Five things all mums of autistic kids know
But you might not expect...
By Amy Sinclair
August 01 2018
1. That look you get from other parents
You know the look I’m talking about. When your little one’s having a full-blown autism meltdown in the supermarket, a shopping centre, on the street and you get that look from another parent that’s either that’s either ‘Oh that poor mum’ or ‘That little kid is a complete s#&@t, that mum should control him more’.
Often pity, often judgemental - and almost always a punch in the gut for you. Because all you want to say is ‘He’s not horrible, he’s autistic’, that he can’t help losing his crap over anything and everything, that you’re doing the best that you can. I remember once I was in IKEA with my little boy on a busy Saturday morning - not my finest decision ever, but in my defence he did want to go because he likes the train sets there! - and he lost it and took off screaming through the entire top floor, running against the crowd of people moving through and knocking over everything that came in his way.
I finally got to him in the mattress section and calmed him down and cuddled him and then just started crying and crying myself, proper tears that wouldn’t stop. Not because I was embarrassed about his meltdown but because it’s just a hard slog sometimes. And one of the IKEA sales reps, a more mature lady, came up to me and gave me a big, long hug - like your mum gives you - and said ‘You’re doing a great job, ok?’ And sometimes that’s all you need to hear.
You know how it feels when mums tell you that their kids love eating salads and tried their first oyster on the weekend, and you just smile and nod - all the while knowing that your child would rather eat tar than anything green?
2. That knowing look you give other parents of autistic kids
Well, it’s about a hundred times worse when parents of typically-developed kids try to give advice to parents of autistic kids. Like the other day, someone was asking why I didn’t have a dog and I explained that my autistic boy has an extreme phobia of dogs, becomes incredibly anxious around them. And as a result, I got a 15-minute lecture about how I really need to expose him to dogs more and that if I got a dog, he’d get used to it and it would cure his phobia in a few days.
Like I hadn’t thought of that or tried that. Like I don’t do everything I can daily, weekly, monthly to ease all my son’s anxieties. Like I haven’t weighed up this as an option, and then ultimately decided that the risk of having to give up the dog if things don’t work out is too much. So, while I know that people mean well, you mostly just want to tell them to put a sock in it!
3. You have super-human patience
I never considered myself a patient person until I had a child with autism.
Oh, how things have changed! You want me to repeat the same joke - ‘Why can’t elephants fly? Because they don’t have wings!’ over and over again without complaining during a five-hour car ride? Sure. You want me to scroll through the Internet for an hour helping you look for a specific font you saw in a book? No problem. But when my typically-developed 12-year-old daughter asks me to make slime for the 10th time in a week, I’m like ‘Do I have to?!’ Straight back to my very impatient ways!
4. Extreme obsessions become normal
Like many autistic kids, my son has developed some pretty extreme obsessions over the years.
He can tell you which make and model a train is from 50 paces, he loves letters and has millions of printouts of various fonts - is very particular about how the letters Q, J and T should be written.
I also went through two years of having to draw the logos that appear at the end of film credits over and over again, and he would know which order each credit and logo had to appear in for each movie. And I’ve met other kids with autism who are obsessed with things like fridge catalogues and different types of car tyres.
And while these obsessions are a little out there they do have benefits - my son will sit through a 20-minute haircut that he hates if it means a printout of fresh fonts. And going out for dinner is a breeze when he can watch non-stop movie credits!
5. You fight for your child
I feel like I’m always fighting for my boy. I fight for all my kids, we all do. But like all parents of kids with any special needs or delays know, it’s a constant uphill battle to get them the help and services they need, the tolerance, understanding and kindness they deserve.
The fight to pay for their treatment or therapy, the fights you take out on your partner because you’re so frustrated and tired, the fight you have within yourself to keep going. It just never stops and the fact that you know it will never stop is hard sometimes, but it’s what you’ve got to do.