I’ve learned a new word, and I don’t like it, Comorbidity. While I thought this was to mean for our princess that her anxiety, sensory processing and to some extent her ADHD were concomitant with her Autism, that is naturally accompanying. I’ve unfortunately been misinformed and for her underdiagnosed. We now understand that our princess comorbidities are concurrent, which we are finding is far more complicated than we ever imagined. That is her conditions exist simultaneously but independently with another condition. That being that for Jenna anxiety, depression, sensory processing, and ADHD are present with and in the main separately individually present as a stand-alone disability.
This, in turn, brings me to another new word I’ve needed to learn to petition for additional support for her. Psychosocial, A Psychosocial disability is a phrase that describes a disability that can derive from a mental health condition or episode. In simple terms meaning limitations in how a person thinks, feels and interacts with others. Therefore causing them to have barriers or stopping them from fully participating in activities of daily life. Thus meaning that I now need to advocate for supports not only for her autism (supports we are grateful for but currently not meeting her needs) but her psychosocial disability ( that is her anxiety, social phobia, and depression).
Its been a hard few weeks months, we can’t seem to find the right balance. Always jumping from boredom, school attendance, therapy sessions, doctors appointments, mini breaks with family, time with us, time alone, repeat. We have lost the rhythm that our princess needs to provide her balance and calm. Last week I had a daughter with autism (level 2) this week I have a daughter with a suite of disabilities that are fighting for a front row seat, in her every day. A child that I thought saw the world through the single lens of autism, now viewing life through a multiple lenses mixing anxieties, depression, and social phobias blurring her reality and messing with what we thought was her normal.
So I am hurting because my daughter hurts, but I’m also angry because my daughter hurts. When your daughter has only been giving half the diagnosis, it means we’ve just been treating a symptom, not the cause. Instead of secondary diagnosis, we are now dealing with multiple primary disabilities. I’m saying that the focus has been on autism, how autism affects the day to day, how autism affects school, living in the community, interacting with her siblings, with me. 3.5years of therapy, a psychologist, working on resilience, feelings, expressive language, independence, and school attendance.
Treatment was focused on treating the primary disorder, not the secondary ones; we thought we had time to develop social skills down the track, for now, have a toolkit to ensure you reduce the effects (noise, crowds, routine). We thought to establish a routine, building tools, and equipment to help balance her surroundings was the focus. Only now to be corrected by mental health professionals that we are letting a 13-year-old girl rule us and she doesn’t need these ‘tools’ she needs things to be the same as everyone else, she needs ‘normalization.’ In the effort to keep a calm house, a calm daughter and for her other three siblings to have a somewhat ‘normal’ childhood we worked at soothing our princess and helping her to remain level and calm and focusing on autism-related programs.
After 3.5years of focusing and practicing a theory, we are now starting again, and to be honest we are remarkably lost and outside our comfort zone. The first shift has been the element of risk. Transitioning exceptionally quickly from the promotion of independence to the removal of to keep our princess safe. This focus messes with your head and challenges your every being. Bringing the focus on risk and harm minimization, means for the time being our house is locked down. No sharps, no medication and a rethink of what is stored and easily assessable.
That means for now our focus is on her depression, social phobias, and anxiety. Unfortunately, for now, it also seems that we are in a system that only understands elements of her disability, forcing us to explore multiple treatments and therapy to ensure all needs are being met.
What we are sure of over the past 3.5years is our princess is a fighter and determined to leave her mark well and truly in this world. Our job as parents is to enable her to dream, help her to see there is a purpose for her and equip her with the tools she needs to succeed. Most of all, at the moment we need to show her inexcusable, unashamedly and boundless love
The family moving in together after six months apart was taxing for all.
Jenna’s three siblings found life difficult to adjust to 24/7 Jenna. In turn, Jenna was far more accustomed to 1:1 time and her space and schedule.
Fireworks, explosive, nasty, vicious, aggressive are just some ways to explain the last four weeks. Although afternoons as been shared walking in the fresh ocean breezes, lovely evening swims in the bay, and Netflix amidst cold airconditioning, these are just minutes in an incredibly difficult day, weeks and month.
Having the family back has been wonderful for me, and having the four kids and my wife around has brought much excitement and fulfilment; Although it’s been a stretch these past few weeks to extract a positive message from a painfully disastrous day.
