The ASD Parent

Posted on April 16th, by Cynthia Arnold in Journal Writings. Comments Off on The ASD Parent

I have two amazing daughters who I raised primarily as a single parent (though I had much help from multiple friends).  They are currently 27 and 29 years of age and are college educated, independent, successful and fully productive members of this world.  You might detect that I am quite proud of both of them.  They are my friends, my mentors and my biggest supporters.

The other day I read on a parent’s blog (about raising ASD children) that the “not knowing” is the hardest part.  I could not believe what I was reading, as it related to ASD parents/kids.  Here is my perspective on that matter and that specific comment…

My oldest daughter came out of my womb screaming her head off and hasn’t shut up since.  She was “in charge” of her environment and her destiny from the moment of her first breath.  Confident, strong and beautiful she started talking at a very, very young age, speaking in complete sentences and paragraphs almost immediately.  She entertained adults everywhere with her cute but very insightful words and observations.

I always did my best with her and dressed her carefully in these very comfortable sweat suit outfits made just for little people.  As soon as she was old enough to point, she demanded that I buy her dresses and other more feminine but “scratchy” clothing.  At first I ignored her request knowing that as soon as she actually tried the clothing she too would find them much too scratchy.  Much to my amazement she preferred these things to the comfort of the sweat suits.  And such it was with this child.  She always made me see things in different ways and I found myself constantly adapting my own style to try to accommodate her needs.  I found myself shopping more with her and allowing her to cling on me like siran wrap. I would peel her gently off of me only to have her need more “connection” a short time later (the picture of a monkey wrapped around a tree works here).  One day she completely stumped me when she announced that she wanted to begin to use make up.  After contemplating all my options, I negotiated with my sister across the country to teach her about this and bought my child a plane ticket.  She was amazing to watch in action with her constant flow of friends.  All through school she was in the “in” groups, leading projects, senior class president, head of drama club etc… etc…  It made my head spin.

My second came out of the womb silently.  She was independent and introspective from her first breath.  Beautiful, bright and with a dark force that challenged anyone daring to cross her the wrong way.  Her temper was a force that not even I could handle if I pushed it the wrong way, so I quickly determined her triggers and taught her alternate strategies.  She did not speak words until she was 3 years of age.  (The Doctors informed me it was because her sister spoke all the words for her.)  Otherwise she progressed quite normally.  She banged her head and hummed every night to go to sleep.  She rocked and swung and spun as she observed the world.  She puked all the time and was a picky eater.  If let her out of my sight for even a second, she wandered off requiring great search efforts by neighbors and even occasionally the police.  She spent all of her time in her “head” so I had to make sure to grab her before intersections (and other dangerous places) as she would walk right into traffic even long after she should be aware of such things.  She and I just sort of “clicked”.  She never shunned the soft and comfortable clothing I picked for her, nor did she ever surprise me with requests such as learning about make up.  She loathed shopping as much as I and was quite fine wearing the same outfit and shoes every single day.  She was bullied throughout her school years and had only a few geeky type friends when she finally graduated.

As the girls became teenagers and young adults my NT child was, by far, the most worrisome for me.  Perhaps it was because she was my first?  I don’t know but I do remember thinking that the worst part of raising a child is the “not knowing”.  She was the one I worried about giving in to peer pressure to do drugs, have sex and drive too quickly with friends.  She was the one who mastered the art of lying.  She had a social need to fit in that I did not comprehend and that scared me to death.  I spent many nights awake in fear for her and she required a great deal of support and guidance from me.

My baby…  well…  she was pretty easy. The only worry I really had for her was how to get those mean bullies to leave her alone  After the 10th grade, that problem seemed to sort itself out (as is often the case).  I never had to worry about her desire or need to conform to a societal norm.  She really could not effectively lie.  She marched to her own drummer.  She was independent, strong and sought appropriate challenges without my guidance.

My point here is that as parents the NOT KNOWING part really is the hardest part, but this statement hardly applies only to autistic kids.  In fact sometimes… well sometimes the autistic kids are actually easier in some ways.