If you only read one post on This Outnumbered Mama, I pray that it’s this one. Well, this one or the one about not supporting Autism Speaks. But mostly this one! I post a lot about all of the benefits and beauty that comes with autism. I also occasionally post about when autism is ugly. In this post, Mama, I just want to encourage you. You might be exhausted. You might be overwhelmed. You might feel like giving up. But I’m here to tell you, you can do this.
Autism: You Can Do This
Take Some Time For Self Care
It seems impossible. It can even feel selfish. But trust me, Mama, you need to take some time for self care. Whether it’s the two minutes between buckling your kiddo into the car and sliding into the driver seat, or a full on date night, you need to take time to feel like a human again.
When you’re handling meltdowns everyday, constantly fighting over eating struggles, and exhausting yourself by trying to explain autism over and over again, you need that time for yourself or you’re going to lose your mind. Take time whenever you can, or you’re going to burn out and you won’t be any help to anyone. You can’t pour out of an empty cup, so fill your own cup as much as you fill your child’s.
You can do this, but you need to rest and take time for yourself.
Remember that Your Child Isn’t Broken
I think that a huge reason that autism mama’s burn out is also from mindset. If you feel that you’ve somehow “lost” your child or that autism has broken them, you’re going to have a much harder time accepting the diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that your child absolutely isn’t broken. They’re the exact same child that they were before you got the autism diagnosis. They had meltdowns before and after the diagnosis, even if you weren’t sure if they were metldowns or tantrums before.
The diagnosis simply gives you a leg to stand on when requesting services and accommodations and new knowledge of how to approach helping your child. It doesn’t tell you what your child will or will not be able to learn, or how they will live their life. You can do this by remembering that your child is beautiful and not broken.
Listen to Disabled Self Advocates
I know that I kind of harp on this one, but it’s really important. So many parents ignore the voices of disabled self advocates and prefer to listen only to doctors, teachers, and other “experts”. I’m not saying that those people don’t have a place, but it’s vital to not give them 100% of your attention.
I know, you might be saying that you are your child’s advocate, but hear me out. Isn’t the goal to teach your child to advocate for themselves? It might be hard to imagine, but your autistic child will grow up to become an autistic adult. Chances are, they will agree with the overwhelming majority of autistic adults, so you might want to start listening to them now!
Also, I don’t really want to hear that your child is “too disabled” to ever become a self advocate. First, we have no idea what technology will achieve by the time your child is an adult. Also, there are self advocates of many different abilities. One of my favorite examples is Amy Sequenzia, a non-speaking autistic advocate.
Bottom line? You should listen to disabled self advocates. Listen to how much they value their lives. Listen to the beauty and uniqueness with which they see the world. Listen to their opinions on person first vs. identity language and autism therapies. Take the time to consider that these incredible, inspiring, advocates are the people that your child can grow up to become. They are not broken. You can do this, but you’ll need the insight of disabled self advocates.
Work to Keep Friendships
Keeping friendships after an autism diagnosis is tough, but it is so worth it. When you get away for the evening, you’re going to want girls to go to coffee with. You’re going to need moms who get it that you can text mid-meltdown that will respond in solidarity. Mamas who can handle playdates with your little one knowing that you’ll need to bring your own snacks and your child might not be the best at sharing.
Your friendships will be your lifeline once you learn that your child is autistic. Some days you just won’t be able to handle things and you’ll need to lean on your friends. You’ll have prayer requests that you need to share and late night tears that you need someone to listen to.
You are stronger than you know, but you will need your friendships. I know that it’s difficult, but make the effort to text them and ask how their day is. Try to include them in your life, even through therapies and specialist appointments and everything else. You can do this, Mama, but you need your friends!
Most of all, Mama, I need you to know that you can do this. On the days that it’s hard. On the days that you feel like giving up. On the days that you don’t think you can handle one more meltdown. You can do this. You are doing this. And you’re not alone.