by the Puzzled Mom. Read more at thepuzzledmom.wordpress.com.
Hi, my name is Veronica, and I’m an Autistic Mom.
Yes, you read that right. I don’t mean a mother of someone with Autism. I mean I’m a mom…with Autism. Asperger’s Syndrome, to be more exact.
I know; according to society and media representation, people like me either don’t or shouldn’t become parents. But although 1 out of 68 kids is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), no one seems to notice the ones who have grown up to have their own kids.
That’s what I’m here to tell you–I am an “Aspie” parent, and we do exist. And as one of the growing number of Aspie parents out there, there are a few other things I’d like to let you know.
1. There are more of us than you realize.
This sounds a little like a threat from an invading alien race, but it really just means that more and more adults are finally getting a diagnosis they should have had years ago. Many of us are largely unnoticed and un-diagnosed, raised during generations that were less aware of the traits of Autism. We were shuffled off as just “weird.” And when we had our own children, they often looked at us the same way–with amusement, misunderstanding, and even hate–for not being like their friend’s parents, for standing out, or because they lacked something from us that we didn’t know how to provide. But with the surge in Autism awareness, we are finally understanding ourselves better. And our kids, too.
2. We blend in.
Or at least we try, which is likely another reason we seem so uncommon. It’s seen as normal for a young Autistic child to make repetitive motions or count ceiling tiles. But society doesn’t deem these things as normal for adults–and as we grow up, we’re taught that either you fit into society, or you fail. Since we will never truly fit, we use a lot of energy faking small talk, forcing ourselves to make eye contact, and mimicking proper body postures–albeit quite stiffly. Imagine doing this while trying to make “mommy friends”.
3. We love our kids.
SO much. One of our greatest challenges might simply be showing affection in the same manner that others show it and, therefore, expect of us. Comfortably giving a hug, or giving praise without sounding awkward, might be difficult for some Autistics, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t feel love. The intensity with which I love my husband and daughter knows no bounds, and they certainly get more hugs and praise from me than they know what to do with.
4. We face unique challenges.
Many of us share the same strengths, challenges and quirks, which place us under the ASD umbrella. We face issues that “neurotypicals” (non-Autistics) don’t normally face–things like over-sensitivity to noise, touch, odors and the like, trouble with adjusting to sudden changes in our environment or routine, or struggles socializing with other parents. But we aren’t just different from the general population, we are totally unique from each other, too. You may have heard “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.” This is totally true. Unlike some Aspies, I may have no problem with hugs or most contact with close family, but yelling or crying will send me into a panic attack while I try to get away from it, which is rough when you have a newborn baby. (I’ve gone through a lot of earplugs.) Just like anyone else, each of us has our own unique challenges.
5. There are few resources for people like us.
There are countless resources for Autistic children, but hardly any for parents. The little information I’ve found has been mostly discouraging, highlighting all of the shortcomings of ASD and none of its strengths, and not offering any way to help us with those shortcomings. If there are more of us than anyone knows, we could use some helpful information on dealing with our issues so we can become better parents.
6. We can be wonderful parents.
We have experience trying to adapt, and parenthood is another opportunity for us to grow. I make mistakes like any parent. I may be slower than some and a little awkward, but as an Aspie, I am resourceful, tenacious and loyal. When I become aware of a need my daughter has, I will do anything in my power to fill it. I understand the wonder and curiosity of childhood, because I still have that wonder and curiosity. I understand a child’s need for structure, because I need structure, too. I understand the need to always be learning and growing, because I am always learning, too. In fact, we Aspies often identify with our kids in ways that neurotypicals cannot.
Lastly…we’re a lot like you. We’re all fumbling around in the crazy world of parenthood, looking for the best ways to keep our kids safe, healthy and happy. We’re just dealing with a few more challenges of our own while we do it. So keep an eye out, and an open heart and mind–you never know what kind of parent you might meet!