A Classic Blunder

I fell victim to a classic blunder. No, I did not get involved in a land war in Asia. And no, I did not go in against a Sicilian when death was on the line. My classic blunder is blaming myself for my autistic son’s struggles.
Let’s be honest, all parents gauge their success at parenting on how their children are doing in life; school, sports, friends. Some parents even cross the line and try to “help” their kids in areas where they are struggling. We’ve set the bar so high for what is considered success that only a small percentage can achieve it. And then we compare ourselves and our kids to that small percentage.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks at our house. The boy is struggling at school and at home. The moments of peace and calm are getting shorter. The medicine we are trying is being metabolized far faster than the drug specifications say it should be. We are struggling to find a way to help him and often end up feeling like our efforts fall short.
One thing I’m learning is that High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder is really a contradiction in terms. When you hear “high functioning” it sounds like a good thing. Like the struggles should be less and the hurdles easier to overcome. But that’s not the case.
All it really means is that my child can speak as well as or better than his peers and handle basic life skills like going to the bathroom and dressing himself. Adding the term “high functioning” in no way diminishes the meltdowns or the sensory issues, the stimming or the eloping. The boy can go from happily playing with legos to a full-blown, hour-long meltdown with no easily identifiable sign of what triggered the problem.
And this is where I start asking “where did I fail?” It’s irrational, I know. But I’m always wondering whether I missed something that could have prevented the meltdown. Should I not let him watch a certain cartoon? Does he have too much stimulation? Too little? Should I be looking for a food allergy? Should I be trying to soothe him during a meltdown or am I making it worse? I want answers and there are none. And I feel like I’m failing my child.
On top of all of that are the worries about school. We are fortunate to be at a public school that has an awesome special education program. But I know even they have their limits. How many times can he try to punch or bite or curse the teachers before they say he can’t come back? What happens if he seriously injures himself or another student during one of his meltdowns? He desperately wants friends but how do you explain to kids that a violent meltdown is “normal” for him and at that moment he doesn’t understand how badly he hurt them with that block?
All of this weighs on you. It makes you feel less and not good enough and broken. And in those moments it’s so hard to see that the future can be anything but more of the same.
If you’ve made it this far and not stopped reading, thanks. Thanks for letting me have a pity party. Thanks for letting me have my own meltdown.
Autism isn’t something you cure or fix. It is not a disease. It’s a specialness, a differentness. It is looking at life through a different lens and seeing everything from a different perspective. Yes, it is full of ups and downs, good and bad days. But we can never say our lives aren’t interesting. And tomorrow is always an adventure waiting to happen.
To counteract my classic blunder, I am trying to hold on to the bright spots. The hugs and the smiles, the funny stories and the I Love You’s. We will read books and have movie nights and eat junk food and laugh. In fact, I think tonight is a good night to fix the kids favorite meal and watch a movie together. The Princess Bride sounds like a good choice. You can never go wrong with pirates, giants, Spaniards, and swordfights with just a dash of a love story thrown in.

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3 thoughts on “A Classic Blunder

  1. Ok, first off this is your pity party. You are entitled to one and it’s excellent to have one. Now pull yourself together, have a bath, a drink, chocolate cake, read a book or whatever it is YOU need to help you feel like a normal human being for five minutes. Second, I don’t know if this helps but I am a ‘high functioning’autistic adult, parent of two very different ‘high functioning’ autistic children. One can’t put his own socks on yet, the other is an adult withno idea how to adult. You are doing the very best you can woth the tools you have, you can’t ask any more of yourself than that. Neither can your children. I have made many, many mistakes in the whole child rearing business, yet my babies still love me and think I’m the best mum ever. That’s enough for me, let it be enough for you too.

    It will all work out if you keep on doing the best you can. Maybe not today, maybe not next year, but it will work out, and one day, your child will show you how good a job you’ve done just by sticking by them. It may not be in words, but it will show x

    • Just to add, you’d be surprised what the other kids will accept as normal. I took tiny to a birthday party, way too much for him to cope with and I knew that, but he was so desperate to go and be with his friends I couldn’t say no. The inevitable happened and he was on the floor in front of all his school friends in full blown meltdown while I did everything I could. His friends reaction…. they all got down on the floor with him, every last one of them. 20 kids on the floor, quietly waiting tiny out. By the end most of the adults were in tears. Hang in there

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