The pleasant sea change life that was dreamed off currently looks like a catastrophic disaster and an ill-informed life choice, that in hindsight we would have run from extremely fast.
The ‘we verse them’ mentality in our household (that is autism verse the universe) is at the end stages of the war, and the participants are grumpy, angry and extremely fatigued.
Our castle that we hold so dearly to be the safe place and a place to explore feelings, learning and test out theories and experiments, is far from that. We have bunkered down, and we are in defensive mode and don’t have the strength to push, teach and explore.
The January 2017 My ASD Princess blog is far from joyful and reporting on learnings. We haven’t even been maintaining a constant sameness. There’s sadly been the regression.
We have seen language/speech deterioration, now needed to work with Jenna on her diction, the speed of her speech and to work on not mumbling her words.
We have seen sleep patterns go out of wack and a dramatic increase in her anxiety.
Her physical ailments (common signs of increased anxiety for Jenna) are a daily addition to the comedy that is our lives currently. Her stomach, legs, head and eyes are amongst body parts that are broken this month.
These demands have then increased the need to provide support and care for Jenna, thus increasing the frustration and anger towards her from her siblings.
Moving to a regional city near the beach was the dream, a dream that in the background we have been planning since we were married nearly 18 years ago.
The cost currently does not weigh out the benefit (beach verse unsettled child)
With High School started, no specialist in town to assist with review of her mental health and a child that is defiantly not coping with the vast change in our lives, its not the dream start to 2017.
But we will get through this, we have 16 years of parenting that prove we will somehow get through the other side wiser ( with much less and greyer hair) and healthier. the light at the end is just extremely dim.
To Finish, I thought I move from the negative and outline a few highlights that can be found.
Jenna’s high school is speaking to her about autism and helping her explore what that means for her.
We have natural supports within 10mins from home that frequently help with the kids and when needed us.
Jenna has made a friend at school.
We have joined a local church, as a family and the first youth group event went well for all the four kids.
The beach and long walks although not a frequent or as long as we would like are still a refreshing end to a mostly difficult day.
2016 marks the last year of primary school for Jenna. It was hoped that this would be a year to fully prepare for high school. The concept was, we would introduce her to multiple teachers, larger lesson sizes and a variety of different peer groups. We had planned that the introduction to a vast array of classes, more complex timetables and different teachers (specialist) i.e. Language, music and the arts would be a fantastic platform to high school life.
Academically this was a huge win for Jenna, she was progressing well and for the first time in her schooling journey received a pass mark for the majority of core subjects (English, Science, Math.)
Although, to our regret the cost of academia was a reduction in school based supports; this was disastrous for our princess. The progress of the first semester was lost, the wins on her report card forgotten, but more disastrously the want to engage and even attend school had been forfeited.
It took a stint of illness, poor school attendance and a dramatic increase in behaviours for us to ask more questions to the school. By the time we understood the changes that occurred at school (i.e. reduction of support hours, 1:1 teacher aide support etc.), it was too late. Damage already was done, and the trust of the system and teachers had been lost by our princess.
It was again time for a change and to try a different angle.
This lead us to school number two, and soon to be three schools in 2016 for our princess.
Each one had promise:
School one was close to work.
School two was close to home.
School three is in the new community we are moving to next year.
All three schools have advantages, and all gave a promise of better engagement, better friendships, no bullying and improvements in her academic achievements.
Our second school said all the right words, made all the right promises and had a bonus. It was 3 km from home and Jenna’s younger brother attended the school.
Isaac was a huge benefit; he became her protector, the bus monitor and a watchful eye. It’s amazing how much support an eight-year-old boy could be; we were super proud of him, and this made the first few weeks effortless for Jen.
The help of the younger brother, although a chore for him and embarrassment for her was beautiful. It assisted with Jenna’s anxiety levels and meant she didn’t need to worry about ‘big’ things, things like catching a bus home. This simple act brought back again her disability and struggles with simple tasks that everyone takes for granted.
This second school did not have the capacity to cater for the complexity of her needs. Social anxiety, making friends and maintaining grades made impossible due to their limitations. The school had a huge heart, excellent teaching staff, and beautiful ideals. The dream didn’t last; Jenna made friends with the teachers, not the students. Bullying occurred and continued from day one. The hope of finding a perfect fit and a place that was able to accommodate quickly faded. Again we turned to weeks of illness, a return to non-school attendance, and the search again started. School number 3.
