I am often asked, having two autistic sons, what advice I, as a mother, can give from my experience having raised my boys to adulthood. When they were young, these are some of the things I learned:
1. Make a daily schedule. Don’t just make a schedule–write it down, show it to your child and, if at all possible – stick to it. The thing that used to drive my boys into confusion and anger was, for example, if we planned to go to a movie at 2pm and then had to change it to 4pm. Sticking to a plan makes them feel safe. Variation causes intense agitation.
2. Avoid overwhelming situations. For us, parties, large public gatherings, school plays, a loud movie theater – all had to be considered in advance and a retreat plan put into place in case one or both boys got overwhelmed. One thing I dreaded was taking the boys to Target. Even having repeated many times before we got there that we would not be buying any toys, my son, in particular, would wander to the toy department and come running up to me with a Lego set that cost at least $100 and demand that I buy it for him. When I explained again that it was too expensive and that we were not there to buy toys, he would hit me and throw himself down onto the floor and scream bloody murder.
I had to physically drag him out of the store with every mother watching me and shaking their heads. You could read their thoughts: What kind of mother can’t control her child? He’s obviously spoiled rotten. All she needs to do is discipline him. The looks that accompanied those stares, along with the manager asking us to leave, was a terrible experience. It wrung me out and took my son hours to calm down afterwards. Why did I put myself and my son into that situation? Because I couldn’t leave him at home (no one would babysit him!) and working mothers have to shop sometime for their clothes and just daily necessaries.
I will continue posting tips for moms, but I’m curious–what works well for you?