Autism: A Parent’s Perspective

This article provides a parent’s perspective on autism. It shows how one’s denial of the condition turned into acceptance. This led to further support.

Standing in his bedroom behind closed mini-blinds, I watched my two-and-a-half-year-old son scream loudly. He was babbling using an unrecognizable language, babbling out of mere frustration. He would raise his arms above his head as if reaching towards the heavens while simultaneously flickering his fingers to feel the air. He would then suddenly drop his arms towards the floor and immediately pick up clothes scattered about the room.

This cycle continued – throwing clothes back down, picking up clothes then throwing them back down, picking up clothes, throwing them back down and picking them up. This strange episode along with many others occurred on a daily basis, at times on a mere whim when his world was void of understanding yet filled with frustration. Alone I stood at the entrance of his room, wondering if my parenting or my husband’s discipline caused these chaotic moments, wondering if these tantrums were typical of other two-and-a-half-year-old boys or just my son, wondering if I should pull my hair out, scream or stop his tirade. This was a typical day in the life of my child, the life of a boy diagnosed with autism.

What is Autism

According to the DSM-IV, otherwise known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the autistic disorder is defined as “… the presence of markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests.” (American Psychiatric Association, 70)

Known as autism, this disorder was the problem I faced trying to raise and parent my son. For months prior to receiving his diagnosis, I stood in denial believing my son was the typical “terrible two-year-old” who will occasionally have bouts of tantrums. As for his speech, I assumed that he was a late bloomer, what some have called “a later talker” who eventually would take command of the English language.

Regarding the repetitive behaviors, I assumed he enjoyed his games immensely and this was his form of play. If he wanted to solve a puzzle 35 times over and over again in one setting or pick up clothes and throw them back down repeatedly, as long as he was quietly enjoying himself, I believed this behavior to be fine. But these patterns of behaviors and his speech problems persisted. Although questioning my ability as a parent and complaining to others, I still remained in denial, in a vacuum believing that everything was wrong with the world but nothing was wrong with my child. The process of change took place when I read a book explaining choice theory.

Choice Theory

According to Gerald Corey in Theory and Practice of Group Counseling (Thomson Learning, 2000), choice theory teaches that “the only way we can control events in our environment is through what we choose to do.” In other words, I can choose to remain in denial or make better choices by making changes to my environment. Evaluating this theory was a wake-up call, alerting me to changes I must make to help by son become better adjusted. Although the revelation was slow, my decisions were not. By changing how I act, I could change my thinking.

First, I changed my actions by initially having my son evaluated to see if there was something else wrong with him. Through this evaluation, I had learned that he possessed the developmental disability, autism. I then sought out early intervention methods such as employing a behaviorist to assist my son with eliminating undesirable behaviors while rewarding the desirable ones. My son received speech therapy to help with his articulation and make his speech more intelligible.

Next, I joined an autistic support group to gain better understanding of autism and to join others with similar experiences. I gathered as much reading material and websites on the topic of autism to further increase my understanding. Finally, I chose to accept my son for who he is – not a perfect child – but a wonderful child with unique qualities that could be channeled correctly.

Acceptance of the Autistic Disorder

Today, I realize that my denial was standing in the way of his treatment. By making better choices, I took control of my life while simultaneously helping my son’s. In Corey’s (2000) words, “We have a significant degree of control over our lives, and the more effectively we put this control into action, the more fulfilled we will be.”

I changed not only my actions, but my thinking. Every bit of his life is now carefully orchestrated. I am now far removed from that place I was once at, removed from the days of denial, chaos and disorder. I am a happier individual and my now nine-year-son has become a well adjusted young boy.

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, October 2005.

Corey, Gerald. Theory and Practice of Group Counseling, 5th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning, 2000.

Copyright Tasha Kelley, Raising a Successful Autistic Child

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Complete List of All Articles on Autism Spectrum Directory

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