I often write articles on what having a particular medical condition may be like and ways to cope with it or prevent flare ups. But very few of my articles tell the other side of the story — what it’s like to be a parent, caregiver, guardian of someone with a particular disorder, condition, or illness.
As a parent of an ASD child, I thought I'd change my usual article-writing topics this time.
What it’s Like Being an ASD Parent
Parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder face a slightly different experience than parents of children who have more obvious disabilities (i.e., being in a wheelchair) because many children on the autism spectrum appear “normal”. And because the child appears normal, people don’t know that he sees and processes the world completely differently.
Many parents have experienced the glares from other grocery shoppers or restaurant patrons when a child has a temper tantrum. You know, the “why don’t you discipline your child better” type of glare.
They don’t know it’s not a discipline issue. They don’t know that this is your child’s only way of dealing with the stress of strangers around, bright lights, the din of people talking and towering shelves with a dizzying array of colors.
Again, to many people, children on the autism spectrum appear “normal” — but inside, they're very different.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of disabilities, including autism, Aspergers syndrome, and other cognitive disorders, ranging from very mild to extreme. (4)
For a child with ASD, a “meltdown” is simply because his world is too overwhelming for him to process. It has nothing to do with anger or being belligerent and not getting his way. It’s about everything in the world around him — things that seem ordinary to us, but are major to him.
In general, ASD kids have to try so much harder to do the ordinary things other children and parents take for granted — personal hygiene, talking, identifying with people, understanding body language, reading, writing and personal organization.