I saw a meme on Facebook last night. It said, It’s wonderful that autism is a gift for you, but respect that my experience is different – Just like our kids.
I immediately stopped scrolling to look at the comment section. It’s always interesting to read what other parents think about this topic.
Some of the parents hailed their child’s autism as a wonderful gift, insisting they wouldn’t change it for anything.
Others argued that autism was a disease, and that their children were sick. Of course they loved their kids, but they would cure them in a heartbeat if they could.
So which is it? Is autism a gift, or is it a curse?
I say it’s neither.
I’m a mom of autistic twins. If the spectrum were a straight line (which it’s not), my boys would be sitting on opposite ends of the stick.
My oldest twin has incredible splinter skills, with deficits in other areas. He’s outgoing, but struggles with attention and emotional regulation. He’s great at math, but he learns english as if it’s a foreign language.
He taught himself how to use the Xbox when he was four years old, and has been playing GTA V ever since. I’d be appalled if he wasn’t so good at it.
I can feel you judging me, but I really don’t care.
My youngest is mostly nonspeaking. He started using an AAC device to communicate when he was four and his needs are extensive across the board. We have to work hard every second of the day to simply keep him safe.
He’s also an amazing gamer, beating his brother in Fortnite every chance he gets!
Back to the topic. I don’t see autism as a gift or a curse. My kids are who they are, and being autistic is an intrinsic part of them.
Whatever feelings I place on autism will only change how I experience it, and ultimately how my kids will start feeling about themselves.
If I feel sad or depressed about autism, that’s what our life will be – sad and depressing. If I feel like autism is a gift, well… you get the picture.
Did I mention I also have two teenagers? My experiences raising them add a whole different layer to my perspective.
My older boys are neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean my job is easier with them. It’s just different. They each have their own set of individual needs.
In addition to being teenagers and all that encompasses, one of them is severely allergic to peanuts (and everything else you can imagine). To top it off, he also has severe, acute, and chronic asthma.
The last time he had a little cough, it turned out to be a severe case of pneumonia, and one of his lungs had solidified. I’d stick him in a bubble, but his brother doesn’t want to roll him around. 😉
Do I hate his lungs? No. That wouldn’t do any good.
Those are the lungs he has, so I just work hard to support how they function. I take him to doctors and specialists. I give him medicine to help ease his symptoms. And I listen for his little cough. All. The. Time.
Placing a negative feeling on his asthma won’t help him or me. If anything, that would model a negative attitude for him. He may even start to feel like a burden because of something that’s not even in his control.
I’m not making light of the more serious aspects surrounding autism. Many children have co-occuring conditions like seizures, which undoubtedly add to the care they need.
Supports for families (and individuals as they grow up) are also scarce. Funding is almost nonexistent and respite seems like a pipe-dream. So I understand the stress parents are under.
I’m just arguing that our attitude or approach to these circumstances can change the way we experience them. Yes, I get frustrated. I even cry sometimes because I get so overwhelmed.
Parenting is hard. Parenting disabled children is hard. Parenting autistic children is hard – and confusing.
But continuously having a negative attitude about this one condition – that is such an integral part of my children – will only make me miserable. And my kids will undoubtedly pick up on those feelings, whether they can express it or not.
As a writer, I follow countless bloggers, vloggers, and authors. I’ve seen every perspective out there. It pains me to see public figures using their platform to continuously complain about their own disappointment and grief surrounding their child’s disabilities.
I’m not referring to people who vent every now and then. And I’m not talking about people who toss around ideas and start important conversations. Those things are essential for increasing awareness, understanding, and acceptance.
But parents who are new to autism can supply their own frustrations. They don’t need help adding to that. These parents already know that it’s not a walk in the park. They can join private support groups to vent and validate those feelings.
What I really needed as a parent new to the world of autism was hope. I needed information and resources. I needed humor, and a sense of normalcy.
I needed perspective and advice from actually autistic adults and seasoned parents to help me sift through the information and misinformation surrounding autism.
If you’re a parent who’s just starting your journey, remember… It’s okay to have rough days. But don’t stay there.
Pick yourself up. Life is a journey. You get to decide how you react to its twists and turns.
Talk to a therapist to support your own mental health. Work hard to find the support you need, online and in your own city. Realize that you’re not alone. With an average of 1 in 59 children being diagnosed, you can find your tribe.
Start following autistic bloggers and pages. Join an autistic led group on Facebook to ask questions and learn about your own children. My favorite learning group is Autism Inclusivity.
Read books written by autistic authors. I started a book club on Facebook to learn about and discuss topics related to autism. It’s called That Au-Some Book Club. I’d love for you to join in the discussion.
And steer clear of negativity. Misery loves company, and there’s just no time for that.
Autism isn’t a gift. And it isn’t a curse. It’s just part of your journey. Your attitude and mindset WILL make a difference as you go through.
Follow our journey on Facebook at Not an Autism Mom.