The Mighty Logo

To the Parents Who Ask 'When' About Their Kids With Autism

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“My son is 4 and he still refuses to even try to use the potty and I was wondering when…”

“My kid started OT three months ago and my husband and I still haven’t seen any improvement so when…” 

“When did your Kiddo start eating? I swear I could deal with the picky eating if I just knew when it would end…” 

Every time I see “when” in a sentence about autism and a young child, I sigh. Not a “Gee, these people are so clueless” sigh. More like “Oh yeah, I remember when I still couldn’t let go of those milestone moments, too” sigh. Oh, newbies. Welcome to #TeamQuirky! A life where you learn schedules really can help your child with autism, and yet there’s no real set standard of one to follow. Come sit by me at this lunch table. I am part of your tribe.

I get it. Your little one is in front of you and you’re still consulting all your parenting books about what they should be doing at that age. You see the time slipping away from you. Why aren’t they following the instructions? You want to fix the problem. You’re running out of time!

Here’s the thing, sport. You must chill out. There’s a person who needs a time-out right now, and it’s you. I know, I know. You’re rattling off the screen right now about the importance of early intervention and how your child is falling behind and you have a limited window of time and yadda, yadda, yadda… I hear you. I know that song. Hell, I wrote that song. The milestones? The benchmarks? Guess who’s in charge of that? I’ll give you a hint: not you!

It’s your kid and yes, I know it’s super frustrating. They are the ones who ultimately decide anything. Any progress or growth, it’s all them. Pretty much the only thing you have control over is you accepting you don’t have control. So hang on to that if it makes you feel better. Otherwise, buckle up; it’s a hell of a ride.

The time you’re so hung up will go at the pace they set. Some of it will be fast. (Like my son, the Kiddo, figuring out how to scale the baby gates like it was his job.) Other times, it will stand still. (Usually mid-meltdown, when time stands still.) If you’re lucky, you might even get a sweet spot of time when they do stuff just like a typical kid their age. (Kiddo took to bike riding like water off a duck’s back.) Of course, the double-edged sword of that time is you will start to compare and contract everything else they can and cannot do and when they did it. Time is a real mofo like that.

There’s no set schedule to when things are going to happen for your kid and this life. I can’t tell you when things will happen for your kid like it did for mine. I also hate to tell you some of the stuff my Kiddo does, your kid might never do. However, that might be both good and bad depending on how you look at things. (Maybe your kid won’t think screaming like a howler monkey for fun and pleasure is good idea. I say you’re winning if that’s the case.) Likewise, I bet there will be things your kids will do that mine cannot and I’ll find myself wondering, “What did they do? If only I knew what it was so I could go back in time…” Yeah, ’cause that’s doable.

I think the band Styx said it best about time:

Is it any wonder I’ve got too much time on my hands
It’s ticking away with my sanity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
It’s hard to believe such a calamity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
And it’s ticking away, ticking away from me

So try not to get so caught up on the time factor and your kid. It will do you in. The only thing it’s time for is another side of fries.

Follow this journey on Autism With a Side of Fries.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 18, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home