Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Everyone needs support in autism parenting

The last couple of days have been a rocky ride for me. My own medical conditions have been slapping me around and making it hard to get things done. Still, I have managed a few things and made a decent weekend for a family visit. In recent events, I have found a challenge. Well, it's been there all along, but you may be able to relate.

This challenge is in co-parenting an Asperger's child or any child with special needs. This challenge is support to the child and the other parent. Support has to go in all directions. While that sounds simple in words, the application is anything but.

The most obvious need of support is the child. His difficulties in dealing with the world around him demand it. He has a lot of development to catch up on and the world isn't likely to be forgiving. Half the time, it's definitely not forgiving. One of the lessons recently cited to my son is this: "Our condition is not an excuse to break rules". Discipline can be tricky however thanks to sensory issues. I can't spank him, it will cause a full blown meltdown for hours. Yes, a long long time ago, I was a parent who used spankings. I don't anymore.

Next there is the co-parent, and even more challenging, the step-parent. A step-parent is walking into a whole new world and it's quite an eye opener. For an accurate view on what this is like, please check out my fiance's blog:


It's more than a little frustrating for both parents in this situation and you have to support each other just as much as you work to support the child. You have to remind each other that it's going to be okay somehow and that each others feelings are valid. The second part of that is actually the most important. It's okay to feel frustrated, you have every right.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to explain consequences and behaviors to my son and got reactions that just didn't fit. Many reactions suggested that he never got the message I was trying to deliver. I would have to prod at that time and ask him if he was hearing me. I would have to remind him that I wasn't talking about the fantasy things and needed him to hear me. I often ask him what I'm talking about. Sometimes, for that, he shakes his head hard and get's angry, and says: "I just don't know!" He doesn't like to talk about his behavior.

On another note, he's actually angry with himself and we have to watch out for that one. He'll actually call himself "crazy" and "bad". That's not psychologically healthy either, so has to be intervened. I tell him he's not crazy or bad and that he has behaviors to learn like anyone else his age. I tell him we are just trying to help him learn them and he's not always going to like how that is done. No one does, and everyone has to learn. It's all that can be done at that point.

Yes, therapy is important and support in other places like school is too. But, one the spot, in the moment, this is what you are left with. There's the child's pain because he doesn't understand himself; your own pain and stress from worry; your parenting partner's pain and stress; and worry for each other. What else can you do? See it for what it is, call it like it is, listen to each other and support each other.

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