By Monique Cain
Everyone has an idea of what life will be like once you become a parent.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, life throws you a massive curve ball and the life you imagined veers off in new directions that are completely out of your control. That’s what happened to my husband and I when both of our children, Madi and Thomas, were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
In light of this diagnosis, to say that the last seven years of our lives have been an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement.
Since our journey began, I have spoken frequently at seminars on autism. I have spent countless hours talking to parents whose children are on the spectrum. And I live every day with two autistic children, experiencing all the challenges and joy that brings.
Whatever your situation with autism, I urge you to “Never give up!”
My family and I have been on our unique autism journey, living and learning together and my two children have taught me the true definition of unconditional love.
Through them I have learnt:
- New meanings and deeper levels of patience
- Keep trying, no matter what happens and never give up
- Appreciate all the little things in life and to recognise what is most important to us.
- Be kind, caring, compassionate, understanding and open to other people, things and ideas
- Withhold judgement – we cannot see inside another person’s heart and mind.
Tips & advice to thrive & survive
- If something is too hard or doesn’t work out the first time, try and try again. Never give up.
- Spending regular, quality time with your child is important to help you connect and build a positive relationship.
- If your child doesn’t learn how to build relationships within the family, it’s even harder for them to relate to people outside.
- Seek a release through work and exercise. You don’t do anyone any favours if you let stress and tension build up. An hour escaping, releasing endorphins and focusing on something other than your kids makes you feel like a person, rather than just a special needs parent.
- Create a safe haven at home and provide your children with spaces where they feel comfortable, free to be themselves and to release their energy. We’ve learnt to exert that energy through physical activity: a walk or ride, a quick jump on a trampoline or a swing.
- In times of unsettling behaviour there are often underlying issues or logical reasons for your child’s behaviour. Through knowledge, observation and time you can better address issues, prevent them from occurring or anticipate how to address challenges.
- Don’t ignore your own needs when seeking professional help for your kids. Since my happiness and mental health improved, my children have made significant progress as well.
- Be open to professional support. It’s unsettling to think that you need a whole team of professionals to help you look after your own children, and even if you have a supportive network of family and friends like we do, you still we need the experts too.
- There is no such thing as perfect. Once I learnt to accept that I wasn’t the perfect parent with the perfect kids that were bathed, fed and in bed by seven every night it helped me immensely.
- Push yourself to read and absorb ASD information, as confronting as it may be. When our kids were first diagnosed, I couldn’t bring myself to read a lot of helpful information or attend any sort of presentations but I wish I had much earlier.
- “Be prepared”. Every time we leave our house, even if it’s just for a quick errand, we take everything but the kitchen sink.
- Stick to a basic routine because ASD kids tend to thrive in a structured environment.
- It’s really important not to think too far ahead. Take it day by day.
- I truly believe that time is the biggest influence for ASD kids on so many different levels! More time to feel more comfortable in this world, in their surroundings, and in their own skin.
My new book, ‘Never give up!’, has several messages of encouragement for people dealing with autism.
Never give up on your children, grandchildren, your friends, family, students, yourself or your hope. No matter how hard things may be, do everything possible to make the best of your situation.
Parenting and having children hasn’t been anything like the picture I had imagined, but we’ve come such a long way and we’re now sharing some joyous moments together. I take great comfort in seeing our children happy and loved and in knowing we can now help other people with their journeys too.
Never Give Up! is released by 3MT Media and is available on website www.theeverydayautismseries.com.au also selected local and specialist book stores, therapy and autism services RRP $24.95