As a young parent, having your first child can be a very scary and nerve racking experience. Children can be one of life’s greatest joys, and rightfully so. You have hopes and dreams for your child, and you plan on them just being perfect. What happens when that child has autism?
Kirk Smith is a comedian and has written a book about his experience with raising an autistic child. Autismspeaks.org tells about specific experiences he’s had: “As a man, when you find out you are having a son, you want him to be big and strong. Something primal in you desires him to be a man of physical substance – someone not to be trifled with. Perhaps so that he does not have to relive your playground battles. You know that kid who never had to fight because his hands where the size of cafeteria serving trays? Like him. Not someone like me, who apparently, based on experience, has a face that looks like it needs to be punched. You want him to be a goliath of a man. You want him to be a man’s man. Someone to defend you in old age…. As he gets bigger, I am concerned for him and what his future holds. As I said, as a man, when you find out you are having a son, you want the best for him. When you find out he has neurological issues, you still want good things for him, but you just want him to be smaller so you can still control him when he gets out of hand. With a regular kid, you want him to be built like a line backer. With an autistic kid, you want him to be built like a referee. A regular kid, you want built like a Viking; an autistic kid, you want built like an IKEA worker. Both are Swedish, but one is into pillaging and the other is into pillows. I guess what I am saying is you are hoping your autistic kid is built not for Ultimate Warrior, but for Ultimate Frisbee.”
Sometimes as parents, we set expectations for our children based on our goals and dreams. Maybe our college sports career didn’t take off like we wanted it to, or our musical talents only bloomed into a mediocre hobby we do on the weekends. We want our children to take those dreams and propel them further than we ever could, but when your child is born with autism (or any other disorder) that all changes.
Helping Them Reach Their Potential
Depending on where your child falls on the autism spectrum, there are all kinds of options available to help your child realize their own goals and dreams. Technology, for instance, has helped many autistic kids learn the necessary skills of running using a computer, the internet, and even some programming. Michele Mckeone, a teacher from Philadelphia, realized the need autistic children had to learn how to use technology and started her own business focusing on just that. “You have to raise expectations,” McKeone said. “There’s no reason I can’t teach students coding if they can learn e-mail. It’s about sequencing. It’s about executive function.”
There have been many other avenues of success for autistic children, from art to technology, music to sports, and a wide variety of many other outlets giving autistic children something to focus their energies on that have helped them gain cognitive function and more balanced social skills.