Temple Grandin once said that fear is the primary emotion of Autism
I often think of this when I think of R
My gentle sensitive child
( I believe, in fact , that fear is the primary emotion in all Autistic children – even those who have aggressive behavior.
A child may respond with an angry meltdowns, another may shut down and a third child may show deep distress.
But even when it looks so different its simply a response to fear – the only difference being whether the child's instinctive response to fear is fight /flight/freeze )
And this fear can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress
I know it does for R
For if you think of it our vulnerable auties show immense courage going out everyday into a world that is so contrary
Where they are constantly being taught
Where many things that soothe – like humming etc - are treated an inappropriate stims that need to be extinguished ( merely on grounds of looking odd ).
Where no one ever thinks of their rights to just be who they are
Or of their right to have unscheduled downtime
In addition, they often have parents who keep wishing their child would change and be that version of the child that they were meant to have( even the parents that love them deeply )
And there is another stress to deal with as they grow up
If autism is such a big part of their personality and if all their life they are told that( explicitly and implicitly ) autism is a very bad thing –wont they feel at some level that there is something very wrong with them?
With all the ways in which their self esteem gets attacked, no wonder anxiety is a constant companion
I used to feel overwhelmed in the beginning thinking of all the things that I would not be able to solve for R ( sometimes I still do )
Especially with regards to his anxiety
For he has so much of it
So small and vulnerable he seems sometimes.
And so large and hard the world seems
But two things have helped
The first is realizing that I don't actually have control over how the world is with R
( I had an epiphany one day while reading "The ovely life". In this book, Vicki Forman writes that all mothers believe that they can prevent anything bad from happening to their child if only they pay enough attention. On reading this, I realized the belief that I had been torturing myself with - that I could have prevented or cured autism - was actually untrue )
Feeling in control in the way we sometimes talk about it regarding parenting, is an illusion
If anything, the paradoxical truth of control is that the only way to have control , is to be fully aware that you have very little
The second thing that has helped, is knowing that while I have no control over the world – I am fully responsible for being the kind of mother I want to be
And that I am fully responsible for the reflection my son sees of himself in my eyes
Knowing that I and his father have a big role in his self- concept – we have chosen to treat him always, as a priceless gift
For really, anxiety and stress can be reduced in two different ways – one way is to make the world less stressful
But the other way is to make them feel that they are able cope with the world – by boosting their self esteem
And so I have chosen to be a deeply adoring mother
Never thinking – let alone alluding – to a wistfulness for a different life or a different child
"Do you know you are the best thing that ever happened to papa and mama?" I tell him each night, in his bed time routine , "you are the child of our dreams"
In this way, I put a coat of my love on him , to protect him from a world that is sometimes too cold
So that, no matter how much life whispers insidiously, that he is disabled, broken
His inner voice whispers back -no I am not, I am amazing
And as he thinks, so he will be
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