The realities of life as the parent of an autistic child

So many self-help books speak of strategies you can implement to help you cope with life’s stresses – including finance, relationships, health, traffic, work… the list is long.

For a special needs family the stresses of parenting an autistic child, or any special needs child for that matter, is far greater because the impact that special needs has on a household tends to affect aspects of “normal” life.

For most of us bath time is a time to reflect and relax – for a special needs parent bath time can be quite overwhelming not just from a physical perspective but also from an emotional perspective.  Eating is another event that most people enjoy – even if the buying of groceries and cooking part for many lean more toward the stresses side of the equation.  Food allergies, food sensitivities in autism, sensory processing disorder and mobility issues or motor planning difficulties can make meal time very stressful for a parent and for the child with special needs.

Taking a turn toward the reality of autism and how it is going to impact your life moving forward will help you put strategies in place that can reduce the stress.  Parenting a child with a disability can be challenging and:

  • yes we feel isolated from reality and more often than not- very alone;
  • we feel like we are not doing enough to help our children;
  • often we feel like we are neglecting other family members in the house;
  • we can feel like we are cheating our typical children from having a normal childhood experience;
  • exhaustion from a lack of a good night’s sleep can make us cranky;
  • stress of trying to lead a normal life in a special needs world means that we are constantly comparing our specials and it is hard to get past their challenges’
  • we get sad;
  • we get angry and at times we are can become very resentful!

These feelings are all normal and I don’t think any special needs parent will disagree.  What I can however say is that you need to decide what your plan is moving forward.  You can either feel all these feeling, live in absolute turmoil and add more stress to your already stressful life OR you can learn to face the realities of life as the parent of an autistic child.

By facing the reality of autism (the present and what the future holds) you stand to gain so much:

  1. from experience I can tell you that my child’s autism has given me a deeper capacity to deal with life more effectively;
  2. I now know that “what once was difficult is now easier” and that whatever I am struggling with currently will also soon be a thing of the past;
  3. Knowledge has empowered me to not live in fear of the future and to feel totally comfortable with the decisions I make on behalf of my child;
  4. Accepting my daughter’s autism has meant that I am able to embrace it all and trust me when I tell you that I do and that I enjoy life and that I value our special journey together.
  5. Autism has taught me a lot about “time” – it has taught me that nothing is going to happen until she is ready for it to happen so I have become a far more patient person. Life is a mad rush and what autism has taught me is that by slowing down I can achieve disciplined, incremental growth in so many aspects of not just her life but in my life also.
  6. Wanting what I do not have but rather focussing on what I do have has made me a more grateful person in general. I count my blessing daily (and not my troubles) and find that I complain far less than before.

In the times we live in and with social media in every person’s hand the pressures of life can be so overwhelming that it becomes so easy for us to neglect what really matters in life!  Don’t do that to yourself and your child.  Be patient, embrace your child for the unique person they are, take it one day at a time, love with zest take care of yourself and know that it is all going to be ok!

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.