Courage, Intelligence, Support
When I first met Nikki, her eldest son had recently been diagnosed with autism and she was doing well adjusting. I was concerned about her though when her youngest son started showing familiar red flags and was also diagnosed. How would she handle adjusting to the realization that both of her children were on the autism spectrum? I know for certain, it was not easy, but she made it look so as I observed her in groups, skillfully demonstrating three powerful tools for coping. I asked Nikki to share more with us and this is what she had to say.
Q: How do you define this parenting tool?
A: Courage means taking the world on when it comes to your child. Being a strong advocate for autism and using social situations to teach people about what autism looks like. Standing up for your child in school and not hiding from autism. It’s here to stay and courage means you can become a veteran and help others.
Intelligence means using your gut instinct. You knew something wasn’t quite right and you used your intelligence to get a diagnosis. Whilst you didn’t want to be right about this you were and your common sense was right so use this for future instincts. Intelligence is realizing that you know your child better than anyone and when professionals try to educate you on your child, remember that you live autism 24 x 7!
Support means taking all the help you can get. A new diagnosis is tough, no – it is brutal. It requires us as parents to become super parents overnight. If you have understanding family and friends that offer to give you a night off, or time to finish a hot drink (we’re used to cold coffee anyway right?) or to go to the store by yourself then take it. Take all the help you can. You need to look after number one and by that I mean you, not your children. There’s a reason they tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first.
Q: How did you discover this tool for parenting kids with ASD?
A: I’ve always had courage; it’s from my Mom, however, this taught me a new level of courage. I also look to my “autism elders” and see that they are still managing things and that helps propel me forwards.
Common sense is something I’ve always had of course but I now have much more confidence in my gut instincts.
Support is something I have had to learn and that self-care actually became my sanity. Being around other autism moms turned my life around.
Q: How has this tool lessened your stress or made life a bit easier for you?
A: Courage doesn’t always make life easier, as you might have to have conflict but it ultimately means progress as I continue to advocate, and that makes me happy. Common sense or my gut instinct doesn’t necessarily make my life easier but means I have the tools to not over-analyze and to realize I am right – most of the time! Support 100% makes my life easier as I allow myself to lean on those around me.
Q: Did you find that the more you used this tool, the better you got at it?
A: My courage continues to grow as my children grow. Intelligence grows as the children grow too and I learn more and more about THEIR autism. Support – yes I continue to improve on taking and giving help.
Q: What else would you like us to know about these parenting tools?
You don’t have them all on Day One of your diagnosis (and you’re not meant to!). They come with time and experience. What helps is getting to know parents of children slightly older than yours. That gives you hope and guidance.
We’d like to thank Nikki for taking the time to share her coping tools with us. Many of you know her as the founder of Seattle Autism Moms, an online parent support/information group on Facebook and from her blog: