Mother’s Day is this weekend and being a mom can be the hardest job in the world, especially as you are juggling your personal and professional life as a CEO. However, as a new mom being told that your child will be born autistic, your world will change. Autism moms and special needs mothers in general may just be the hardest working moms in this world.
One in 54 kids are autistic and whether your child is autistic or not, everyone knows someone with an autistic child. The moment you get told that your child is autistic, you become an advocate, educator, cheerleader, therapist, warrior and much more.
Most of the time you find that you are battling various roles and you may get frustrated thinking that your child can’t show appreciation, or express it. You go through life trying to navigate the waters, and wondering if what you are doing is making a dent in their life. Please know that your child definitely knows they are loved.
As a mom of an autistic child, I have often struggled to find the parenting answers. We have all been there. Those of us that have had the time to accept being a mom to an autistic child, we get in our routine, find our pattern, but it isn’t easy.
You find yourself being overwhelmed by wanting to attend brunches, barbeques and pool parties and accept those social invitations, all the while knowing all you want or need is a nap. No matter what the occasion, don’t feel obligated to attend those social gatherings. While we all want people to feel like we have our life together, it is okay to admit that we are scared or lost, or need help. We all deserve a break at times.
Everyone experiences happiness and sorrow, anger, joy, fear, surprise, loneliness. Kids on the spectrum feel just as deeply, but they often sound different, have more issues with confidence, and they don’t know what comes after “hi,” making their ability to focus and succeed in social situations hard. If you are a new mom this Mother’s Day, or just been told your child is autistic, naturally you are looking for answers. Here are five things you can do right now to move on from the guilt and thrive on the spectrum:
- Accept your feelings of sadness. It is accepted and expected. When you are told your child is special needs, it is similar to a death as there is such pain. It truly is a life altering event. Many of your plans and dreams for your child may need to be altered. It is important for your emotional well-being to take the time to understand your feelings, accept them, and move forward.
- Once you accept the situation, it’s very important to have faith and hope. Medical breakthroughs happen every day. The brain is a wonderful organ with the ability to heal and learn.
- Educate yourself! You must become an advocate for your child. The internet is a powerful tool. Seek out experts in your area, support groups, etc. The website I like the best is Dr Wethersby’s at FSU – Autism Navigator.
- Therapy, therapy, therapy. The earlier it starts the better. Make a list of your child’s issues, and determine the therapies that would be most beneficial. Physical, occupational, speech, visual, auditory processing, are all available. Therapy can be expensive; see what is offered in the public school system. See if a local college has students majoring in the field and see if they have an interest to help.
- Investigate. Find the closest medical school and see if they have any clinical studies on Autism. Most will. See if your child is a candidate and how to become involved. Stem Cell therapy is becoming more relevant as studies demonstrate a significant benefit. See if this is available as well.
Every day is a challenge to be a working parent with a child with special needs, but this Mother’s Day allow yourself time to rest and regroup. We definitely could use some extra special support and encouragement. If you are a spouse to a mom who is raising a special needs child, please don’t forget to celebrate her. Whether it is a gift of self-care, a date night alone with just you both or some time for her to regroup in general, all moms deserve extra love and attention.
For all the special needs moms who may not have a typical Mother’s Day, remember that this day is about you as well. Your dedication and sacrifice to your child, should not go unnoticed.
If you happen to wake up at the same time as usual, and if there are no signed cards or breakfast in bed, and no voice to say “Happy Mother’s Day,” then I would like to wish you a Mother’s Day full of peace beyond understanding.
A day you can see all the good you do for your child. Perhaps a day you recognize the hard, yet focus on the good in the journey. And if you ever feel like you are failing, remember that you definitely are enough.
Written by Christine (Chris) Weiss.