It could be the hardest thing a parent of an autistic child has to do. There might be a moment of clarity when your child can really see who he or she is and wonder what’s going on. Your child or teen might ask, “Mommy, is there something wrong with me?” And how you respond to that child could have an effect on his or her self-esteem, your relationship, or his or her emotional well-being.
Depending on your child’s intellectual abilities, he or she may not even understand what autism is. Even educated adults can’t fully define autism. However, the approach to answering that question is important. You might find, for instance, your child might react or act out aggressively or appear sullen.
It goes without saying that Autism is a difficult disorder. As a neurological disease, it affects a teen’s ability to learn, communicate, and socialize. It is a disease that affects every aspect of a child’s life as well as the lives of his or her family.
When this happened recently to one parent, she wasn’t able to answer right away. And she wishes she were prepared on that day! But she wasn’t. Instead, she said, “We’ll talk about it when we get home.”
But if you think about it, that answer indicates that there is something wrong. Had she just said, “No, honey, there’s nothing wrong with you,” protecting his self esteem, respecting who he is, as he is, it might have been different. And that’s the answer she regretfully wishes she came back with.
Perhaps for parents of autistic children, it’s appropriate to have a prepared answer. Perhaps it’s best to have words ready so that you can answer without regrets. Depending on the severity of your teen’s autism, he or she may never have the lucidity to ask such a question. And then again, they might.
There’s no question that there are pains to being a parent of an autistic child that no other parent would experience. And this is one of them. Interestingly, the number of autistic cases has increased. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was believed that in 2012 approximately 1 in 88 children were recognized as having ASD, which is 10 times more than 40 years ago. However, the CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with ASD. This translates to approximately 14.7 per 1,000 eight year olds. This is a 30% increase over 2012.
Fortunately, increase in the rates of ASD among children is due primarily to an increase in awareness and the growing ability to identify early signs. Yet, despite this, there remains a growing need for educating the public and communicating that a concern about Autism still exists.
You may not ever have to answer the heart-wrenching question but if you’re a parent to an autistic child, there are many others out there who share your struggles. In fact, if you’re looking for local support, you might check out Beautiful Minds, A Center for Autism in Los Angeles as well as the Autism Society of Los Angeles.
Parenting an autistic child doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.