Over the past six years, our focus has been mainstream schooling, normalisation and a sense of sameness for our princess. Pushing with everything we had to offer her the ‘same’ education and experiences as her three siblings. We fought, argued and when needed disagreed with the education department for her needs to be met. We discussed the stigma of ‘the naughty kid’ ‘misfit’ ‘trouble maker.’ We wanted the best, and the best in our eyes was the ‘same.’ We continued to make adjustments, exclusions and exceptions in order to keep the elusive dream alive, a normal education.
These past six weeks I have needed to acknowledge again that her disability has limitations, that it takes a team of professionals to educate her, and she will never ‘fit in’ with the crowd or hit those elusive benchmarks that every parent awaits. I needed to grieve again for what of could have been and continue to ask the same questions that I kept avoiding.
What does the future hold?
What will her normal be?
What’s best for her?
I’ve come to the realisation that I needed her to be valued for her ability, individually and interdependently. She did not need to be benchmarked against other students, already established milestones or community expectations, etc. I needed to benchmark her on her capabilities, goals and desires. There needed to be an individual approach, one that was developed for Jen, and her alone.
Two weeks ago I was posed with a question, mainstream schooling verse attending the special education unit (SEP.) I chose the SEP; I selected a stream of education that will focus on life skills, core competencies and relationship building. We have a new plan, a plan to overcome anxiety, to daily learn new skills, to slowly feel comfortable in the community and to make lifelong friends. We have a new path, a new direction and a future that again looks promising and exciting for our princess.
But still I am learning to step back when needed and push/advocate for better. Never being satisfied with expected norms, always dreaming for better, always being challenged to allow her to fail, learn and try.
It’s lifelong learning, and each day is an adventure, an adventure of the possibilities that await our princess.
And we celebrate little wins daily : learning to cook Mac and cheese, scrambled eggs and cheese and bacon pastry puffs, just a few wins this month.
New fascinations: slime, drawings, printing, birthdays (and numbers in general.)
Its always an adventure, and always exhausting, but so worth the ride.
It’s been a while between drinks (88 days to be exact), but here we go my latest instalment.
After seven days in the hospital, one month at home and numerous medical appointment I’m on the mend. But it’s taken its toll on my princess.
This blog forms an update of the last 90days, a crazy 90 days of learnings, frustrations, healings and for my princess a time of much-needed pushing.
“Ataxia unknown origin” it’s what I was labelled with, what that meant for the family was a dad that couldn’t walk. The father who walked every day went to the shops and the park for ‘timeout’ was housebound. To say my princess was scared and angry at her dad was an understatement.
My health was the families security; my ability to keep running was the lifeblood that kept our families crazy routines intact. It was the security at the end of each day and it was the strength to push when everyone else needed rest.
My ability to endure even the craziest of days enabled Jenna to run as much as she needed, ground herself, rebalance and find her centre. The release she felt from shopping and parks was so satisfying, the anxiety dissipated. It was Daddy daughter time at its best.
I didn’t realise the extent of this ‘extra’ supports until it was impossible to provide. My wife had no chance, no ability to compete and was set up to fail in an impractical, impossible routine.
Parks were special times for our princess, not only did she get her sensory realise, expel stirred up energy, the whole family had time to breathe. Park time was a time where all 6 of us had ‘space’ Jenna and dad time, and the other 4 had a break. This afternoon routine kept balance, brought laughter and always enabled me to smile.
Shopping was painful for Dad; we couldn’t just ‘pop in the buy milk’ we needed to walk every aisle. Meticulously checking for updates of shopkins seasons, touching, smelling, tasting. Every time out was an adventure. The shops are Jenna’s life, unbeknownst to her, Dad had already checked the crowds, events and best times to shop. What seemed like a spontaneous ‘I’m bored’ fit was organised and set up to a tee.
Shopping was an endless money pit, with unfounded expectations put on Dad. But never the less an enjoyable experience. Again like the park it was an escape from reality, a rush and an adventure. It was fantastic.
Then STOP… It was sudden, without warning, and life was out on hold.
Without the ability to walk, I couldn’t maintain these expected activities, without these activities Jenna couldn’t find balance. Chaos.
