The time following Joseph’s diagnosis of autism, I found incredibly hard and often wished that I had that crystal ball to see into the future. Someone to tell me that everything would not always be as difficult. With all the knowledge I have gained and the lessons I have learnt, here would be my advice to myself at that time.
TAKE YOUR TIME IN RESEARCHING YOUR CHILD’S DIAGNOSIS
There is a wealth of information out there but some misleading. There are support groups, workshops, forums, books AND the internet all which have their value but take things one step at a time as it can be so overwhelming. The natural urge will be to search the internet for anything and everything but try and take it slowly no matter how tempting it may be.
YOU’RE NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE
People will tell you that you are superhuman and various religious thoughts on why you have been chosen to parent Joseph. There is an expectation from others that you need to manage, need to cope because you have no other choice which puts an enormous amount of pressure and strain on you. Your life will understandably become stressful and putting more pressure on yourself adds to that. Speak up and do not be ashamed to say you’re struggling. You’re human not superhuman.
DON’T FEEL THAT YOUR FRIENDS WON’T UNDERSTAND
You will gain a great deal of support from parents of children with special needs as they will be in a similar situation to yourself but don’t cut yourself off from existing friendships. It’s often hard to be around people who are living a life you desire. Don’t make an assumption that they won’t understand; how will they ever learn if you don’t try and educate them? True friends will want to do everything they can to understand your feelings and how your life is.
Believe in yourself, both in your ability to succeed and your knowledge of Joseph. Go with your gut instinct and it will not usually let you down. Equally, accept that you will make mistakes. You don’t suddenly become an expert yet people expect you to be. Make the mistake, learn from it and move on; it will make you a better parent.
WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT PARENTING STYLES
Whether your child has special needs or not, you do not parent exactly the same as a friend would. As all people with autism are different, parents are too and because one strategy or style works for one parent, doesn’t mean it has to for you. Don’t feel afraid to be different yourself.
Live AND Learn.