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What's Different About Parenting a Child on the Autism Spectrum?

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What’s the difference between parenting  a child with a disability versus one without?

I struggled with that question when my boy was first diagnosed autistic. Him being our first born, I was still just trying to figure out parenting, period. What do you do when your child has a condition you can  hardly understand or identify with? It took me a long time, too damn long, to figure that out. Especially considering how obvious the answer is.

So what’s the difference?

Only the details.

Details like what kind of therapy he can most benefit from: physical, occupational, speech, or all? What kind of physical aids might help, like orthotics to help his gait and balance while walking. Tracking down the right resources to help pay for all those things. Making sure we’ve got a plan for his education by working with his school to put together an IEP that suits him best.

“Only the details,” he says, “That’s a hell of a lot of details!” You’re not wrong. It is a lot, but what carries us through all that is the thing that every parent has to focus  on; what unites all of us.

The most important part of parenting is the purpose.

Father hugging son

Whatever you and your child with a disability may be facing, you still have the same purpose that all parents have:

– To love your child unconditionally.
– To accept them for who they are.
– To give them all the support they need to recognize their own unique gifts and learn to use them to live their best lives.

Understand, I’m not trying to diminish in any way the extraordinary challenges, efforts or determination of parents raising children in a world not designed for them. My wife and I are those parents. I’m only pointing this out because coming to this conclusion helped me “keep my eyes on the road,” as it were.

When the details start to overwhelm me, that universal purpose is what helps me keep my focus on what’s most important: providing my boy those things he needs to live that best life.

After all, he’s no different than any other child where that’s concerned. All he wants to do is live life on his own terms. Another universal truth that binds us all together.

I believe this is a realization that many loving parents comes to. Some of us just happen to have  more details to sort out in the meantime.

Parenting with that universal and loving purpose is what can help all our kids to fly.

Originally published: April 19, 2018
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