During the month of illness, anxiety increased, anger grew and hospital visits made it worse. My baby girl thought her dad was dying and with that the death of the frequently that she had become accustomed. Outdoor play all but ceased.
It was tough times, times that were only possible with the strength of my wife and the flexibility of my dad. Without both, the success of these past months would have been impossible.
My wife was more than able to provide supports for Jenna, although it didn’t meet her need of hanging with her dad. Nothing but having routine established would fix the void.
I’ve always wanted to protect my baby girl; I’m a nurturer at heart. I wanted to be a dad that hides the hard stuff from her, sheltered her from the storm we call life. I hate seeing her in pain; I hate seeing her struggle in what I consider being the norms of this world.
I wanted to hide her from the hard stuff, protect her from the trouble and as much as possible allow her to be my little girl for eternity. Being sick brought to light very quickly that her dad can’t be all things and also can’t shield her from all things, that wrecked me.
Not always the hugest fan of autism giant Temple Grandin I was forced to reflect on several of her quotes.
I have added these in pictorial form for your reflection.
I wanted to hide her from pushing harder; I wanted to protect her from the ‘cannot’. With doing this, I forgot the ‘could’ and in the art of defending, I lost sight of her potential.
Mainly I wanted to find an alternate to the seemly pressure to succeed, fit in and be the ‘big’ girl that the world desires her to be. These are the learnings that were inspired by my incredible wife and our princess’s exceptional mother during my journey of recovery. In the form of keyword dot points, I have reflected on my learnings.
My wife has an amazing ability to know when to push. She has been assisting me for the past 20years. As stated above I have been unwell for the past 2 or so months, meaning I needed to take a backwards step. I hate to be out of the spotlight; my wife rarely has the chance to shine, always hiding behind my loud personality and never ending the drive. I had little choice but to get out of the way, with doing so, magic happened.
During this time, my daughter blossomed, Kathryn with her artful timing knew just when to push and she has an uncanny understanding of what the appropriate pressure was and is and how to apply.
When to rest
I knew that my need to rest was unquestionable, but upon reflection, this need taught our princess a life lesson that I hope she will treasure for life, rest. I had little choice, but Jen through unintended modelling followed suit. This meant that for moments in time ‘im bored’ diminished and downtime blossomed. Again magic from a wife that oozes patience, success, we have found rest.
Routine had to change; from hospital stays an inability to drive and grandad being chief shofar, life has changed. The unwelcomed and unplanned new reality appeared. It was not comfortable and adjustment was the only solution. With the exception of distancing herself from me, the routine was expected and embraced when normality and predictability were kept in motion. Sameness was our saviour throughout the change.
As stated in previous blogs, maintaining a family of 6, we made choices to both works, bringing in income to maintain lifestyle, pay medical bills and have the occasional family dinner out on the weekend. (if we get the timing, venue and mood correct, which happens very rarely).
As we both move up in management and career development, the flexibility reduces for our princess. Thinking this was always a bad thing I was the king of adaptability, flexibility and predictability. I have been learning that bouts of the reverse have been beneficial and even helpful on our journey of independence, self-reliance and maturity.
Again the genius of illness and the unpredictability of healing and progress meant that our princess had to learn a new skill. This new ability was unwelcomed and at times still told us and others to “F off”, this skill was the coping mentioned above of unpredictability. Although acknowledging that routine, predictability and stability are what ensures a quiet relaxed and in control princess, it seems absurd to wish the reverse. This was our need and upon reflection, our desire and in snippets, pure bliss.
Learning when to say no, similar to pushing was a skill that was in dire need of development. A skill that I still struggle to implement and my soft nature struggles with the concept. There was little choice, with one parent down, routine and commitments still needing to be maintained, something had to give. A healthy dose of relatively and an easily said two letter word was used. We needed to say No. With little success previously it seemed we were about to enter a minefield of meltdown and tantrum, upon reflection another success. Although not a perfect science, we know have the ability to response, for the most part, to wait, not yet, soon and for some part no. Progress.
In short out daily commute sux. Adding to the pressure medical appointment, extra commitments at work needed the addition of after-school care. Although not always welcomed, traffic, outside school hours care and various adjustments to timeframes have forced our princess to stretch. Our job has been to communicate our intention effectively, make agreements in advance and apologies at times when we get it wrong.
