Everyone says that when you have a child, your life changes, and having a son with autism has certainly changed my life in ways I would never have expected.
In fact, raising my son has taught me six important life lessons and skills that all parents should learn and pass on to their kids.
As a young traveler, I, too, used to be intolerant of screaming babies and whiny children.
That all changed when I had my own; now I smile and sometimes even commiserate with the parents when I see a child act up.
On some level, it is comforting to know mine wasn’t and isn’t the only one that has meltdowns.However, It doesn’t mean that everyone with children has learned this lesson.
Last Christmas, we were on a flight to New Orleans during which, a little girl about four years old cried for no less than two hours in the seat behind us. I felt quite sympathetic towards the mother who tried to soothe her and calm her down.But that sentiment faded fast when the same mother complained about my special needs son to the flight attendant when he threw a mini tantrum and raised his voice for ten minutes.
Advocating for our needs
I used to hate to ask anyone for favors.
In fact, I’ve always kept my troubles to myself and felt that my privacy and independence were much too valuable to surrender.
But when I became a mother to a child with special needs, I realized that it does take a village to raise and help him get a fair shot in life.
Based on that, I have learned to ask in private and sometimes in public for the accommodations he needs.I’ve come to the realization that since my son can’t always express what he needs, he needs me to advocate for him, and there’s no shame in that.
I also realized the importance of educating others about autism and raising awareness wherever we go. Children with autism aren’t “disabled,” they just see the world differently.
If more people understood that, accommodations could one day become the norm, not the exception.
Gone are the days I’d walk away after a brief attempt towards achieving my goal or any goal, for that matter.
Nowadays, I stick to my guns and absolutely refuse to take no for an answer when it concerns my son!
And I have my strategy all mapped out: when plan A fails, I have a plan B and C as backups.
Patience and flexibility
I have changed from being an entirely impatient person to a much more patient and flexible individual.
I used to plan every single waking moment of the day making sure I didn’t miss a beat, and while I still do that, I accept the fact that I will probably accomplish only 50% of my plan on most days.
My goal is to teach my child both skills since ironically, people with autism are notoriously structured yet need everyone around them to be flexible.
Sense of adventure
My son, like many other individuals with autism, is a natural born thrill seeker and craves adventure.
Along the years of parenting our son my husband and I have become more open to trying new, even somewhat daring activities! So far, we’ve tried zip lining, paragliding, circus trapeze training and sea trekking, during our travels, and we are open to trying many more.
As a parent to a child with special needs, it is imperative you learn to become a lot more self-sufficient than ever before. True, I did mention how it is important to involve others and have them help out but by the end of the day, some people may do that while others will bail and leave you on your own.So the bottom line is that as a parent, you need to become more resilient than you’ve ever thought possible and learn how to prepare for and handle inappropriate behavior, mood swings, and even the occasional meltdown on your own.
What life lessons have you learned from raising a child with autism?