Our fifth and final tool in the Autism Mom Toolkit isn’t tangible, but it’s more important than all of the others. Without it, all the gadgets in the world will be useless to you. Caregivers must have…
A Can-Do Attitude
Moms tend to be harder on themselves than anyone else ever could be. We criticize ourselves and second-guess our instincts. We read articles telling us what we’re doing wrong and what we should be doing right. We ask our mothers and friends for advice on the most significant and the most trivial decisions. (Don’t believe me? Scroll through any mother’s Facebook feed.)
Yet, I would argue the worst mistake we can make in special needs parenting isn’t one action.
The worst mistake we can make is believing our kids can’t.
Can’t feed herself.
Can’t write his name.
Can’t control her anger.
Can’t overcome his fear.
If we assume our kids can’t, we stifle their growth and strip them of their dignity. We also deny ourselves the greatest joy of autism parenting: the pleasure of watching a child accomplish what was once impossible. We never wish for our children to struggle, of course, but maybe that’s what makes the joy so unspeakably awesome.
If I recalled all the ways Henry has defied expectations and myths, I would still be typing tomorrow. It’s not only the visible accomplishments we recognize, such as acquisition of conversational speech; it’s also the more subtle changes, like his insightful questions and noticing the emotions and motives of his peers.
Henry amazes us every day. And we are not alone. I’ve seen the great strides made in children we know from waiting rooms and joint therapy sessions. I’ve watched the documentaries and the television segments. I’ve read the memoirs. Here’s what I’ve learned:
When in doubt, always assume competence.
A disclaimer: I do not support ableist thinking; I don’t endorse harmful so-called treatments; and I am wary of anyone claiming a cure. What I encourage is a positive mindset that says, “My child can’t do this… yet.” Time and again, our children prove to us they are more capable than we can even imagine, if given the right tools and resources.
This is our last post in the Autism Mom Toolkit series. (If you missed a post, be sure to check out how we use our family’s Google calendar, Henry’s iPad, a Go Bag, and The Binder.) What’s in your family’s Toolkit? I would love to hear what works for you and your child.