This is not parenting advice. This is just examples of things that have worked for our family. I am no expert. I have just been thinking of how far we have come as a family and all the things we have learned over the years. 🙂
1. Pick your battles- This is probably one of the most important things I have learned. Letting my kids do things that they want to in order to avoid a meltdown. This does not mean we let them do whatever they want whenever they want. This just means we are very selective about the things that we allow or don’t allow.
2. Positive reinforcement (aka bribery) works wonders- Our kids love praise. They love to be clapped for, given a small treat, or do an activity of their choice for good behavior.
Example: If you are good in Wal-mart you can get a small toy or something out of the machines before we leave.
This turns into a routine. This encourages good behavior for every visit to the store. If they are good in the stores it is so worth that extra dollar or two.
3. Set the bar high.- I have seen both of our kids try and try and try to do many different things that may seem impossible. I have always tried to tell them… “I know you can do it!” No matter what it is.This seems to give them that extra boost of confidence that they need to keep trying. Then one day it turns into one of those WOW moments when they finally do it. I try not to say “He/she can’t do that.” I try to say “He/she is not doing that yet.”
4. You do not have to do everything THEY say you should. – They meaning the Dr, therapist, special educator, etc. No one knows your child like you do. No child with Autism is the same. There is no manual for raising any child including children with Autism. Use your own judgement. Try different things. Find out what works for you and your family and do just that. It is all up to you.
5. Spread Autism awareness- There are many benefits to making people more aware. With awareness comes understanding. With understanding comes less judgement. It is hard to understand something that doesn’t affect you. I always try to encourage questions by spreading awareness. It can be as simple as wearing a puzzle piece necklace. People will ask… “What does the puzzle piece mean?”
6. Watch them sleeping.- Even if it is just for a minute. I have learned that after a bad day it makes me feel so much better to kiss their foreheads and just watch them sleep for a minute. It is a great reminder that there is always a calm after the storm. Even though the it may have been rough today… the hard times will pass and things will get better.
7. It is OK to say it’s hard- Raising children is not easy. Raising Autistic children is not easy. We may have different struggles, but we all have them. It is OK to say that it is not easy. Get it out. Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles. It will help spread awareness, it will make you feel better.
8. Take some of the credit.- I am GUILTY on this one. I never give myself any credit for the way I am raising my kids. I never feel like I have tried hard enough, tried enough options, done things the way I should have, done enough research… Sometimes I think that it is just my way of making myself try even harder. You have to take some of the credit. You are the one that spends the most time with your children. Not the Dr, the therapist, the teachers, the family. You are the one that is the most passionate about raising your children and giving them the tools they need to survive comfortably in such a fast paced world.Give yourself some of the credit for that. As long as you are doing your best with what you have. That is the most you can do.
9. Play.- Put everything aside and just play. Put the paperwork away. Get off the phone. Get off the computer. DVR your favorite show for after the kids are sleeping. Make certain times for nothing else but to play. Discover. Learn together. Teach in a fun way. Imagine. It is the best therapy for you and your kids. These will be the memories they will never forget.
10. You don’t need to hear “I love you.” to feel love- I have learned that saying “I love you.” is not that important. Feeling loved is totally different. People say “I love you” all the time. Sure it is nice to hear. It is even better to feel it. It can be that time that your child with a small vocabulary comes up to you and kisses your cheek for no reason. It can be them wanting to hold your hand while getting ready to go to sleep. It can be cuddling together. It can be a look and smile from your child when you know…you just know…that they LOVE you. You feel it in your heart. I used to think it was sad that my son could not say “I love you” to me. Love isn’t words that you should throw around. It is a feeling. We should all show or feel it without having to say it. Sometimes we all say it best when we say nothing at all.