While doing research for my latest novel, I have learned a lot about autism. It has also made me more aware of the trials of parenting an autistic child.
Since many are not familiar with autism spectrum disorder as it is officially called, explaining the disorder’s challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and unique skills and abilities is another burden of the parents.
What most people take for granted about behavior, things that are usually grasped quickly are sometimes a year’s long struggle to teach and be understood by autistics. An afflicted child sees things and hears things literally and therefore is often misunderstood, sometimes resulting in teasing and bullying by other children. He doesn’t comprehend sarcasm or "white lies," not understanding the subtleties. When told to pick up his room, his first thought is that he couldn’t possibly lift it!
Frustrating for the child, of course, because he looks normal… he’s thought of as just a kid with bad behavior! He has lived his whole life trying to be normal, to fit in.
An autistic child works hard to be what is expected of him. He wants to have friends like everyone else. But he might wet himself because he doesn’t want to miss out on a minute of having a visitor over. He must be taught, over and over, what is acceptable and what is not.
Often well-meaning adults offer advice like, "I just smacked Tommy’s hand when he did that!" as if that would cure everyone, not realizing his parents had done it hundreds of times and it still hadn’t registered.
The temptation for many is to apologize for their child’s behavior or to attempt to explain it (for the thousandth time, it seems) to oftentimes non-understanding adults who obviously aren’t buying it.
My heart goes out to these kids, but most especially to the parents. I am sure there will be a special place for them!