• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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The ASD Family: Feeling Our Differences

              I read somewhere that the first thing a parent with children on the autism spectrum realizes is that other families do not go through the same struggles with their children as we do.  We see other families in the supermarkets, the parks, and at school, and they do not seem to struggle the way we do. The relief of the diagnosis is that we now at last know why, we have a reason; it is not just bad parenting.

That realization goes double for the parent of the ASD child, who is on the spectrum herself. I naturally assume that other people go through the same things that I do. I never considered they were experiencing their lives differently. I just assumed the problem was me. I was a terrible mother—my children were undisciplined because of my parenting.

I could not keep up, and it was MY FAULT.

I was peripherally aware that others seemed to be doing better than me, that other children were calmer and more behaved.  Because I do not socialize with other parents, and my friends and family live 600 miles away I live fairly isolated. The isolation has sheltered me somewhat from really feeling the difference between my family and other’s.

My brother stayed at our house with my two year old niece over the Thanksgiving weekend. She is a beautiful, calm little princess that I love dearly. We spent the days playing and giggling, and on Friday we drove down to the beach and put our little ones on amusement park rides.

Over this past weekend I really felt our differences. My niece napped, she didn’t bang her head and flail around for hours. She sat and ate her meals, while my son (6 months younger) screamed, threw things, and tried to run away.

My eight year old had multiple meltdowns due to the overstimulation of the holidays and extra people in the house.  Aspie Teen become Hyper-Aspie Teen because he was excited about having family over for the holidays, and had difficulty being appropriate in adult conversations.

My niece was happy and smiling riding the amusement park rides, while my little one screamed, climbed out and ran away. Then of course, he wanted Mom, who was riding and began screaming and shaking the gates around the rides to get to me.

Although I had a great weekend, it was incredibly exhausting, and at times very lonely even amidst a group of people. For the first time, I felt very acutely our family’s differences. Feeling the differences made me aware of the people around us, their scolding looks, and the comments like, “we would nip that right in the bud,” when our children had an eye-raising reaction to the stimuli around them.

             No—they would not, they could not, not if they lived in our family.

            When was the first time you FELT the differences? Do outings with friends or holiday gatherings with family make you feel it more?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.