New Hope for Parents: Raising Children with Autism

Discovering your child has Autism can be frightening and confusing. Decades of misconceptions and ignorance had turned the word “Autism” into something that was dreaded, feared, and directly connected to hopelessness. Many parents are finding the ability to not only cope with their child’s diagnosis, but embrace it and direct their children towards success.

In the early 1900’s, a Swiss psychiatrist by the name of Eugen Bleuler coined the term “Autism”, which he used to describe his adult Schizophrenic patients that withdrew from social interaction. In 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner, of John’s Hopkins University completed a five year study on eleven children who had exhibited a with-draw from human contact as early as one year of age. Although the work of Bleuler and Kanner gave new information on Autism, it continued to be considered directly linked to Schizophrenia until the 1960’s, when new information and research was available to parents.

Over the last four decades, many myths and misconceptions have been plagued Autism. In the sixties, it was believed that Autism was caused by poor socialization, and was often blamed on the parents. Some believed that Autism was caused by demon possessions, and many children endured exorcisms. An even more common and perhaps more heartbreaking “solution” was the institutionalizing of Autistic children. Parents were often told it was the only option for a child who would presumably never make it in the world. There are many exceptions; parents who bucked the system and took matters into their own hands. They taught their children at home, used a common sense approach to instructing them, and found great success in personalizing their children’s educations to their specific learning style. The success these children experienced was evident, and their stories are still an inspiration to parents today. Temple Grandin, an adult with Autism, and one of the most successful and inspiring activists in the Autism community, was one of those children. Her story motivates many parents raising children with Autism. Her message to the parents and children of the community is powerful and groundbreaking. It is also simple and direct. See the world from your child’s eyes and adjust your instruction and expectations accordingly. Grandin’s perspective as an adult with Autism is unique and valuable. Her perspective has played a crucial role in educating parents and providing insight into the way their children think, learn, and view the world. Her explanations of the Autistic mind allows parents to understand the way their child’s brain functions, adjust simple aspects of daily life, and ultimately, appreciate the unique and interesting way their child views the world.

As the rates of Autism rise, more and more parents are being faced with the disorder. With the rise in numbers comes a rise in fellowship and support in the Autism community. Many parents have learned to not only adapt to live with a child with Autism, but also to appreciate and embrace it. Children with Autism usually have very focused interests. Where this was once seen as an unfortunate symptom of the disorder, it is quickly becoming an interesting way to live in their child’s world. These perseverations also allow their intelligence to shine, and provide a fabulous outlet for the over-stimulated Autistic mind. Interests and obsessions often open a window in the mind of their child, allowing them to participate in the thoughts and feelings of even the non-verbal child. Having a means of “communication” is crucial, even if it means sitting by the CD player, with the child’s favorite song on repeat. Children with Autism are very logical thinkers, and parents and educators alike are learning that this can be a powerful trait for children. Many Autistic adults have careers in technical, mathematical, and scientific fields. Adults with severe Autism are very qualified to perform duties that are repetitive, which is another way of guiding an Autistic trait into a successful direction. The intelligence of a child or adult with Autism is showcased when their strengths and natural abilities are taken into consideration.

Parents of children with Autism have learned to celebrate the smallest of triumphs. This gives them an appreciation not only for their child, but for life in general, that many people cannot comprehend. When their child answers his first question, it is time for a party! They celebrate the first time their son or daughter buttons their shirt on their own. Tears of joy run down their cheeks when their eight year old says “Mama.” Raising a child with Autism undoubtedly provides an appreciation for parenting, a unique perspective on the world, and the opportunity to raise some of the world’s most brilliant minds.

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