Autism, parenting, and learning from my mistakes

m 27

Matthew more than survived my autism parenting mistakes

My son Matthew is approaching his 28th birthday. That would make me a well seasoned autism mom who has learned from doing and  making a zillion mistakes along the way.

Here is a partial list of key mistakes that I have learned from:

  • Stressing math and reading at every IEP meeting. What good was math and reading if  Matthew couldn’t connect with his teacher and his classmates? If I could do it over again, I’d encourage his teacher, his aide, and everyone in his therapeutic circle to engage with him in a relationship based way.
  • Finishing Matthew’s sentences. People learn nothing if you are always finishing their sentences. I’ve learned it is better to be patient, and to wait…….and to  listen.
  • Being the parent who was “better” with Matthew. “You’re better with Matthew,” my husband used to say. So I was exhausted and resentful. I should have demanded that Peter “be better” too. I did, eventually, and now we are (almost) even, and that is the way it is supposed to be.
  • Hoping (even assuming) that Matthew’s siblings would be movies-made-for-TV-super-siblings. They are currently in the super category, but it was a process.
  • Trying too hard to “make things right” for Matthew’s siblings during difficult times.
  • Not getting professional help when I was overwhelmed. “Talking to a therapist is not going to fix anything. I just have to tough it out.” Not true.
  • Not connecting the members of Matthew’s treatment team. Why didn’t I do that? We were all managing Matthew’s challenges in different ways. It must have been so confusing for him.
  • Doing too much for Matthew. Not only was Matthew capable of doing so much, he loves working and the praise that follows.
  • Leaving Matthew with a sitter that I wasn’t sure about. Ugh.

Enough for now. I’m sure I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and remember more.

What have you learned from your autism parenting mistakes?

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Next time: Autism parenting then vs. autism parenting now.

You might also find the following posts helpful:

10 things to be aware of about autism

Advice for parents of newly diagnosed children

On autism moms 

 

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About the author

Laura Shumaker is a nationally recognized writer, autism and disabilities advocate. Her essays have appeared in many places, including the New York Times, CNN, NPR, and in a popular autism and disabilities blog for The San Francisco Chronicle. She’s the mother of three terrific sons, and her oldest son, Matthew, is the subject of her book A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism.

Comments

  1. Mary McKinney says

    I have done too much for my son when he was quite capable of doing it himself, but I never ASKED him to do it. If I had, I would have found he was able. So now I try at the age of 9, to let him do more.

    I worried too much. He’s going to grow up in spite of my parenting mistakes, so I needed to have more confidence that he would be ok.

  2. says

    Hi Laura, I love your posts. So real to me. My Matthew was born brain damaged in 1970 and was never really diagnosed with anything specific – bandied about were: autism, (he had many symptoms)intellectual disability, (they used the “R” word) cerebral palsy and spastic. He was declared a “vegetable with a heartbeat” by a pediatrician shortly after birth. Matt lived to be forty. In his short, spectacular life he attended local integrated schools, lived with a single mom for fifteen years in his own home, learned to swim and had a paper route.
    I would love to communicate with you. We have so much in common. I have written a book about Matthew’s remarkable life (the royalties are going to charity). http://www.donnakirk.com

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