My sister reminded me that parents parent differently with Autistic children than they do with the children who aren’t on the spectrum. And not for the obvious reasons either. Before I go through the list of what comes to mind, let me start by telling you how scary it is to know your kiddo is a runner. For parents without special needs kids, this might mean they like to run or they run off but will eventually come back when they hear the threat in your mom-ster voice telling them to “come back here now!” What I mean by runner in my family is that Korben, 3.5 years old, will run and keep running to wherever his heart desires at that time, even then, if something else catches his attention before you reach him, you’re screwed because off he goes again!
Now comes the list:
Runners mean you need to keep doors and exists locked and have back up plans in place. For instance, the garage doors can’t be left open without someone in the garage. Korben likes to get in the garage through the house door or the back yard (2 doors) and off he goes if no one is there to catch him, talk to him, give him a job, a new toy, let him play on the driveway, that sort of thing. So there are locks all over the place. Child locks that even the adults have a hard time unlocking for every day use. It’s a pain in the ass but it keeps him safe and everyone sane. The sliding glass door is our weakest link. We have to keep a curtain rod between the doors against the jamb to keep the door closed in case he unlocks it, which is a piece of cake for a three year old.
Next: normally you parents would be apprehensive to share their child’s pictures, address and mom’s phone number on social media but in this case, as Korben has already gotten out without us knowing twice in one week, I’ve done just that on our neighborhood’s facebook page. Letting everyone know that he likes to wander even when we think the doors are all locked. To call us or walk him home if you see him. My biggest worry is that he will find the creek that’s near our house somewhere and be like any other autistic child who has run away and died from entering water and drowning. It’s a real fear. We are going on a family vacation and the house we are renting can NOT have a pool without a separate fence around it. Even then, I’m nervous as hell about it. A pool on the property means even more chances for drowning. Especially with five children in the house and just two adults.
Which brings me to my next point, extra people. I can NOT do anything around the house without fear that my child will escape and run away, break something other than a toy or hurt his baby sister because he doesn’t quite have or understand empathy yet. Empathy is a social lesson kids learn and he hasn’t quite grasped it just. He’s getting there though, and I am really excited about it. Saying sorry and hugging those who have gotten hurt or are sad is a big step but it’s not all the time. He didn’t do that a month ago so I know it’s going to happen soon and for that I am thankful. Still, I have to take the baby upstairs with me to get dressed or switch the laundry out. Chores don’t get done unless he’s out of the house or the baby is asleep and even then I am limited on what chores I can do because, again, escaping or damaging the house.
Let me remind you, he is normally a sweetheart, but when he wants attention or needs something he doesn’t have the patience yet to wait for me to return. If he wants to join me upstairs where I’m working, he wants to destroy his sister’s legos or check on the sleeping baby. There is no win situation. There’s always compromise. Even more so, I feel, than those parents without an autistic child.
That said, having another person in the house is always helpful. Just someone to keep his attention downstairs, talk to him, get him a snack if he needs one. Find his water cup if he’s lost it. Let him outside in the secure back yard with his shoes ON and not just in his socks rather than scream at the bottom of the stairs for me and waking the baby. Sanity is worth the price of a nanny, even part-time. And understanding, supportive friends and neighbors are even more special to our family.
Last, how you discipline your kids is different. I have one with ADHD who needs more direction that the one with autism because she’s older and he learns from her more than anyone else in the household. We know that’s a big burden for a 7 year old to carry, but that’s the truth. It’s not easy for anyone in the family when a special need is involved. If her first instinct is to not share, hit or yell at people, especially him, then that’s what he will do, too. So, as often as we can we explain to her that when she does this or that, he’s learning from it, which is why we get on her so much about this or that. She understands and it’s already hard because of her ADHD but I think that might help her later on in life. He’s got his own responsibility chart next to his sister’s and they both love it. It’s new in the house but we already seen a big improvement with both of them. Hopefully it lasts.
I share this to give those without a child on the spectrum a little insight. Every day is an adjustment of some sort. The smallest improvements are celebrated. Every new word or three worded sentence gets a cheer and praise. Every share or thank you gets high fives and hugs. He’s my bub and I love him. He gives the best hugs.