My experience of Autism Spectrum Conditions is different to others that have written this week. Mine is that of a parent to a child on the spectrum, no doubt a position I share with many others if national statistics are to be believed.
My journey started 7yrs ago when my eldest daughter started to self-harm as part of what could best be termed as “meltdowns”. It was horrible to watch this destructive behaviour in someone so young, she was only 7 at the time, and to not really understand why she felt this way. Even more crushing was the feeling that as parents we didn’t know how to help and often what we did made things worse.
After getting some initial help from the local child services things started to make sense. She was initially misdiagnosed but the more we looked into things the more we realised she had Aspergers. We tried lots of strategies and slowly but surely we were able to find ways to help her and prevent her destructive meltdowns. The key to this was realising it wasn’t about trying to change our daughter but to change the environment around her. We found ways to help her take away the need to self-harm, ways to self-regulate her anxiety and ways to help her deal with the every day problems of being a teenager.
It still remains a “hidden condition” and if you met her for 5 minutes it’s doubtful you would realise but at certain times, and certain situations, you would spot some of her quirks that sometimes mark her out from the crowd. Over time she has learned to accept this and uses her unique personality to her advantage. Like many others on the spectrum she has one thing she is fascinated by; hers is make-up. However, as a 14yr old girl this isn’t such a bad thing as she now completes the makeup for all her school drama groups and has made new friends that way. She could put some of the staff at Selfridges to shame with her skills no doubt!
As a parent though, try not to shield your ASC child from the outside world but introduce them to it slowly. It’s very easy to wrap them up in cotton wool but at some point the ability to stand on their own two feet can do wonders for their self-esteem and confidence.
It’s taken a number of years to turn the corner but it is possible and we can see a bright future for her.