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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The List - Stephanie's Story



On Facebook the other day I came across a list:  35 Phrases That Encourage Positive Cooperation Between Child and Parent.  My son has Autism, and I tend to avoid “typical” parenting websites because there is little that is typical about our family, and I find myself feeling frustrated as opposed to empowered – but this time I thought, “what the heck?”

By number three I was frowning; by number 23 I think I may have started to twitch.  As a teacher – maybe even just as a compassionate adult? – obviously I can see the benefit of working through difficulties with children in ways that encourage mutual, positive idea-exchange. As a parent of two kids – our youngest is neuro-typical – I notice a vast difference between what is effective (or futile) when interacting with a neuro-typical child as opposed to interacting with a child with certain needs.

So I thought I would compile a similar list, but one of phrases that are relevant to Autism.  Trouble is, once I got going, I realised the list would be miles long – and even then, parents who don’t live in our house with our kids will sit  reading my list and find themselves frowning and twitching.  Finally, I switched gears and decided to put together something that families struggling with special needs can use for plain old, self-indulgent comfort.  Et voilà:
The List for Parents Who Are Struggling Not To Lose It
  1. 1)  You’re not really going to lose it.  Actually, maybe you are – sometimes I’m sure we already have – but somehow, those awful days pass and there’s a good day, and it’s not so daunting.
  2. 2)  Relish in the good moments.  Enjoy every second of the good moments.  
  3. 3)  Rely on people who get it; forget about people who don’t.  This is actually a very important point – it might deserve to be Point Number 1.  It has taken me years to learn to follow this rule, and I still have days where I crack and obsess over what so-and-so thinks. 
  4. 4)  You are allowed to have days where you crack.  They are stressful and take up all your energy.  You think of those families who can eat in restaurants and who don’t have sensory melt-down areas built into a spare room somewhere; you feel resentful.  It’s okay.  Get it out of your system; refer to Point Number 3.
  5. 5)  Spend time with other Special Needs families.  Sometimes their issues are so different from yours; it’ll make you feel that your life is kind of normal. 
  6. 6)  Trust your gut. 
  7. 7)  Try to have a nap.  I know. But try. 
  8. 8)  Make a visual schedule.  Yes, it’s trendy.  That’s because it works.  
  9. 9)  Try to do some non-special-needs stuff.  In our home, Autism can be so ubiquitous it’s hard to see past it.  Perspective is everything.  
  10. 10)  Always remember that you can threaten to take away the video-games.  This is best behaviour enforcer ever.  It works like a charm, solves almost every behavioural crisis, and reminds us that everything doesn’t have to be so darn complicated

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