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5 Ways to Recognize the Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum


When my now 6-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, I knew it would be a journey. I knew I would need a lot of help and that I was sort of out of my element. What I didn’t realize was how transformational it would be to me. I didn’t realize I would learn new skills and sort of become a whole different parent. Somewhere along the way I became a stronger, more self-assured parent ready to help my child exceed.

These are five signs that I’ve become the parent to a child on the autism spectrum and perhaps you’ve experienced this to:

1. You’ve strategically entered and exited bathrooms with loud hand dryers.

Those automatic hand dryers are not your friend if you have a child with sensory sensitivities. I have planned my entrance into countless bathrooms so that my oldest son and I avoided the loud hand dryers. For those of us with children with sensory sensitivities, we are constantly trying to help our kids manage loud, uncomfortable and surprising sounds, as well as other sensations.

2. You speak in acronyms.

ABA, LCSW, IEP, OT, SLP… you know what I’m talking about. As a parent of a child with autism, you have learned all sorts of terms and lingo that you never would have otherwise heard. It’s not rare that I’m talking to a friend and mention, “Ross’ OT” only to be met by confusion. These acronyms and the terms behind them become second nature as we navigate the world of parenting kids with disabilities.

3. You are a compulsive researcher.

Research twice, do it once. If I had a motto that would be mine. Google is my friend and gives me lots of information, until it gives me too much and I get overwhelmed. As parents of children with autism we research so we do what’s best for our child. We try to stay on top of the latest research and trends and make sure we are giving our children all the support that we can.

4. You don’t have the luxury to not be a helicopter parent.

You’ve probably tried being relaxed, hanging back and seeing if it would be OK. Maybe it was — until it wasn’t. If you’re the parent of a child with autism they often need support, reassurance and many times an example of how to engage with the outside world. Being laid back may have led to meltdowns, struggles with peers, and tears. We don’t often get to be laid back, and that’s OK. We are supportive and a little bit of a helicopter parent, and that’s OK.

5. You put everyone else first, and sometimes forget about yourself.

Parenting burnout is real and as amazing as we are at looking after everyone else, sometimes we forget about ourselves. We are the caregiver to everyone except ourselves. We are accepting of everyone’s differences and shortcomings except for our own. We are the awesome parents of kids with disabilities but it can be a hard job. We learn to accept help, take breaks, and forgive ourselves because in the end that is the best for our children.

Being a parent is hard, but we are our children’s best advocate, friend and support system.

Getty image by izumikobayashi