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Becoming the Kind of Parent My Child on the Autism Spectrum Needs

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I was driving to Kiddo’s school this morning when a little voice from the back seat said, “McDonald’s?” in a not-so-innocent but hopeful voice. “Not today, darling,” I said.

I thought to myself how much stricter my parents were with that sort of thing than I am. I have no doubt that if I was growing up in current times, my screen time would be limited and my diet wouldn’t include visiting McDonald’s twice a week. I never thought I would be the type of parent that allowed these things.

Allowing my child to have an iPad and a Kindle at the same time. Twice weekly visits to McDonald’s. A scoop or two of ice cream after school every day. I thought, am I just a lousy parent with no rules or boundaries?

The answer is no. Absolutely not.

I never envisioned having a child who didn’t think or function in the way the world expects them to. This makes me angry in itself because if everyone understood what neurodiversity was and what it was about, we wouldn’t all be blown off our feet when we started living with it. Because I never envisioned this, I had a very clear idea of the kind of parent I was going to be. I’d be strict, wouldn’t give in to tantrums, and make sure my kids ate five fruit and vegetables a day. I had the whole package of parenting set out in my head before my kiddo even arrived. I look back now and see how naive I was.

How can we possibly know what type of parent we will need to be until we have actually met our children? How?

My son doesn’t respond to typical boundaries or discipline, he doesn’t enjoy days out to big attractions, and he has major sensory issues causing challenges with food and diet. He needs extra time away from people, but his brain needs to be kept busy. You can’t parent kids like him in a neurotypical way, you just can’t. It will get you nowhere fast. So when I say I’m not the parent I ever thought I would or planned to be, actually, I’m proud. I’m proud that I am the parent my child needs and not the parent I used to think a child should have.

Getty image by Momo Productions.

Originally published: April 18, 2022
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