I wrote recently about the signs of being a high functioning autism parent. To be honest I toned it down a little, because I don’t want to be writing all the time about the negatives. I genuinely try and look on the brighter side of life, even when it’s really hard to do so.
Some days though – when I’ve been tripled teamed by the kidlets and have only had a couple of hours sleep like last night – it’s hard to be super positive. After all I’m only human, and I have my limits. One of the comments I had on my last post made me stop in my tracks.
“Surely most of this list is just par for the course with young children?”
Indeed it is.
Let’s face it, babies and toddlers aren’t wee for long. In fact it feels like you’ve blinked and you’re already packing that cute little bundle of joy off to school (or gearing up for home ed in our case). Even the rattiest baby, most terrible two year old, and tiresome threenager will only test your patience for a few years. Most folk will actually site starting school as the turning point for their challenging child.
When you have autism to contend with, the toddler-like meltdowns will continue well into their childhood. Over time us parents become more and more familiar with the triggers, and we can try and avert them as best we can, but even with the best will in the world they will still get overwhelmed with life and go into meltdown mode. For my 6yo they have become quite violent during the course of this last year or so.
She has been known to throw furniture around the room, hit, kick, punch. She has thrown hard objects at me when I’m in the kitchen, which is dangerous on so many levels. Once she was getting ready to throw a pair of scissors at my head, but I managed to intercept her and take them off her. If a meltdown has gone past the aversion stage, the only thing we can do is take the little ones out of the room and try our best to talk her down. The process can take an hour, even longer, and leaves the entire family in a state of shock. Trust me it makes a 2yo throwing themselves on the floor and flailing their arms and legs truly laughable.
When you have autism to contend with, chances are a regular school will exacerbate their issues. For my girl it highlighted how different she was from her peers, and far from being the turning point, it made all our lives tougher. Which is what led us to the decision to start home educating, and I’m pleased to say that the daily meltdowns have stopped.
When you have autism to contend with, chances are your child isn’t great in the sleeping department. My friend once said to me that she has known lots of people with older kids to have experienced sleep problems in the past, but by the time they reach five or six it’s all a distant memory. Between the ‘magic cure’ of school, and the maturity of the pituitary gland, it certainly does seem that most sleep disorders (including bed wetting) in neurotypical children are grown out of by this age.
I was having a chat with P last weekend, and she told me that her mind felt like the drawing of Mr. Messy before he has a bath. She finds it incredibly difficult to switch her thoughts off, and although we have come a long way in the second half of this year with her sleep, it’s still not good. She might sleep all night once or twice a week, but she refuses to go to the toilet on her own. She always needs help getting back to sleep when she’s had a bad dream (at least a few times a week). Some nights she goes to bed just fine, others she will cause merry hell along the way and prevent me from getting my 21mo to bed. This means I have to do the girls bedtime first, and it then knocks onto getting the boy to sleep. The witching hour often leaves me good for nothing but staring into space afterwards.
In my darkest moments, I wonder whether I would have had two more children had I known that P was autistic. It’s easy to say no, but I don’t honestly think that would have even been true. I never wanted an only child, in fact I always wanted four kids. I have always loved the idea of a big family, possibly because I am completely estranged from mine.
I feel so awful for the little ones though, because in order to keep the peace throughout the day, most of my energy goes into P. Essentially it’s a trickle down effect, when she’s happy the whole family is. When she’s walking around pinching and name calling it distresses everyone. My 3yo has been reduced to meltdown mode herself, on many occasions, because she just can’t cope with the cruelness a second longer.
On home ed
We are in the earliest days of our home ed journey, and are very much still going through the process of de-schooling. I’ve had the odd day where it’s felt like we’re winning, but mostly I’m feeling that it’s a massive risk. What if we’ve made the biggest faux pas of our parenting career? What if we don’t get her onto a level playing field and this is it forever?
Must. Stay. Positive!
We will continue making progress, I know we will.
This is why autism is such a game changer, because there is no end in sight for the ground hog day like challenges. We can only hope that with enough love and positive parenting they become less evident in our daily lives.