Anything Parenting

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Coping With High-Functioning Autism and Its’ Effects on Our Family

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"I have a guest writer today who is the mother of a child with Autism. Liz is a great writer and mother with more courage and strenght then most."

By: Elizabeth Tabian-Sosin

My son, Matthew, who is now 13-years-old, was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3-years-old. This was something of a shock for me, as I was a single parent at the time. Fortunately, I had the support of my parents, who just doted on their grandson, and didn’t seem to mind helping to take care of him.

I say “take care” because that was one of the major problems. No daycare facility wanted him. Oh, they would say that they could take care of him, but would always find some absurd reason to get him to leave their care. So, for nearly 10 years, my parents helped to care for him. They would get him ready for school, feed him breakfast, and tend to all of his needs while I worked. This, of course, impacted their ability to do anything for themselves.

If he was off from school, they had to put their plans on hold to take care of him. They would have to take him everywhere with them. This, fortunately, was never a real problem for them. Matt loved to spend time with his Grandma and Grandpa. According to my Dad, it was always pretty easy with Matt. They established a simple routine with him, with very few problems. You couldn’t drag him to 20 stores, but if they established that routine, it was never a problem. My Dad specifically said that they wouldn’t take him to some place that would completely bore Matt to death, like a department store. They usually would keep it pretty simple, often including his favorite restaurant, Culvers. A simple consequence, a simple solution.

It was hard for me, though, to take him anywhere. I was afraid he’d act up and people would stare. He wasn’t always high-functioning, and sometimes his behavior was unexplainable. As he grew older, though, this changed. Mostly, in part, due to the great work his team at school did with him. Also, in part, due to the relationship he had/has with my husband, Chris.

We have been able to take him many different places, where normally, we might not have been able to. We’ve gone to Chicago, Navy Pier, all of the various Museums, the Botanical Gardens, as well as the Children’s Museum. We try to structure the outings around what Matt’s interests are, or what we think might prove interesting. Our current concern is usually the hormonal aspect of his behavior. So, sometimes we have to limit our interactions with groups of people that contain large numbers of young ladies.

All in all, his impact on the family structure is minimal. We have to make little changes to our routines, but it usually works. Our main problem is in his interactions with his older stepbrother. Sometimes, they fight a lot, because of the age difference. However, it is mostly the fact that his stepbrother often expects things from him that only a normal child could actually accomplish. Since things have started to go a bit easier lately, we are finding it much easier to cope with it all. In addition, as I finish this, my son and stepson are getting ready to collaborate on some of Matt’s homework. How about that?

Liz has many articles published on Autism here

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