Katrina and I first met Susan and her family in a parent support group here at Seattle Children’s Autism Center. Since then, we’ve observed her skillfully demonstrate a number of coping tools when challenges arose. Today we share how reframing has helped with adversity in her life.
Q: How do you define this parenting tool?
A: For me, Reframing is a parenting technique that means intentionally choosing my frame of reference. It is important for me to view my parenting experience in relation to the person my son is rather than the person I thought he might be. Before my son was born, I had ideas about what I would teach my child and what we would do together. Those ideas assumed that my child would be typically-developing. That turned out to be the wrong frame of reference. I needed to think about hopes, goals, expectations, and celebrations that used my son, as an individual, as the reference. I would call this a child-centered framework.
Q: How did you discover this tool for parenting kids with ASD?
A: My brother and his wife have been my role models for using a child-centered framework for parenting. They have two typically-developing children, and they always honored their children’s unique personalities and looked at parenting as an opportunity to get to know their children and nurture and guide them. They did not try to mold their children into some preconceived notion of success.
Q: How has this tool lessened your stress or made life a bit easier for you?
A: By reframing my parenting with a child-centered framework, I can celebrate my son’s strengths, which include a great sense of humor and a relentlessly positive outlook. I can also help him with his challenges, including repetitive scripting and slow academic progress. Looking at our journey through the lens of my son’s unique personality and combination of strengths and challenges, I can see that he has steadily grown and developed. Rather than seeing my parenting as continually failing to achieve the milestones of typically-developing children, I can see my parenting as supporting my son’s individual progress.
This does not change the fact that I sometimes long for the milestones celebrated by parents of typically-developing children. The community standards for the academic, social, and behavioral progress of typically-developing children do not apply to my child. I go through cycles of that being sad and disorienting.
Q: Did you find that the more you used this tool, the better you got at it?
A: I suppose reframing has brought me to an important realization. It has led me to think long and hard about what it means to have a “good” or “successful” life. The things that have made me feel that my life is good or successful have been friends and family, good health, meaningful work, supporting my community, and enjoyable hobbies. By that measure, my son’s life is good and successful. Supporting and empowering him to continue to have a good and successful life is the focus of my parenting.
Q: What else would you like us to know about this parenting tool?
A: Reframing does not mean denial. As I said, the fact that the typically-developing framework does not apply is still sad and disorienting sometimes. Reframing, for me, simply means viewing my parenting through the lens of the person my son is and with a focus on doing my best to make sure he has a good and successful life.
We’d like to thank Susan for sharing her coping tool with us and invite you to do the same. When we help others, we help ourselves.