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I can’t lie. This past year has been one for the books with Greyson.
It’s been highly rewarding but it also made me question the kind of parent and mom I was. It was a year filled with tears – some happy and others not quite as much. There was frustration and anger mixed in there, too, and writing this today makes me feel incredibly guilty.
How dare I admit that as a mom I don’t seemingly have it all together.
Well, yeah, it’s because I don’t.
Sure, Greyson turned three this year and with any newfound three year old there comes a new territory of parenting that includes: the frequent tantrum, the beginnings of potty training, and the overall preparedness for preschool. However, in the midst of all of this my husband and I have only recently found out that our son falls on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Although this news should have been devastating, for us it’s been a source of relief.
[ASD] …a condition that enhances who he is.
A relief to know that what Grey has been experiencing (and us as his parents) wasn’t due to just a behavior problem, but rather a condition that enhances who he is. I love his quirky and bright personality and therefore I wouldn’t change a thing. If anything, it’s changed my outlook on parenthood and Grey is teaching me to adapt my mindset and in a way, be a better person and mom.
However, looking back over the last year there was a road that lead us to this place.
Since Grey had always been in school we, and his teachers, had begun to notice an increase in problematic behaviors. Some caused by very logical reasons but others were either overlooked or easily written off as being a “boy” or a “typical three year old.” Other behaviors made us question whether or not Grey may have certain challenges, but it was never anything that was a glaring problem. To us, he was a very happy and healthy growing little boy.
That is until we had to come face-to-face with the realization that there was something amiss and we were having increasing, and sometimes volatile, outbursts and tantrums at home.
Some of these signs and behaviors include:
Difficulty with transitions
‘Transitions’ is kind of a buzz word in our home as of late. It’s a constant talking point when it comes to Grey and the feedback we get from his teachers. He noticeably dislikes any kind of transition from one activity to the next and any kind of redirection sends him into a tantrum. We always thought it was just him being difficult, but is one of the leading signs of ASD he has.
Transition is the end of certainty and the beginning of uncertainty.
After our first IEP meeting where we received feedback from his evaluation with the school district, I asked the question:
why are transitions are so hard for him and other children with ASD?
It was simply explained to me that transitions in and of themselves are the end of certainty and children on the spectrum rely on it to make sense of the world around them. That was my light bulb moment and has really helped me understand him that much more.
Tip: during transitions use “if, then” statements with them to help provide them with a level of certainty about the next activity.
Example: “If you clean up your toys, then you can have your snack.” By using these kinds of statements Grey has shown so much improvement at home!
A delay in speech and communication
I distinctly remember having a conversation with my sister over the phone and got to speak with my nephews. One of them is only 10 days older than Grey and I was impressed with how much he could communicate and speak – this also had me come to the realization that Grey could have a delay and was worth looking into.
This was a big sign for us as parents because we began to realize that a lot of his tantrums were caused by his inability to effectively communicate his thoughts or feelings.
We’ve noticed this year in particular:
- he has a wide range of vocabulary, but doesn’t know how to string his words together in a meaningful way.
- others (i.e. anyone that isn’t us) can’t understand him or what he’s trying to convey.
- not very conversational, doesn’t respond to open-ended questions.
- mimics, or repeats, a lot (echolalia).
- speaks in only 3-4 word sentences on his own.
- intense tantrums that can last for 40 mins to an hour, throws toys, can be physically harmful.
During tantrums he would scream, throw things, and hit – oftentimes it would last for an upwards of 45 minutes. It left us exhausted, upset, and confused because his response never quite fit the problem. No amount of discipline seemed to work and for a few months everything felt so helpless. However, with his evaluation and finally having an understanding of how he processes the world around him has greatly affected our ability to calm him and has adjusted our parenting.
Greyson within the past year has become particularly sensitive. These sensitivities are highly common in children with ASD and many we overlooked. Some of his sensitivities include:
- avoids eye contact
- lack of interest in peer relationships and play
- stands too close to objects or other people (including strangers)
- covers ears at sounds such as loud talking or the vacuum cleaner
- difficulty focusing when multiple sources of sound are present
- under-reacts to pain, high pain tolerance
- in certain circumstances sensitive to being wet (i.e. dislikes paint at school)
- rigid with his food preferences, only eats in a particular order and must finish before moving onto other foods, foods must be separate
Of course, when reading any list of “signs” as a parent Greyson seemed to fit all or none of them. It had me feeling all over the place, but now that we have begun the process and are supported we have a clearer idea of how to classify him and begin services.
Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have.Joan Ryan
Because my husband and I are brand new to this Autism spectrum world, I’ve begun to research and learn about best practices and helpful tips and tricks to use with Greyson. Here’s what I’ve found helpful so far:
- How to Discipline an Autistic Child
- Using Social Stories to help build and reinforce skills.
- Weighted blankets have been very helpful in getting Greyson to sleep!
If you believe your child may need an evaluation for ASD or other common neurological developmental disorders, consider the steps we’ve begun to take for Greyson.
- speak with your child’s teacher and get any feedback about behavior in writing.
- take your concerns and written feedback from teachers to your pediatrician where they can make referrals for therapies or further diagnostic evaluations.
- get in touch with your local public school district and see about an evaluation with their special education department.
- work in tandem with your school district to create an IEP and receive further resources in your city.
- refer to Autism Speaks or other local Autism support groups in your city.
I do have to say that by no means am I qualified to give any kind of medical advice. I’m simply a parent who has become frustrated with the process, inundated with all kinds of information, and have felt isolated in our struggles. However, I’m thankful for platforms like this one to share my experiences as a parent with a child with ASD in hopes it reaches someone who may need to feel supported in the way we’ve needed to this year.