Wow, this is hard work, they love they hate, they connect they want space. We never get this balance correct but the value is there in investing this relationship and importance to family. It’s been a blessing to watch this develop. I don’t promise that there will always be true harmony at the ‘house of many hopes’ aka home although I am hopefully that love prevails and the good times are etched into their memories for a lifetime.
Choice and control
How to find the balance, when to admit I got it wrong, when to discipline and when to celebrate. I almost never get this right but we are learning together. An unintended bonus of being sick, was I needed to lose control, in this control being lost my princess has found her ability to choose. It’s been a humbling experience watch her develop. Listen to mum and follow a slightly different set of rules. This past 90 days has made her stronger, more independence and proved to her dad that she is ready to grow. I’m still scared of what is to come but in turn much more confident for success.
It’s been an intense 90days, but I have never been prouder of my family and my princess. Together we can achieve the impossible and it’s okay to push harder at times, that last one is just a reminder for me.
An update on parks and shopping
We are finding our normal again; I still struggle with walking further than a few hundred metres but the routine is returning. Late night shops, afternoons strolls and 1:1 time is again giving us time to recharge and create space for others in the family.
Oh and Target is once again burning a hole in my credit card.
The past 12 weeks have highlighted a conundrum for us with our princess. Do we go Public or Private (about health care)?
Pre-diagnosis a few year’s ago we needed to make a decision. Do we go on waiting lists, accept the initial diagnosis and carry on, or do we go “private” and seek out specialists that Jenna connected with and that could meet her personal need?
We chose the go private, and this decision meant we both had to go to work full time. This decision had and continued to have a family cost bigger than the initial, what’s the best doctor for our princess. It meant holidays were postponed, and things on our own “wish list” were benched and unfortunately in some cases debit needed to become an uncomfortable reality. Further still, the older two children needed to support and be “available” because childcare became unaffordable. The choice to “go private” ultimately meant moving the family to across the other side of the city closer to work, better-aligned schools and our professionals of choice.
I’m not going to rant on the tens of thousands spent, or the impose this choice has had, but rather I want to celebrate the benefits we have seen with Jen.
Yesterday at the Psychiatrist, Jen stated that she wanted a medication change, she didn’t like how it made her feel, and she wanted it stopped. Jen was able to articulate her wishes, and we worked to find a tangible solution. It wasn’t, let’s find the cheapest options or what the government approved this week or even Dad and the Doctor’s choice. This discussion was what will work best for Jen, her schooling, family life and her continued development long term development.
I walked away $2000 per year poorer, but an 11-year-old girl walked away richer. She was validated and heard. Success!!!!
So why did choose private care for our Princess? Here’re my top six reasons……
Validated our choice to explore deeper.
We were not happy with an ADHD diagnosis, label, things didn’t look right and the answers we sort seemed rushed. The specialist’s in the private sector spent time with us and explained the autism diagnosis and focused on her (as a person). We explored the diagnosis and the impact that it has on all of us, not the symptoms. In turn, this helped remove the “naughty girl” stigma, and provided a level of expectancy.
Treating the cause, not the symptoms.
Our princess’s ADHD, anxiety and social phobia’s are real, but at the core she has autism. We decided to explore various specialists, therapists and medications, trying to gain a holistic understanding of her needs. We keep searching until we found the right fit for her. Her medical needs are always evolving. We need to constantly keep asking questions and questioning the answers given. Not expecting the norm, but looking for the right fit for Jen.
Provided us with understanding.
It cost us, a lot. But we had time, cliche but we were not a number, phone calls to check up on medication changes, school visit’s by allied health professionals and a truly personized service. This all helped with engagement and buy-in. Jen values her appointments and sees worth in attendance. With her engaging and seeing worth, we see a the strategies, plans and medication regimes working.
Schooling is working and feels supportive.
With trusted doctors, allied health professional and a great school, we have been kicking some high goals. We are all talking together, sharing reports and learning from each other experiences with Jenna. We all have a shared goal to see Jen succeed. Again this has had an increased cost associated with the support, but support that that been second to none in relation to meeting her needs.
Enabled to make the choice.
We have been in control; we are paying for the support and have opted out when needed if this was in the best interest of Jen. Giving us choice, power to push for change and a tailored support structure that is meaningful and measurable to our princesses unique needs.
