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Autism and Special Needs : The Loving Push
Our goal as parents is to teach our children independence. All children need to learn to take care of themselves at some point in their lives. Think about the days that would follow for your child when you are no longer there to take care of them.
But on a daily basis, how do you know when to nudge and when to back off? When are you being too lenient, too hard, not loving enough, not enough of everything to meet other people’s judgement? This is a major concern. I suppose like all things autism, it depends on the individual child, family, situation and the “thing” that is being pushed.
Parents need to go with their instincts of what works best for their child. There are so many pieces to a full life with many steps between the beginning and the end of each and every experience. For some parents, the push may be to break the child’s own mold and to make them work outside of their wiring. While for others, especially those with a severely autistic child, the expectation for success may be just happiness.
We have to teach them independence whether it’s painful for them or to ourselves.Their future depends on it. There is no comfort zone for autistic children, they are always uncomfortable.
Frustration is their middle name.
We need to help them take care of themselves and help them be less frustrated by those gentle pushes that are uncomfortable at the time but help them in the long term. It will take longer for them to mature but it will happen. Take one issue and begin to work on it.
For instance, I know an adult with high functioning autism who owns his own home, went to a technical school for a specialised degree after high school and works full time. He was non-verbal until 5 years of age and had severe sensory issues. The parents gently pushed him through his sensory problems, some taking years to overcome. He could not hold a pencil, not a big deal you might say, since there are keyboards. However, one of the greatest joys in his life is pencil drawing. It took a year for him to fully grasp a pencil, but the parents are glad they took that time and so is he.
I asked him how he felt about being carried, “pushed,” dragged and having to keep revisiting those uncomfortable zones and he said ‘’ I wouldn’t have gone to college, if they hadn’t pushed.’’ His mum was known as the mum who literally pulled her son through the halls and deposited him in the classroom. She did not enjoy having to take such measures, it was not easy and he fought all along the way, but she knew there were things that he was capable of doing, if she could get him past the fear and unwillingness. For the things he was not capable or ready to achieve, they moved on. I guess it would have been a lot easier not to go to places, to never eat out or to let him remain in the home, than to repeatedly attempt those things.
It is true some may not be able to move beyond the boundaries of their worlds, but if you allow your child to remain in their comfort zone they will move no further.
I do understand the challenges. Professionals take into account the sensory, social, communication difficulties and where the child is, developmentally before giving a plan. This way the child will not be unsafe or unsupported, probably just very anxious. The first strides could be anything from just getting to the parking lot and the second, out of the car…but you have to keep going back until the child is able to address their fears as this place could now be part of his world. The flip side is the possibility of long term effects of stress on you as the parent but you need to keep pushing through it.
Your child may continue to experience that same degree of anxiety and fear when new situations come up or under stress. He may retreat into the comfort zone but the big difference now is that he will be forced to go through some of those dark passageways using the strategies he has learned.
With support he can be assured that he will make it through and he will be okay. No one should terrorise a child, but in order for them to grow you have to keep inching them out their comfort zone.
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