A Continued Inspiration In My Life: Children with Autism Spectrum
Children with autism are incredibly unique and, in my opinion, they bless everyone around them with a new perspective on life. Of course having a child with autism can be extremely challenging. I have not experienced this first hand. But I have seen what these parents can face on a daily basis.
And let me tell you, it can be a struggle.
I used to work children with autism and their families. Better yet, I got to work directly with each child in their home. Let me tell you, it really changes your life and grants you with a better understanding and love for these kids.
I am still very close to the first family I worked with. They call me their third daughter actually, which is such an honor! I was able to work with their son for two years, and I can’t begin to describe how happy I was to have that experience.
I was always a patient and calm person. Or so I thought.
This boy challenged me in a good way and taught me that you can always use a little more patience than you may think. He also taught me the balance between discipline and patience. I will take everything I learned and apply it to when I start having kids.
The balance between Patience and Discipline
Autistic children are incredibly smart and they are just like other kids in many ways. Patience is always key with any child when you are teaching them something new. Children with autism, depending on their individual diagnoses, may take longer to learn new skills. Discipline comes in with continuing to teach them something even if it’s been a year or more.
For example, let's call the boy I worked with Billy. Now, Billy had a certain chore he had to do every night, which every kid hates. He was supposed to pick up his toys before going to bed. He knew how to do it, but just like any other kid…who wants to pick up their toys? I know I didn’t!
Every night when I worked, I’d tell him to pick up his toys. At first he would walk up to bed and I’d tell him again to pick them up. It took him awhile to respond, but he would pick them up. From then one, every night he’d pretend not to know that he had to pick up his toys. But once I told him a couple times, he would do it.
Every person has a trigger that sets them off. I know I have certain ones. Children with autism do too, it just comes out in a different way and not all of them exhibit the same behavior. Some may scream and shout (just like every child). Others can be physically aggressive(I know some children that can be like that too). With this boy, I learned what triggered these behaviors. Sometimes they were unavoidable, like coming inside after being outside. Now, what child likes that during the summer in general? It’s hard to stop playing when you are having fun!
I will share a life changing experience that I had with this. One day, we had to come back inside. It was dinner time. Billy wasn’t happy and he exhibited physically aggressive behavior towards me. I told him that was not okay in a very firm voice. Then, he stomped to his room and after awhile(I wanted to give him space) I checked on him. I slowly opened the door and called out his name. He was sitting there with his back to me. He turned to look at me. When he saw me, he stood up, walked straight towards me and gave me a big hug.
My heart melted.
At that moment I knew he couldn’t help his behavior when certain triggers started. He knew it was wrong and he was saying sorry to me. I told him I knew he didn’t mean to hurt me, I understood and he was a good boy. This also shows the balance between patience and discipline. I did tell him that wasn’t okay, but I didn’t let the fact that he struck out at me keep me from forgiving him.
Patience Pays Off
One thing I continued to work on with this boy was saying the ABC’s and counting. It was very hard for him to speak, he could say “hi” and “mama” but that was about it. For over a year I worked with him on his ABC’s. Sometimes I wondered if he would ever be able to say the words. He LOVED the abc’s, so I couldn’t just stop saying them to him. He had multiple toys that would sing the ABC song. If he wanted you to say them he would grab your hand and poke his stomach with it. That was his way of saying “Please sing the ABC’s!”. One day I started saying them and a very quiet voice began to speak from his mouth and sang “A.” He had said A! I almost cried right there! I hugged him, praised him and he gave me a big smile. He had done it!
I Will Always Have a Heart For Children with Autism
Although I don’t work directly with these children anymore. I will forever and always be an advocate for them. When I can I volunteer with autistic children. I also try to share my experiences with anyone I meet. I believe everyone should develop an understanding towards these children. They have the ability to captivate your heart and teach you more than you’d ever believe.