When you receive your child's autism diagnosis, it's normal to mourn the loss of the parenting experience you thought you would have. You won't share things with your child that you always dreamed about.
But maybe you will.
Last week, Tosh and I spent the day at Sea World, celebrating his friend's birthday. We had fun looking at dolphins, penguins, sea lions and manta rays. Our friends even treated us to a Dine with the Orcas experience!
As much as Tosh loves animals, the thing he enjoyed most at Sea World was riding rollercoasters.
Isn't it funny how when it comes to autism, motivation is everything? Tosh struggles with positional words (over, next to, inside) but when he's at a theme park settling into a rollercoaster car, he can follow every direction perfectly.
He raises his arms to allow the over-the-shoulder restraints to lower into place. He always remains seated and keeps his arms in the car. He can even wait in line when he needs to.
Sea World wasn't very busy so the...
Parenting a child with autism is hard.
I know we're not supposed to say that for a lot of reasons: we might attract angry social media trolls, we might manifest more difficulties, and nobody wants to hear somebody complaining about their troubles.
But it's true. This shit is hard.
I mean, parenting a neurotypical kid is hard. Parenting a special needs child is much harder. If you share some of your child's autism genetics, you may struggle with a combination of sensory issues, executive function skills, anxiety and auto immune disorders, which makes parenting much, much harder.
Figuring in the sky high divorce rate among special needs parents, there's a good chance you're doing this alone some or most or all of the time.
It can be overwhelming. Believe me, I know, because all of the above applies to me.
Thankfully, these days I'm in a much better place than I used to be. Life was much harder when Tosh was...
When your child is officially diagnosed with autism, you feel a lot of emotions.
You might feel relieved that you finally have a name for your child's lack of development.
You might even feel a bit vindicated that you were right and all those doctors and relatives who told you it wasn't autism were wrong.
But then the grief sets in.
There are many emotions that come with an autism diagnosis, but most of all, there is grief.
So much grief.
You refuse to accept that grief. You refuse to accept that your child will spend a lifetime suffering from a disorder that allegedly has no known cause.
Because of course autism has a cause. If it didn't, the rate wouldn't be increasing at an epidemic rate. This is more than bad luck, more than losing the genetic lotto.
This is fucking bullshit.
So you begin searching for a cure.
It's so alluring, that cure. Especially when your child has severe autism and suffers from chronic pain,...
Today we achieved a major milestone: Tosh watched a new movie all the way through, and only used his iPad once.
This has been a long time coming. We first took Tosh to the movies three years ago. At that time, he was five and if you have a moderate to severely autistic 5-year-old, you already know how that turned out. It didn't go well.
He kept running up and down our row and wanted to sit in the row in front of us. At one point, he crawled under the seats so he could get there.
This all happened during the previews. Mid-way through the animated short, we left. He just couldn't handle it.
But we didn't give up. I'm very passionate about the belief that everyone deserves to go out and experience the world. Whether it's going to the movies, out to eat at a restaurant or on vacation, kids and adults with autism are capable of far more than we realize.
They just need lots and lots and lots of practice.
It's a real conundrum: the only way to learn social skills is...
When your child has moderate to severe autism, it can be a struggle to feel like a normal family.
One of the easiest ways to overcome that struggle is to lean in to autism, and let it help create your own special family traditions.
We've been doing that for a few years, and this Father's Day, we hit it out of the park.
A couple of weeks ago, I told Tosh that Father's Day was coming up, and I wanted him to help me decide what we should get his dad for a present.
He thought about it for a few minutes and then proudly announced his decision using Proloquo2Go on his iPad: a tree.
"A tree?" I replied. "You want to give Dad a tree for his present?"
Yes, he confirmed. A tree.
Naturally, I had questions. A tree isn't a very practical gift, especially for an apartment dwelling dad. I asked Tosh if he could show me what kind of tree he had in mind. I turned it into a spelling lesson and used Google search to teach him how to spell tree.
Autism parenting pro tip: search engines are...
My son and I were eating breakfast out when I noticed the older couple in the next booth giving us the side eye.
“Oh God,” I thought to myself. “Here we go again.”
My son behaves well in restaurants for a kid with severe, nonverbal autism. He doesn’t scream or disrobe or run out of the booth like he used to.
But he does make autism noises. If you’re the parent of a nonverbal child, you know “the song of our people.”
It means he’s not as quiet as a neurotypical child, but he’s not loud enough to ruin a reasonable person’s meal, either.
Okay, yes, he does sometimes lay down in the booth at some point during the meal. And yes, he always has his iPad on. I mean, he uses it to communicate so of course he does.
But unless you know the full spectrum of autism behaviors, you wouldn’t know he’s very well behaved compared to his peers.
You wouldn’t know that if you were, say, the...
I'm a member of a special needs parenting group on Facebook, and last week another parent posted something that was so relatable.
She wrote that while she normally just scrolls past and ignores posts by parents of neurotypical kids, bragging about their achievements, there seem to be more of them lately. All the dance recitals, awards and other accomplishments and milestones made her want to scream for them to shut up already, and appreciate how lucky they are.
The response from the group was overwhelmingly supportive because we've all been there, right? Especially in the beginning. I remember back when Tosh was a toddler, and I'd see all the cute little Facebook videos of first words, the happy birthday song, preschool holiday programs and the comedy of three-year-olds playing soccer.
Tosh couldn't do any of that then, and still can't do most of it now.
Back it what I call my dark days, when he was about four years old, just one video of a toddler saying something cute was...
Parenting a child with autism comes with the longest to-do list in the history of forever. There are IEPs and educational issues, behavioral issues, health issues, diet, sleep and it goes on and on and on and on (and on).
I've spent almost my entire career in credit unions, most recently producing financial education content. One day, while reviewing an article about strategies to get out of debt, it hit me: autism is kind of like being buried in debt.
It's overwhelming, exhausting, depressing and you don't even know where to begin.
Which is why financial management guru Dave Ramsey can offer the perfect advice to autism parents. When it comes to tackling your child's laundry list of challenges, treat it like debt and use Dave's Snowball Method.
If you're not familiar with Dave Ramsey, here's how it works: tackle the easiest thing first, so you gain a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, with every problem solved you gain more time and energy.
Without realizing it, I've applied the Snowball...
If you're like most parents of autistic children, you've spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about your child's future. I know I have.
There's the obvious worry: what will happen to them when you're gone?
And then there are the myriad other worries. Will my nonverbal child ever communicate? Will they ever learn how to drive? Will they ever have a job? What happens when they age out of the educational system?
These are all legit concerns. However, you are probably worrying far more than you should. Here are three reasons why.
There will be more services in the future.
Ask any parent of an autistic adult - these days, there are sooooo many more services for autistic children and their families than 20 years ago. Why is that? Because these families blazed the trail for everyone else, raising awareness of the need. I know it may seem like our country is becoming less empathetic, but if you don't allow yourself to get caught up in the political drama du jour, and look at the...