Looking back in the year there was World Autism Awareness Day. Now that October has arrived, it is Autism Awareness Month. Instead of going through what Autism is, I chose to interview a mother of five children about her experiences with autism.
Gerry: Hi Rebecca, and thanks for taking the time to share your experience. To start, Tell us about yourself.
Rebecca: My name is Rebecca Norman. I am a mother of 5. 2 for sure with autism and possibly one more but it’s too young to tell. I run a dog rescue and have a love of psychology.
Gerry: Why is Autism Awareness month important to you?
Rebecca: It’s important because with children on the spectrum I feel that more people need to know what autism is and how they can be more inclusive of individuals with autism.
Gerry: How has Autism affected your daily life? Do you have to do things differently? What challenges have you faced?
Rebecca: Our lives are very different because of Autism. We can’t do things out of the home as a family as our boys with autism struggle intensely with change and transitions as well as social interactions, noise, light and touch.
It has also caused both parents in the home to be at home for now as daycares will not accept our 2 year old with autism because he is too hard and our 12 year old struggles in school, causing pickups almost daily and many team meetings due to behaviour, anxiety, loss of academics etc. we also have to drive him to and from school as the bus does not come close enough to home for him to feel confident enough to catch it. He also does not have enough energy to walk ten blocks with all of the medications he is on.
Currently we are looking into naturopaths and diet change as we have found that psychiatry is not able to help our son feel stable. We worry a lot that he will not be okay as an adult and wonder what will happen when we pass away from old age.
Gerry: What supports have you found helpful?
Rebecca: Other parents with children who have the same struggles. This way you see you are not alone and they share tricks that have helped. It is very therapeutic when you aware overwhelmed to see someone else getting through it as well.
Gerry: How has it been dealing with others with regards to your children’s’ Autism?
Rebecca: It is very difficult. We have few friends now. Family and friends have a hard time understanding autism and it’s limitations and struggles. A lot of people believe the kids are the way they are due to bad parenting. We get a lot of advice from almost everyone on how to be better parents so our children can behave better. It’s very disheartening. We choose very carefully with school teams now so we can have positive people working with our kids.
Gerry: Is there anything you wish that the parents of your children’s peers understood better?
Rebecca: Yes. That children with autism are not bad kids and their behaviours are not on purpose but due to extreme anxiety and rigidity. I also wish that they understood the need for inclusion. Our sons are not invited out and are very segregated from peers. People are afraid of what they don’t understand and it is very isolating for our boys and family.
Gerry: What advice do you have for parents with children who have Autism?
Rebecca: Seek out other parents with children who have autism! It’s the best thing you can do. And try to survive in the moment. It can be very overwhelming. Also know that you are the expert on your child. I would love to say to take time for yourself but I almost cringe when I hear others say that to me as it’s very hard to do so with autistic children. Do have a cup of coffee, five minutes to read while they are quiet. Sneak five minutes for yourself to be peaceful.
Gerry: Thanks again Rebecca for sharing your experience.
Raising children with autism is not an easy task, and can be both physically and emotionally draining. To learn more about Autism you can check out the Autism Society or the Autism Society Canada. And if you are looking for Autism Awareness items, check out My Identity Doctor.
Wearing medical ID jewelry can be an important step to identify the needs of someone with autism in an emergency situation, or if the individual with autism is anticipated to wander or run away. For those who are nonverbal, medical ID jewelry can communicate their needs, however, some children and adults who have good language skills may struggle to communicate during stressful situations, such as if they are sick, injured or lost. Choosing one of our medical ID bracelets or necklaces can help provide some peace of mind–remaining aware of any sensory aversions individuals may have to certain jewelry.
Note from Kerri: I also highly recommend checking out the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to learn more about autism, straight from people living with it.