I am your child with autism.
My play doesn’t look like the play of other kids my age. They’re all stacking wooden blocks, driving toy cars, and cooking with pretend food. When I play, I run back and forth, jump up and down on my tippy-toes, and make grunting sounds.
I’m happy when I play, and you can see that. But it seems strange to you when I flip objects up and down, over and over again. I don’t talk or show you my playthings. You wish I would let you into my world. You want to welcome me into yours. But you feel helpless because you don’t know how.
Mom, Dad, I know what it’s like to be helpless. If I could just “snap out” of my autism, I would, but there is no magic “off” button. Instead, we can take baby steps together; me and you. You can help me grow to be the best I can be. And here are just a few things you can do to help me connect with you.
Please Don’t Just Leave Me Alone.
It’s tempting just to leave me to my own devices. To let me flap, run, jump, and grunt contentedly in my own world. But I’m not growing when I’m doing that. Instead, you need to haunt me like a shadow. You need to grab my attention in whatever way possible and sustain that attention by creating a fun interaction for me. You can tickle my belly or swing me upside down, or bounce me on your knee while you sing a silly song. Whatever it is, do it with me. Don’t leave me to my own devices because without interaction I am not able to learn much at all.
Please Set Limits for Me and Enforce Them.
Rules, routines, and schedules are important to every child on this planet. But for me, they are even more important, since my world is often unpredictable and chaotic. Teach me “no” and “stop” in a firm and loving way. These limits assure me that I am, in fact, a part of your world and that there is a baseline expectation for my behavior. After all, if you expect nothing from me, that is all I can give in return.
Get As Much Help and Support As You Can.
Mom, Dad let’s face it: I am a real handful. You need the support of understanding friends, some respite for when you’ve just had it and can’t go on. You also need an expert intervention team that can hold your hand, teach you how to help me, and follow through on what works and what doesn’t. It’s clear as day that you can’t do this alone. Help is available. Do whatever you can to get as much of it as possible.
Hear the “Thank You” That I Cannot Say.
I know you work so hard to reach me, to push me farther, and you raise your expectations for me every day. I can’t say it with words but hear it anyway. Every baby step I take is a “thank you” to you. A testament to your sacrifice, your labor, your faith in me and what I can do. My progress is my “thank you.” Treasure it.
Mom, Dad, I love you.
By Chaya Glatt