Parenting An Autistic Child

Filed Under (Acceptance, Autism and Learning, Inspiration, Parenting) by Estee on 08-02-2011

We’ve been peaceful around here. This morning Adam picked up my guitar that I’m learning (really slowly), and he played it himself, strumming and enjoying the reverberating sound. I guess watching me and other people has inspired him. He already takes piano lessons and that’s quite a formal learning process that he doesn’t always like — we adapt the lessons but this type of teaching still requires those old reinforcements (I call them bribes… let’s face it they work and that’s exactly what they are. Must watch out though, he knows that he’ll get that candy if he acts silly too). So, with the guitar, I want to let him explore. I took Royal Conservatory lessons for many years growing up. Piano teachers never liked when I sang in plays, or learned music by ear — which I was really good at doing. No, they were set in their formalized teaching method and there was no way I was allowed to waver. “It’s either the play,” said one of my piano teachers, “or piano.” I didn’t understand why one had to come at the expense of the other — it was all about music. I listened and won a few first place prizes at the Peel Music Festivals every year, but I played a lot more when I did my own thing. Perhaps we need more room for marrying creative exploration and formalized teaching. There’s a lot of treasure that’s discovered from staring out of a window, and learning things in our own unique way. It’s part of the creative process. It’s creative behaviour.

Despite my occassional worries (I’m a human being, a parent, that should say enough), I’m steady where Adam is concerned. When worry overwhelms me, I start reading more, reaching out and then I realize that I’m on the best track we can be on. The issue with parenting autistic kids is that there are too many opinions about how to teach and how to parent — hey isn’t that the case for parenting all kids? So many opinions.

What kind of parent am I? I ask myself. What am I capable of doing? After listening to how other people do things (or how they think they have to do things, particularly in the field of autism education), this can make a parent’s stomach churn with anxiety, and I think it’s okay to say enough. After doing the due diligence work, there comes a point in all of our lives, whether we are parents or not, to follow what we think is right for us. Reading any latest edition of The Autism News or any other study will make your head spin. I’ve made the PECS, the visual schedules, I’m teaching Adam how to type independently (it’s coming along well), he goes to a good school where I see he is learning new things, I seek input, advice, and lots lots more. It’s what a parent does. I’m not a teacher, yet I’ve learned to work with them. I’m not a therapist, but I’ve learned to communicate opening and share ideas. When I heard Rita Jordan once say on CBC Radio One that parents have to follow their own values in parenting an autistic child, I knew exactly what she meant. How many of us are listening to those voices inside?

Adam needs me to be his parent. With open arms and the love, he snuggles up to me for comfort, and I happen to be really good at this thing called love. He doesn’t need to know what I do for him behind the scenes. When he comes home, he just wants me to love him…as he is.

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About Me


ESTÉE KLAR

I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.