Being a parent is an amazing experience, my children have changed my life in so many positive ways and I think that having them was the best thing that ever happened to me.
However being a parent has not been without its challenges. Children can be noisy, messy and unpredictable. They test my patience, and sometimes caring for them increases my stress levels. Parenting can be a challenge for any parent, when a parent is autistic the challenge is increased. Since my diagnosis I’ve been finding strategies to cope with the more difficult aspects of parenting.
Ideas for parents who have autism;
My children can be noisy, they talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. They regularly all talk to me at once, or interrupt me when I’m trying to talk to someone else or busy with a task.
They’re extremely physical, climbing all over me, and invading my personal space. Whilst I enjoy the contact I find the constant sensory stimulation hard and too much can lead to anxiety and ultimately meltdown.
Solutions; I am teaching my children to let me know they want to talk, put their finger up and then wait until I’m ready and available.
I try to take regular sensory breaks. When my children are at school I aim to keep stimulation low, making sure I have peaceful days to ensure I can cope when they’re at home. I also take sensory breaks during the time that they’re at home. Mr Purple helps with the children I spend time in a quieter part of the house and I’m calmer and happier as a result, which is better for everyone in our family.
As a parent I have to deal with more challenging social areas than I did when I was mostly mixing with people I knew in situations where I felt comfortable. Now I spend time with the parents of their peers and the professionals involved in their care. I have found this difficult and I’ve made mistakes and dealt with the consequences. I’ve learned some hard lessons and now approach social areas around my children’s lives with a great deal of thought.
Solutions; I think it’s important to have a good relationship with my children’s peers parents. Plus I’ve met some really nice people whom I’m proud to be friends with. Because of this I work very hard to play by the social rules in these situations. Keeping conversation appropriate, not becoming overly emotional, oversharing or talking to much. I would recommend googling social rules and learning what is expected.
When it comes to professionals the clue is in the name. One of the aspects of my autism is not recognising different types of relationship and changing my behaviour to suit. I try to compensate for this difficulty by being mindful of the issue and working harder to behave appropriately in different situations.
Executive functioning difficulties;
With being a parent comes a new set of responsibilities. Beyond the basics of keeping them fed, clothed and clean are the organisational tasks. Signing and returning forms to school, remembering P.E kits, school dress up days, extra curricular activities, attendance at parties with a gift etc. With three children I have a lot to stay on top off which can make me feel extremely anxious.
Solutions; I wrote this post about organisation for people with autism with advice for combatting executive functioning difficulties. I use my phone to organise myself with to do lists, calendar and budgeting app. This way I stay on top of things and don’t get stressed.
Generally I try to stay very organised. Planning our lives and trips out in advance where possible, which helps me to stay calm. If I run into difficult changes or situations I don’t push myself to cope as this usually ends in meltdown. Instead I have the safety of home and if all else fails I get us all home, pop on the TV for the children and take some time to regather myself.
Most important is to stay positive. Yes I have autism, and yes this can make life harder for our family but I try to focus on the positives. My children have a Mum and Dad who love them very much and are working hard to give them a stable, healthy, happy home life.