Being a parent of a child with autism has its own set of peaks and valleys. It’s easy to wonder if you are the only one who is experiencing highs and lows in your journey. Add to the mix a worldwide pandemic, and feelings of isolation and loneliness are bound to arise at one point or another. Here are three things you can do TODAY to remind yourself that you and your family are not alone.
Social media is a double-edged sword. Autism Facebook groups can be a great way to connect and share resources and experiences, however, choose with care. Before joining a group, vet it carefully to see if it aligns with your sensibilities. Be sure to read the rules, see if it is moderated or not, and sample past posts.
Follow people or organizations who offer positive commentary on the autism journey. The two that I personally follow are Autism Care and Share and Autism Parenting Magazine.
Netflix and chill
I have enjoyed a few series on Netflix in the past year that feature neurodiverse individuals, both fictional series and documentaries.
Atypical is a coming-of-age story that follows 18-year-old Sam, who is a young adult on the spectrum, searching for independence. It is a fictional series—what I love about it is how it addresses the family dynamic and gives an accurate glimpse into the realities and emotions that can accompany being a parent, a spouse or a sibling to someone on the spectrum. It exposes the complexities that we don’t often talk about. It also has a good dose of humor, which I appreciate.
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Love on the Spectrum
Love on the Spectrum is a documentary shot in Australia that follows seven young adults with autism who are looking for love. What I found most interesting were the parents and their reactions and how they tried to help their children navigate the waters of dating in the neurotypical world.
More shows lately are featuring characters on the spectrum; some doing a better job than others of portraying life with autism. It is important to note that some shows that are available on Netflix in one country may not be available in another, so be sure to check the listing.
Read a Good Memoir
There is nothing better than picking up a good book from your bedside table and reading a few chapters before bed. Learning about someone who paved a path before you and came out the other side is comforting. Although there are many great memoirs out there, I would suggest Teresa Hedley’s What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism. This is my favorite because it lets the reader know that they are not alone on their journey.
Insight into Teresa Hedley’s memoir
Teresa shares snapshots from her life as the mother of Erik, a boy with autism. She invites the reader to step into her head, and I feel as though I am along for the emotional ride—sometimes funny, at times poignant, often puzzling and always fresh: this is life with autism.
Through relatable vignettes, the reader journeys from Erik’s birth to adulthood, a voyage that cements an age-old realization: we learn as much as we teach. For a family living with autism, neurodiversity percolates and affects each member in ways unimagined.
Teresa’s writing is gripping, an in-the-moment GoPro view. I felt like I moved with her, saw what she saw and experienced her thoughts.
My favorite thing about this memoir is that What’s Not Allowed? does not shy away from the hard stuff—the regrets, the denial, the frustrations, the endless self-questioning and the flood of feelings that accompany a diagnosis. Teresa embraces the difficult questions and shows how to make sense of it. It isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we do about it that matters most. The book is a gift of connection, direction, illumination—and hope. Published in Canada, What’s Not Allowed? is available on Amazon worldwide.
Remember, emotions are temporary. Even if you have moments of feeling isolated or alone in your autism parenting journey, keep in mind these feelings are not permanent. Practice self-care and take time to engage in activities that remind you that although what you are experiencing may be hard, it is normal, and you will come out the other side.
This article was featured in Issue 121 – Autism Awareness Month