Reading about Autism and actually living with it 24/7 is a totally different experience. Add Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia to this mix and the challenges multiply manifold as is the case with my son Dhruv. I am sharing the factors that have ensured we have as regular a life as possible.
1) Acceptance – As parents we all dream of a perfect child and when Autism comes a calling it can be heartbreaking and acceptance may be hard. However, once you accept Autism, life is simpler. It is equally important that both the parents accept Autism as it impacts the child and his progress. If one is in denial, it can create more stress in your lives.
2) Gratitude – Many a time we concentrate on our problems instead of counting our blessings. When I wake up in the morning I say a silent prayer of thanks to God that I have this child in my life, have family support and can afford his schooling and therapies. Doing this mental exercise puts you in a positive frame of mind and you are prepared to tackle the day.
3) Role Of Your Spouse – Autism will test your marriage. You may be as different as chalk and cheese and have opposing views but for the sake of your child, it is important you agree on major issues and support one another when required. On a daily basis, we take time out over a cuppa chai and discuss everything that is happening in our lives so that we are in sync.
4) Understand Your Child – Get to know your child. Whatever you do, therapy or school, make sure your child is HAPPY. Writing is a huge challenge for children with Dyspraxia so my son, Dhruv, is asked to write only when there is a spelling bee. On the other hand, music is his passion and strength, the magic potion or panacea that takes him to a happy place so we encourage it.
5) Empower Yourself – Read, read and then read some more. The more you know about Autism, the better you will understand your child. Attend workshops that can benefit your child and connect with other parents. Join support groups and share your experiences. I encourage you to keep a diary as then it is easy to map your child’s progress.
6) Understand Therapy – Therapy is essential for our children but it works only if you have faith and understand what the therapist is doing. Bond with your child’s therapists and learn from them. Be in constant touch and share what’s happening in your child’s world. Ask them for recommendations for books and websites and don’t let the technical jargon faze you.
7) Celebrate Your Child – Your child is perfect as he is and instead of striving for normalcy, aim to make him independent. With Autism the progress may be slow but when it happens, it is that much more precious. When my son learnt to spit at seven years, or flush at eight, I cried with joy!
8) Recharge – On a daily basis do something for yourself and recharge your batteries. Do not let Autism bog you down so do what makes you happy. Go for a walk, bake a cake or do some yoga. I watch movies, read books and listen to music as it relaxes me. Last year I learnt Reiki, got a tattoo and travelled a lot.
9) Connect With Family and Friends – There will always be people who care, we just need to reach out and connect. I am lucky to have an amazing network of family and friends who can be counted on in a crisis or when I want to vent my feelings or just unwind and have some fun. So pick up the phone and make that call or meet up for a cup of coffee.
10) Have Fun – Sometimes you just need to breathe and go with the flow. Love and laugh a lot and just have fun. Life is unpredictable so enjoy your child and give him a warm and happy environment. Go on road trips, social outings, movies, food fests, music concerts and make happy memories. You have one life, live it King size.