Five years can make an amazing difference in the life of a parent, a child and a family.
Five years ago, my daughter Zoe was four years old and quite a handful. Autism had me on the ROPES.
Five years ago, I lived in a nightmare that many families raising children with autism are suffering through today. Today, I’m taking a look back at those days. This post was originally written in June, 2010 and here are some of my struggles with my beautiful daughter, who was trapped behind a veil of sensory issues and speechlessness:
I have had it. I mean, when Amelia was 4, we had already been putting her in time outs for a year. It worked (for another couple of years anyway)!
But here’s a parenting challenge: How do you punish a 4 year old who does not speak (much), will not take direction, and has legitimate sensory issues? I mean, I only painted my house in the winter (beautiful colors no less) and now it’s all covered in pen, crayon, and pencil. Is there a book out there somewhere? “Positive Parenting Kids with Autism”?
Spanking is not the answer, ok? Did I mention she has sensory disorder? For a person who struggles inside their own skin (raising my hand wildly), spanking is cruelty, IMO. Plus I could never bring myself to hit my children when I’m calm, and we all know you can’t when you’re upset.
MOTHERS & AUTISM: IT’S A LEARNING CURVE
Right there, that’s it! My mama instinct kicked in. I believe that spanking is a choice, but as my wise sister once told me, “There’s no one answer for every child.” She was talking about discipline but it truly applies to mothers raising kids with autism. Not every course of treatment, food intervention, conventional therapy will help every child. That’s what makes autism such a slippery beast that’s challenging to study, particularly if you are a government agency hellbent on closing your eyes to studying certain things. A host of issues set off the reactions that trigger autism and only a host of intensive, and child-specific interventions can heal the difficulties caused by autism. What was my daughter struggling with back then?
She is becoming unruly at times. She won’t wear a diaper at home. It’s true she does have a small blemish on her tush, but still! One time I let her go and she pooped all over her quilt. And a tantrum for no ice cream? The movie’s end? Not being let into a room? She doesn’t sit often at the table either, who knows why she does that.
I grow weary of this battle. It’s not completely her fault; her disability caused tantrums that she was smart enough to use other times on indulgent caretakers, lazy family members, and tired and/or sick mommy and daddy. I’m determined to find a way that doesn’t kill me. (Just so we’re clear, the thought of consistency, schedules and the like with little or no improvements from her does kill me. )
If this is you, I feel for you because you do not know that THERE IS HOPE. You do not know that there is a God who loves you, who has comfort for you. You do not know that your child is eating, drinking and being exposed to things may be destroying her ability to communicate or smile or laugh. You do not know, because no one told you, because naysayers said, “We’re waiting on the science” while your little child screamed and cried and bit herself, and others looked down on you, alleging poor parenting skills when you did EVERYTHING THE DOCTOR RECOMMENDED: Floor time. ABA. Well care check ups. Vaccines on schedule. Antibiotics for illness. Tylenol and OTC drugs when “needed”. GMO foods and formula. It turns out that some of those things did more harm than good – but you didn’t know, and that’s ok.
You know now because I’m telling – from my own experience – these things matter and they may be hurting your child. But don’t lose hope! God is with you – waiting for the right time, the right opportunity to show you what you could change, what you needed to change and when. He lead you to read this post right now. He still is there now watching over your children. I know that now, but I didn’t see it then:
I love her so much. She has so much awesome potential and she’s maturing her abilities very well this year. But she needs to learn behavior, respect, or as much as a four year old can handle. Is that too much to ask, in the last few months before she’s 5?
It turns out that this – this love – this is all you need as a parent: love that’s just crazy enough to find a solution where others tell you not to look. Love that has broken your heart so badly, you will do ANYTHING to make your child smile, laugh or talk. Love that fights for truth, fights for right, fights to help an injured child, fights to protect her and the families of other injured children. God’s love is like that too:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -1 Cor. 13:4-6
It’s that love that lead me, in God’s time, to the solutions that were right for my child. Sometimes you have to get to a breaking point before things can get better. There is a time and place for everything, and those times and places came together when I met a friend who attended my childrens’ school briefly who taught me all about the alternatives for treating autism.
These treatments take financial and emotional commitment. For women balancing motherhood and autism, there are no quick fixes or easy answers. This is a challenging journey but it can be a path to promise and a brighter future for your child. Not every solution will work, that’s true, and yes, you’ll find friends on this journey who you may envy as you watch their children heal at a pace your child cannot.
Let that go. Don’t waste precious time comparing your child to anyone, nor line up your sorrow against anyone else raising a child with more or less of a disability. That’s never ok to do; it will only lead to pain and pride or jealousy. Instead, look for the good in your child. Every kid comes to this earth with a strength, with a unique ability. Never underestimate the worth of things the world doesn’t value: like a small smile, a big hug, a new ability your child attains even if it’s 5, 10 years later than his or her peers.
CELEBRATE THE SMALL
God wants us to do this: to celebrate the small. To enjoy the blessings we have now, for our children are blessings (Psalm 127:3). If you’re feeling weak and overwhelmed, that’s ok too, because then God can truly shine in your life, as the apostle Paul shares with us:
9 And He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Cor. 12:9-11
I want you today to be challenged, encouraged and inspired by my blog. I’m praying for this to happen, and if you want to see something here that I’m not supplying, please ask. I want to help you in this journey and make your burden lighter. Your children deserve that.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June, 2010.