Seeing real progress.
It is true that money does not buy happiness, but for us, it certainly assisted with the progress. With an understanding of Jenna’s needs, our expectations and what supports work best. For the first time since diagnosis, we can see real progress, a light at the end of the tunnel and hope.
It’s true that we seem to never quite have enough, but what a great investment in Jenna, our family and her future.
We learnt some hard life lessons these past seven days.
Brushing my teeth feels gross but if I don’t I lose them.
Misjudge somersaults in the pool messes with your head (literally).
Friends don’t stay friends forever when your ten years old.
Weight gain is hard when you’re a girl.
Having house rules are helpful and painful at the same time.
Sport always sucks when you’re not the boss
But…. We got through it all, both of us are stronger and we have good strategies that will help us out far beyond these seven days.
Specialists, school teachers, family and new friends have brought a sense of calm and normality to our princess’ life finally finding momentum and a steady groove.
Since moving house, our princess is sleeping in her room at the right time every night. Mum and dad get their lounge room back and Jenna has a dedicated space to ‘chill’.
Bring on the holiday break and heaps of crazy fun as a family
Daddy wants to write you a letter and say thank you.
Thank you for asking questions
Thank you for adapting and embracing your autism diagnosis
Thank you for being proud of who you are
Thank you for teaching me to see the world differently
Last weekend we played together in the city, thousands of people around, noise, lights, sand. It was hard for you. We held hands and embraced this adventure together, remember the fun we had?
You controlling the fireworks, you swam at the beach and we walked through the shops enjoying plain cheese pizza for dinner.
It was great the your wore you headphones and brought sensory toys to help when you became overwhelmed, I’m proud of you for trying new things. I think it helped you heaps.
You make my days fun princess. I go to bed each day not complaining about the lack of sleep, a new slime stain on my floor or even that a weeks worth of groceries was used in the backyard for play.
I fall asleep grateful, grateful that my life is full of adventures, laughing, craziness and sneaky cuddles.
They are my favourite btw, cuddles that is. Thank you for random cuddles, I know you don’t like them too much, they are so special to me, and I treasure each one. While we are saying more thank yous, thanks you for constantly trying. We know that going outside is hard, reading people is hard living with 5 others at times is hard, but we tackle this together.
This year has been busy, and you have been bombarded with doctors, therapy sessions, medication and routines. It’s been exhausting, tough and we both wanted to quit, although nearly one year on we are both stronger. Home is a safe place, a place that it’s always okay to experiment, test theories and if needed meltdown. No judgement there, just unconditional love and acceptance .
I was remembering your plan at your new school, you made up a way to explain your autism to your friends. At the point of introduction you apologised. You stated you might say things that may upset them, I’m loud and sometimes and can be rude. I was so proud, that was a very grown up decision to make.
Did you notice that this choice has made school so much easier this year and you have so many friends?
Lastly thank you for the laughs, you make me laugh everyday (some days you don’t mean to but you are so funny) you are litteral, see the world your way and have the most inappropriate houmor.
Keep trying, keep dreaming and keep proving the others wrong.
We often get asked why we continue to head out to dinner, festivals, events, cinema, and events where large amounts of people are. We get… “Why do you guys put yourself through this?” “Is it fair to get Jenna so upset? “Don’t you get embarrassed?” , “what about other people around you?” , “Shouldn’t you stick to McDonald’s?”
To tell you the truth we ask ourselves similar questions too. It’s tiring, the other 3 kids get very overwhelmed and at times its very expensive. If you don’t get the prep right, potential behaviors. If you get the social story wrong, potential behaviors. If the event isn’t how Jenna expected, potential behaviors. But still we head out most weekend and look for new opportunities, fun and family experiences.
So tonight I thought I’d share the top 5 reason we have intently decided to go outside.
I work in the disability sector and the heartbreaking stories I get told frequently about individuals never experiencing a holiday, going to the movies or going out to dinner breaks my heart. I want Jenna to have the same greater opportunity and experiences than I was afforded (and I had plenty). We keep looking for a peek experience that resonates for her. We get it wrong more than right but we keep getting back on the horse so to speak, again, again and again.
