Spotlight: Raising Autistic Children

I started a blog when we first received our youngest son’s diagnosis of autism back in December 2009, called Journey with Joshua. I had been home schooling and had a background in Children’s Mental Health so journaling what I was learning was a great outlet for me.

Autism has become more prevalent these last 7 years. The CDC had put the rate of children diagnosed with autism as 1 out of 68 kids, but a recent survey has the number now 1 out of 45 children.  What I have discovered in these last 7 years is not only the number of therapies available to help children on the autism spectrum to lead a fulfilling life, but the HUGE need of parents who have special needs children.   Part of parenting is making sacrifices for our children out of love, as we parents all can attest to.  Meeting the countless parents on our journey, who truly struggle along with their children’s issues.

It can be heart wrenching watching one’s child struggle with what is often considered “simple” daily tasks and part of growing up.  I have seen man news articles of children who have been excluded from birthday parties or sit alone in the cafeteria at school.  There are the feel good stories, of course, which spotlight those who truly “get it” and selflessly include our special kids but the heart ache remains for parents all the same who work so hard to advocate for their children and get them the services they need just to be able to function in society.

I think about how different my childhood was and how my son Joshua’s childhood has been.  He has been in therapy since he was 3 years old, not to mention Developmental Preschool.  He has gone to speech therapy since he was almost 3, every week.  He has also gone to occupational therapy from the time he was 3 1/2 years old, so pretty much, for 7 years, with a few short breaks due to changes with insurance, vacations, and moving.  He has been doing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy since we moved to Idaho, for 4 years, on top of the other therapy.  He had also done Vision Therapy, Physical therapy and now, he is doing Neurobiofeedback and has recently started going to a chiropractor.

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Joshua wired up and ready for Neuro-biofeedback

This has been including up to 5 days a week of therapy.  He is also now taking piano lessons for a year and has been taking swimming lessons for 3 years.  He doesn’t yet know how to ride his bike as it involves a lot of motor planning and visual tracking that he struggles with.  This child, who is now 10 years old, works incredibly hard to learn things that most of us take for granted, while also trying to deal with sensory issues and learning how to regulate himself when he is feeling overwhelmed.  This is normal life for our family.

With that in mind, it is imperitive for the rest of our family to, of course, be aware and supportive of Joshua’s challenges, but also be supported to grow and experience life individually in whatever various interests each member is involved in.  This, of course, includes both the parents and the siblings.  Parents, in particular, put in a lot of exhausting work to get the children the services they need, as well as encourage them to develop in a well rounded fashion socially, to the best of their ability.  It can feel some days like you are trying to plug all the holes in the dike, one after another!

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Through all the busyness, the parent often tends to “lose themselves” in the process and are simply trying to survive day by day, falling in bed exhausted, every night, with some parents, getting very little sleep when their child has their own sleeping issues.

Experience shows that inorder to be a healthy parent to one’s child, a parent needs to also invest in caring for themselves.  You have to fill up your “tank” so to speak with healthy coping skills and habits that enhance rather than negatively affect one’s health and family life.  Every parent is different with what they can do that gives them energy and enlivens their spirit.  Each family has their challenges in this regard.

What are you looking for to do that for not only yourself, but for the health of your family?  There is much truth in the saying of St. John Paul II,

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

How do you want to affect your family, which will then, positively impact the world?

If you have a child with special needs, how do you fill your tank while also advocating for your child’s needs?

What goals have you put on the back burner that you are aching to start working on?

Contact me and we can coach around your challenges to leading a fulfilling life while helping your child to become the best that they can be!

Call 208-449-9019 or email Sheila at Sheilamh67@gmail.com

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