cancellations.While you may have to act quickly and re-order your schedule,do it. You may not have that opportunity again or even in the near future. How I ended up getting Colton into his initial evaluation at Children's Autism Center was by calling a number of times and at last I called and heard there was a cancellation. For the most part just make sure they are aware of you and your child.Have other facilities keep them up to date by faxing,mailing or e-mailing them reports or notes. It isn't easy but keep trying,it's for your child!
Insurance Problems: This one is the toughest of all. Sometimes you may find a way to get help many other times you may not. As I have mentioned before our insurance does not cover anything "autism related" and we do not qualify for any state grants or programs. There are a few routes you can try: create a "GoFund Me" account or make a "benevolent" account at your local bank,share this information with friends,co-workers,and family. You may be surprised to find some people may offer help although don't expect too much,times are rough on everyone right now and that's also not the most important support you can receive from them. Try for hospital financial aid. We recently received approval from Children's hospital although this means it is only limited to anything we receive there it's at least something. Try to make extra money:you could take surveys on the internet,it won't net "fast money" but sometimes you can receive products to test and get paid for,we just recently finished a sippy cup one and will receive $75 dollars for it. You can also find "odd jobs" or do a garage sale.Anything helps and anything is worth trying.
In ClosingI hope some of the tips I have offered help some of you out there. This is a life-long journey and it will be full or "trial and error" but it's all worth it. The best thing we can do is keep our eyes on the goals,the achievements and the blessings. Currently I am reading a really good book called "Making Peace With Autism" by Susan Senator,I will review this when I am finished but I do recommend picking it up especially if you are at the beginning of your journey. I also would like to ask you who are reading and in a similar situation as me to share your thoughts,tips,and coping skills. The best resource we have is each other. Thanks as always for reading and for your support. I leave you with Coltons newest achievement,enjoy! :)