Normalization (both for us and our princess)
Similar to above, but so important. I want Jenna to first be a kid that lives in the big city. We need to feel “normal” and feel like a family that does “normal” things too. When life get tough we go indoors and lock ourselves away. Its easier that way. We are private people and get our recharge at home (nice wine, movie on our large couch). Its often a hard choice but we deliberately choose to go outside and do “normal” everyday family activities. This point is by far the most important for our other 3 kids, often feeling ripped off!, we go out for them.
Jenna can learn appropriate social behaviors
Our princess goes to intensive therapy multiple times per month to learn how to behave socially. So we go out and practice. It’s hit and miss, but a valuable safe testing zone for Jenna (because we are with her). We are constantly scaffolding for Jenna, breaking down tasks and explaining expected norms. All this training needs to be tested, rather than setting safe easy places we just hit the town and for the most part we “see what happens”
Others can be blessed by her nature and kindness
A secondary benefit is that other people see Jenna’s heart. Whether it is asking to pat a dog, introduce herself to a family with a 2 year old or just see her dance and be happy. Her excitement if infectious. These are the times that autism is a distant second to a caring young 10 year old girl.
Educate others about autism
When the crap hits the fan, we choose to educate rather than to get embarrassed. This choice really sucks, because its not about embarrassing the ignorant or shouting at the arrogant. We choose to take the time to explain the reasons for her behaviors. We take ownership, apologize and then we try to educate.
I have listed the top 5, but this is not why we do what we do everyday.
Truthfully we have fun, our philosophy is to remember the highs and try and forget the lows. This choice makes every time we go outside a memorable day in a fantastically good way.
I was having trouble sleeping last night (the joys of a 10 years with sleeping difficulties) so I thought I’d write a few thoughts of my own on parenting, mostly just for a laugh.
My faith is the center of all decisions I make. Hopefully without the references to seamless bible verses and the cheesy one liners you know that my parenting is done with the lens of a personal relationship with Jesus.
My family is my life. All else truly comes a distant second, even my career, friends and wine. Making this a conscience choice several years ago has been the best decision I have recently made, second only to when I said ‘I do’ many years ago.
My Top Tips
Never stop laughing at farts.
Trivial I know, but vital. My wife thinks I don’t have a sense of humour, but….. Have fun, laugh heaps and when needed be disgusting just because you can. Your kids will thank you for it, and its fun.
Always make time for play.
I have trouble switching off, and I am not the world’s biggest fan or gymnastics, AFL, drama or the arts. But my kids are, so play, not what I think is important or fun, but what they do.
You’re never too old to dance with your children.
Top 40 is all we listen to and I have been told that I am the world worst dancer (refused to dance for so, so long) but again, this is important. I even danced at church on the weekend, front and center (Ring a Ring o Roses style).
Don’t try and equal your time out between kids, just make it count.
I don’t do the daddy date thing, but when I’m focused with one of the children I work to be involved, make it unique, and make it count.
Apologize when you get it wrong.
Own your mistakes, I blow it often but make a point to apologize and try and move forward. I also give the kids time to be upset with me.
Love your spouse, and when needed gross out the kids with affection
I show affection, and my kids always know that I love their mum to bits; I don’t want this to be abnormal or ever to change.
Be consistent with discipline, but make it unique to them.
With a child with autism in the family it sometimes feels that life is unfair at times, the truth is it is. But learn what discipline your child responds to best and be consistent and in partnership with your spouse.
Extracurricular activities are boring as hell but important. Make it a priority to help your kids find something they love.
Yes, we do piano, football, drama, musical, youth group, sleepovers, and gymnastics. We have made this a priority at home, yes it can be a pain and some are expensive. But for us it’s worth it.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”, but help find a solution.
My kids think I know everything (mostly I do), but when I don’t, I let them know and help find the answer. We learn together.
Tell your kids often that you’re proud of them
Hard one for me, but vital that our children know they are doing well, and kicking significant goals. We don’t measure against their siblings or others. We measure their effort and application.
Make time to hear them out.
Make time for family.
This is really really hard. Busyness, different interests, autism, adolescence all put a strain on family time. We are still looking for what fits best, but when needed we compromise. Movies seem to be the winner most times.
Be flexible, and willing to change your plans.
Again a hard one, but my family trumps church, work, and friends every time.
Thanks for hearing my thoughts, please feel free to comment.