I’m not a veteran parent, but I’ve realized during my short experience with being a mom, that parenting is a special challenge–whether you’ve got one kid or ten, with or without Autism. However… there are some unique things that I face as a parent on the Spectrum. With some helpful advice and trial-and-error, I’ve found a few ways to deal with them, too. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
Struggles with Noise
Probably for survival purposes, a baby’s high voice seems almost specially made to cut through obstacles–like multiple insulated walls, shooting-range earplugs with foam muffs over them, and Los Angeles smog. This is great for getting your attention when they are in need or in danger, but not so great when it’s simply nap time, nothing is amiss, and they just want to keep playing (yelling). And loud, sudden noise can sometimes trigger panic or even a meltdown for me.
How to deal with it: I use earplugs. I can still hear little one well due to my very sharp hearing (and her very loud voice), but it’s less painful for me to respond to her when she’s tantrumming, and I can concentrate better on her needs rather than my throbbing eardrums! Just make sure that
1) you’re watching your child closely,
2) you aren’t wearing these all the time, and
3) you can still hear them well enough to respond and interact normally with them.
Getting Alone Time
If you are an introverted Aspie, you probably recharge your energy most effectively by yourself in a calm environment. “By yourself” and “calm environment” may have gone the way of the dodo with the beginning of parenthood–but the more moments you can grab to refocus on calming your mind and body, the better you will feel for both your and your child’s sake.You need to take care of yourself to better care for others!
How to deal with it: You may need to call on a friend or family member to watch your little one(s) while you go to a quiet room or leave the house for a bit. You could also try hiring a babysitter for a few hours if needed. If you can’t get help right now, common advice is to “nap while they nap”, if you are able. Or, you can use this time to pursue your favorite calming interest, whether that’s reading, listening to music, or heck, collecting insects. Unless housework is your interest, it can wait. A little time spent doing what I love works wonders for my mood and makes me a better mom to my daughter.
It seems like it’s common for us Aspies to need a steady routine to function best. In a previous post, we talked about how having a child can turn this upside down (and why that’s a good thing!). It’s great to set up routines like regular nap times and bedtime rituals for kids, and it’s been proven that they feel safest with some structure. But we need to expect that there will be things that suddenly upset the routine, so that we can be ok with that. Kids teach us that it’s ok to color outside “the lines” sometimes.
How to deal with it: This isn’t easy in the moment, but it also helps to consider all stages as temporary. They won’t wake 5x nightly forever. They won’t be teething forever. They won’t be taking your car without permission forever (ha!). The one thing you can reliably expect is for your child’s routine to eventually change as they do. So don’t get too used to bedtime at 6PM, or regularly having to clean carrots off the walls. This too, shall pass!
Making Eye Contact
Do you struggle with making eye contact with people? I do. It feels intense and awkward to me, and often I either can’t look a person in the eye, or I stare. I feel silly about this, but my daughter has a pretty intense, unblinking stare that I find a little uncomfortable, even though she’s just an infant. Babies love their parent’s faces, and eye contact is seen as beneficial to help our kids to bond with us. Making eye contact with them also helps them learn how faces and emotions work, and teaches them patterns and responses of other people. Along with eye contact, it also stimulates baby’s development to make different facial expressions at them.
How to deal with it: I’m still working on this challenge, but I’ve gotten better as I push past my comfort zone. I can relax knowing an infant hasn’t developed the social expectations of an adult, and won’t think I’m weird while I try to find the appropriate amount of eye contact! And there is so much I can see about my daughter when we look each other in the eye. I can see her developing personality and curiosity peeking out at me. This link has some wonderful tips on how to meet people’s eyes in various situations (the last one on loving someone may be the most relevant).
Do you recognize some of these issues? If you have some tips to share, or would like to mention a unique challenge you’ve faced, feel free to comment below!