Here are five reasons why you should be proud of your child with ASD:
1) They fight a harder battle than any of us.
In various aspects of our lives, we often find ourselves troubled by the challenges we face. We frequently deal with issues revolving around work, finances, relationships, and others. Yet, we hardly ever have trouble in simply existing. In fact, this might sound ludicrous to most neurotypicals.
A child with autism often has sensory issues. This means that they may be more sensitive to certain sensations. They may experience and show stronger reactions to touch, sound, taste, and other sensory experiences in comparison to an average person. What may pass as a noisy clatter of the dishes to our ears could well be a thunderous clash to theirs. I have ever gone to a nightclub with music blasting in my ears the whole night, and I have got to say that it is one of the least pleasant experiences I have been through. Imagine that for them, except it is on all the time, 24/7, with little to no escape. It is not difficult to imagine how frustrating that could make their lives. Physically or mentally, I don’t doubt that being constantly in such a situation takes a toll on the person. Not only does it discomfort them, they will likely also feel out of control in many ways. And no one likes to feel out of control, at least not all the time.
Because of that, fundamentally existing – being in our world itself – can be a very challenging thing for them to cope with. While we may never understand what it means to be autistic, I think they show immense courage in navigating the complex challenges they must face.
Now, that is admirable.
2) Not why, but why not?
At any point in our lives, we make comparisons. We could be comparing about the things we would like to buy, or the kind of lives we would like to live. Either way, our lives are filled with choices every second of the day. The ability to compare is an essential skill in helping us make the best choices for ourselves.
Yet, at some point, that skill may end up being our downfall. As someone who grew up in Singapore, I know intimately how easy it is for us to fall into the trap of making comparisons, not in a helpful manner, but rather a destructive one.
“All his peers can already do this. I want my child to be able to do it too.” Says yet another parent to me. And I get it. It’s difficult for parents not to fret and panic when their child is seemingly behind their peers. However, in our pursuit of comparing one to another, are we missing out on the opportunity to appreciate what they can do right now? Are we neglecting to praise the things they can do now, that they couldn’t before?
Perhaps we shouldn’t consider about the whys. Instead, think why not?
Why shouldn’t we be proud of them? Look at your child today and think back on what he has struggled with in the past. In his own way, has he grown and made progress too? Let’s take the opportunity to examine their growth and be proud of them!
3) The skill of happiness.
I have once ever commented to a friend that the kids I work with are probably the happiest bunch of people in the world. Yes, they have their tantrums and meltdowns. Yes, a lot of them need to cope with sensory issues. Yet, they also have one of the most sought-after abilities in the world – the ability to be happy and to find it in the smallest things.
Of course, like what I mentioned above, their lives are not always all that easy. Even if we live on the same planet, they have a much harsher experience of it than we do. However, in the midst of all that storm and chaos, they are still able to make the best of it and be happy with the smallest things. Like most children, they have the unparalleled ability to entertain themselves, sometimes in the funniest of ways to an observer. At times, I look at how they are so happy just swinging and playing by themselves in the hammock, or twirling a toy round and round, I find myself amazed and in awe of them. They seem to be just happy. While experiencing happiness seem to be often attached to conditions for most of us, they are simply able to put themselves in a state of joy with nothing but themselves and a small simple contraption that spins.
Is that not something admirable?
I, for one, think it is. In fact, most of us neurotypicals can learn much in this aspect from them. Yes, we have our troubles and problems. Yes, life is not a bed of roses. But, can we also find joy and laughter in the small things in our lives?
4) The ability to persist.
We call them stubborn. We say they are fixated. But in truth, most flaws can also be a kind of strength. In the right context, what some people might term as being “overly sensitive” can also mean being astute; what one says is stubbornness can also be interpreted as persistence. In the right context, sometimes our greatest flaws become our greatest strengths.
I have already expanded on this point a number of times, but I think it is worth repeating it again briefly.
There are very few things in life we can achieve without the skill of persistence. In a more magnified example, I’d say that without persistence, we may never find solutions to the world’s greatest problems. Scientists must bear with failure after failure of experimentation in the hopes of achieving a single successful trial. Persistence, more than the traditional smarts, often plays a bigger role in achieving success.
Like Einstein said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
I have mentioned this before, but some neurotypicals’ parents would jump in joy at the idea of having their child stick to just one thing. Meanwhile, some of our parents are tearing their hair out over why their autistic child only likes watching train videos.
Sometimes, it’s about perspective.
I know that some of this may sound like an oversimplification of things to you. But what I simply want to get across is the existence of that potential. In the right context, used in the right way, perhaps that fixation can be something greater.
I feel that parents sometimes underestimate the amount of influence they have over their children. Although there will always be times where the child is refusing to do something they don’t want to do, at their core, children still yearn for their parents’ affection and love. It is why disappointment can sometimes cause greater aversion than simply a fear of the cane or disciplinary consequences. The sinking feeling that you feel when you see the heavy disappointment in your parents’ eyes can be the worst thing to bear, and you find yourself striving to do better simply to avoid that look again.
On the other end, the confidence and love a parent shows their child, of the pride they take in their achievements can be the most inspiring and motivating thing spurring them to be better, to take on tougher challenges and succeed, if only to see that proud gaze of their parents however fleeting it may be.
Your sense of pride in them, while manifesting as a simple word of praise or a pat on their backs from you, can be a foundational block of self-confidence for them.
Watch over them with pride as they fight to adapt themselves to their challenging environment, persist in their own interests, and find joy in the smallest of things.
Quite frankly, I think the pertinent question here is not why, but why not?
Written by Felicia.