An open letter to ASD mothers.
I am a mother of a 4.5year old boy on the Autism Spectrum and there doesn’t go a single day that he doesn’t fill my heart with pride.
Here is an open letter to all ASD mothers out there. A list of dos and donts that I picked up along the way.
I hope this helps someone, somewhere, someday.
1. Give yourself space.
This road to acceptance is a long and winding one. It won’t happen overnight. My journey took me through the 5 stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Know that, acceptance will come. Today or tomorrow. So don’t peg yourself on a sacrificing alter and torture yourself until it does. Give yourself space. Let yourself process this. There is no shortcut.
It took me a whole year.
One whole year till I could wake up in the morning and not feel autism’s elephant foot on my chest, holding me down, while my whole world burned.
2. Be kind to yourself.
This is not ONLY about your child. This is about you, your marriage, your relationship with all your friends, your family, even how you see yourself. So be kind. This shift will have echoes all around you and it will get overwhelming.
Be patient and be kind.
Look out for the signs of decay. Do not be so focused on your child that your marriage rots, or worse, you rot. You do not need to be a walking skeleton of yourself to survive this. Find time for yourself. And find time for your marriage. Make selfcare an absolute priority. And don’t let guilt meddle in your business.
3. Seek help when needed.
Talk to people. Friends. Family. Husband. GP.
Talk. There’s no other release point.
And you cannot hold the world alone.
4. Insist and then insist some more that you husband gives support. No is not an answer here. You need it, your child needs it.
Be mindful to give him the space to be on his own journey of acceptance. It might not coincide with yours, it might take months or years. Be patient with him.
But don’t make a porcelain doll out of him. He is in this battle just as much as you are. Build a team.
5. Shame. Forsake it.
There is no shame in this. No need to hide crumbs under the carpet, no need to hide behind a bush. Walk tall. Walk unashamed. This is a war badge that has been given to you. Wear it with pride. Because our children learn from us. If we cower in a corner, they will only learn to cower in a corner.
And warriors don’t cower in a corner.
6. Guilt. A close cousin of shame. And just as toxic.
Autism is something a child is born with. Nothing you could have done could have avoided this. What you can do now makes all the difference.
And that is the beginning and the end of it.
7. Take pride in their strength.
It’s natural to feel your heart shrink just a little when friends are boasting about awards and achievements and essays while you struggle to get the right clothes on, or get your child potty trained. It’s natural to feel left out.
So concentrate on their strengths and boast just as loudly. ASD children are usually really good with numbers and patterns and sometimes are far ahead in academics. Be proud of that. Autism doesn’t define your child. He has quirks and a personality and talents. Find them. Frame them. Remind the world of them, every chance you get.
8. Maintain a zero tolerance policy on judgement. Bhabis ostracizing you? Cut them out. Social peers making fun of your child? Cut them out. Simple. You can do without social formalities. What is the point of a community if you don’t feel included in it?
You do not owe the society anything. You don’t owe any bhabi an explanation, you don’t owe anyone a ‘better mannered’ child, you don’t owe your family a better ‘equipped’ grandchild. You don’t owe anyone anything.
The only thing you are bestowed with is the capability to help your child find the best path to live his or her life to the fullest. The only aim here is to make them self reliant, so when you are not here, they can live a sustainable life. That is all.
Nothing. Else. Matters.
So when your heart is small, and your eyes only look downward, remember that your spine has fed and sustained an entire human being.
Autism can’t bend you.
Take my love.
You got this.
And if you ever feel the need to erupt, I am just a message away. I will hold all your pieces, till you are ready to take them back.