Parenting is not easy, that much is true. Add in the additional challenges of parenting an autistic child, and you may be stretched to your limits. But there are a few things that I would love for you to know about parenting a nonverbal autistic child. Our story is just one of many. There are ups and downs, there are good times and there are some pretty crappy times. Nothing could have ever prepared me for this. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
My Reality as a Parent of an Autistic Child
If there’s anything that we can all agree on, it’s this: parenting is tough. We weren’t given manuals and sure, there might be books. But no amount of reading will ever fully prepare you for parenting. Nothing will really fully prepare you for parenting until you become a parent.
Add in the layers of an autism diagnosis, and special needs parenting becomes your reality. It may not be the reality that you were expecting but you take a deep breath, maybe have a glass of wine, and you move on. You prepare for the future, one day at a time.
Nothing has changed.
You’re still a parent and your child is still your child. But there are a few things that I wish you knew about parenting a non verbal autistic child.
What the Media Portrays about Parenting an Autistic Child
First, I want you to know: what you see on television or may not always be the case. Sure, some autistic children might be like that. But you’re neglecting one key thing: autism is a spectrum. So the autistic savant that you see in Rain Man doesn’t represent all autistic individuals. And, while a faithful portrayal, the Temple Grandin movie doesn’t encompass the entire spectrum.
To truly capture the essence of what it means to parent an autistic child will vary from family to family.
Parenting a NonVerbal Autistic Child
I wish that I could tell you that I’ve finally have a good grasp on this parenting thing. But I don’t. My toddler, on occasion, proves to be more challenging than either of her two older siblings. And yes, this includes my non-verbal autistic child. Well, I can’t really call her a child anymore. I am on the brink of parenting an adult child.
And the past 15+ years have certainly be an eye-opening, educational experience.
In so many ways and in so many aspects, autism has impacted our lives. Some negative and some ultimately positive. For example, when I was completing my independent study, I chose to review the scholarly research on parental stress in parents of autistic children.
While I wasn’t doing this out of self-pity, it was out of curiosity. Numerous studies, including one by Science Daily, have linked parenting an autistic child with higher stress levels. Some studies have also suggested that parents of autistic children exhibit symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.
I’ve even considered that there is disenfranchised grief associated with the initial diagnosis process.
Then we added another layer to my daughter’s autism diagnosis when her developmental pediatrician suggested that there was a less than 50% chance that my daughter would ever speak.
Knowing that I would never hear “I love you” or “mommy” or that my autistic daughter would never be able to tell me when she was in pain. Or if someone was bullying her.
It was a lot to process at first.
But, like with everything else, I formed a plan. I learned how to adapt the environment to meet her needs. I taught her basic sign language because it’s what I knew. With the help of her speech therapist, I started using PECS at home. We created visual schedules to help her gain independence at home.
And now I try to create free printables for autistic children that their parents or caregivers can use.
But does that really tell you about the reality of parenting a non-verbal autistic child?
My Reality as the Parent of a Non-Verbal Autistic Child
The reality that I face is advocating for my child for as long as she needs. For being a voice for her when she needs it.
The reality that I face, is not knowing who will provide for her or take care of her if I am unable to.
The reality that I face is being uncertain if she’ll wander again as a child with a history of elopement.
The reality that I face is if the government is going to keep her insurance as it is. Or if her SSI will remain as a source of income for her.
The reality that I face is legal planning and maybe a few sleepless nights.
The reality that I face is uncertain.
But I will do everything that I possibly can to make sure that her future is clear. I will do everything that I possibly can to make sure that her future is secure.
Because that’s what I do as a parent of a non-verbal autistic child.
This post is part of a year long series that revolves around parenting a special needs child. I truly hope that you will enjoy reading more of the posts about this theme:
26 Things Every Special Needs Mom Needs to Know | Natural Beach Living
What You Don’t Know President Trump | Every Star is Different
What I Wish You Knew About Special Needs Parenting | My Home Truths
What I Wish You Knew About Being the Parent of a Child with RAD | The Chaos and The Clutter
What You Need To Know, Betsy Devos | This Outnumbered Mama
What I Wish You Knew About Parenting a Non-Verbal Autistic Child | Kori at Home <— You are here!
50 Things SPD Parents Secretly Wish They Could Say Their Families | Lemon Lime Adventures