My life is not typical. I have heard people call it everything from “complete and utter chaos” to “non-traditional.” Neither of those sat well with me. While I don’t view them as put-downs, I do feel like it’s an attempt at someone to put my children and me into a box we didn’t ask to be in.
My son is diagnosed with Asperger’s. I knew for many years that there was something different about him, but never really being around children, or wanting to have children, made everything with him seem different and confusing. I was learning as he was too, and sometimes that wasn’t a good thing. Sometimes I felt so behind — like I was failing him.
My daughter was diagnosed with moderate autism, she didn’t speak until she was about four-and-a-half, she had meltdowns multiple times a day. I knew she was on the spectrum. I had enough experience with the subject by that time I was confident in my guess.
Recently my therapist told me that I fall on the spectrum
However, I was also told how hard it was for an adult to get a diagnosis. Being told that was like a door I had been pushing at finally opening and letting in the fresh air, I knew it I was different, I knew it in my bones since before I had my son, I just didn’t know how to speak about these things.
Growing up in East Texas in the ’80s was equal parts wonderful and frustrating. There was so much pressure for me to be so may things at once, when all I wanted to do was disappear into the library that was a block away and read all the books I could find. I had fantasies that I would build a room somewhere like in The Never Ending Story, and I would live out my life haunting the library and reading the books at night.
Knowing what I know now, there is no way I am anything but on the spectrum. It’s been nothing short of empowering to have that knowledge.
It took me many years to be able to feel comfortable with myself. I had to lose my husband and see that what he said was a defect was my greatest gift, not just to myself, but my children as well.
To get that knowledge while I was going through what can only be called a horrific divorce is also empowering. All the things that were listed to me as my faults as a wife, and a mother and a person are not character defects. They are just the way my brain works and that’s not bad, it just is.
I can take my experience and use it to help my children
I know what it feels like to be a teenager on the spectrum, and to want to disappear into movies like my son does. I can encourage that comfort, but also encourage him to reach out to others like him. Others who like to tell stories, and dream about alternate storylines.
My daughter is seven and does more in a weekday than most people who work a full-time job. She is a whirlwind of emotion and reactions to everything around her. Everything is raw, everything is important. I know how it feels to feel things so deeply you think they will leave scars. I just can let her be herself when she is home.
When she acts out, where other parents tell me to punish, I talk and try to teach. When she colors the walls of the basement with chalk, I join her, it’s just chalk. When she makes her own chocolate milk and makes a mess, we clean it up together, then we share the drink. When she asks me to play, I play, when she asks me to leave her alone, I leave her alone. I don’t force anything if I can help it, because I know how it can be to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated at most things.
It took me many years to be able to feel comfortable with myself
I had to lose my husband and see that what he said was a defect was my greatest gift, not just to myself, but my children as well. I have become a better mother by being more open about my life and past experiences. It is not always easy, and many nights I go to bed exhausted, but I go to bed knowing I did the best I could. I don’t second guess myself anymore when it comes to my children.
My children are happy and healthy and learning about themselves, just as I am learning about myself with them.
Anyone else raising children on the spectrum when you are also on the spectrum? What are your experiences, tips, and lessons?