Monday, March 16, 2015

Doing Enough

Sometimes, I look at the search strings which lead people to this blog. Usually, they are funny, though strange, and I get a good chuckle out of them ("burn all of the Thomas trains" is a favorite). However, today I saw the string, "I don't do enough for my autistic son." I felt pain reading that, a familiar pain which is usually throbbing dully inside of my heart and increasing my anxiety tenfold.

I think, as parents, a majority of us feel like we could be doing more to help our children. When one of our kids has specialized needs, though, that worry is probably amplified. We often turn to social media as a measuring point, whether we intend that or not. That's probably not the healthiest thing to do.

 I felt that a checklist, in no particular order, would be handy to tell if you're doing enough.

1. Is your kid happy?
2. Is your kid safe?
3. Is your kid in a nourishing and encouraging environment?
4. Does your child express, through vocalizations or movements, that they feel comfortable in their environment?
5. Are your child's immediate needs (clothing, food, shelter, and education) being met?
6. Is he or she being allowed to experience childhood, in their own way?

If you answered "yes" to these, then I would say that you are doing enough. Could you be doing more? Of course, but don't allow the drive to do more be a detriment to your child or you.

Don't look to your neighbor to compare. Your child is an individual with individual needs, and shouldn't be evaluated by what someone else is doing. I'm incredibly guilty of doing this, more so in the past than present.

Lately, I've been trying hard to let go of doubts about my care for Morgan and Bailey, who has his own special needs. I know when I do wrong, but I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing right. Morgan dictates, through his emotional well being and progress with new challenges or old, how he's doing, as does his brother. Letting go of preconceived notions is making me a better parent, or at least a far more relaxed parent.

Morgan's happy, for the most part. He's a prepubescent boy, though, so his emotions change like the Virginia weather. His needs are being met. He's getting an incredibly appropriate education, he's nourished, and he appears to be thriving. That's good enough, for now. Should new challenges present themselves, we will meet them head on.

But, some might ask, what about socialization and getting "on level?"

First, "on level" is a subjective term that means something different to everyone. Is your child lagging in subjects? Does he or she appear to need another therapy stacked on top of the ones he or she is already receiving? Does he or she vocalize or emote that he or she feels the need to be surrounded by people? Or feel the need to interact with others after school?

If the answer is "no," than let things be. It's hard to make friends in an environment that's focused on the "proper" way to play. It's hard to thrive when your entire life is scheduled. If your child could benefit from something like what is mentioned above, then go for it. But watch for signs of burn out. Too much therapy is just as detrimental to the well being of a child as not enough.

Finally, don't beat yourself up and cast so many doubts upon your parenting that you cannot see how well you're raising your autistic child. Also, don't take too much advice from the internet (yes, I see what I did there). None of the people in the peanut galleries know your child like you do. Don't allow someone whom you've never met to cast doubts upon your parenting. They aren't the person raising your child.

Allow your child to see you happy and confident while you're parenting. That helps, a lot. And, honestly? We're all making this stuff up as we go.

1 comment :

  1. Wonderful post. I ask myself all the time if I am doing enough for Janey (10 and autistic) and over time I've come up with a mental checklist a lot like yours. The hardest one is the happy---Janey is often not happy, but I try to think of it as "am I doing anything I could change that is MAKING her not happy?" If I'm not, then I am doing what I can for her happiness. Thanks for writing this!