One of the biggest challenges we face as parents of children on the autism spectrum is to adjust our expectations and beliefs about our child’s abilities and their future without giving up hope for the best.
Of course, as parents, we all hope for the best for our children!
But when your child has ASD, there is a need to create this delicate balance between pushing our loved one forward, and accepting who they are by nature.
It is such a tightrope walk!
Adjusting our Expectations
When your child has ASD, it is more necessary than usual to actively seek to help them stretch to achieve what they can. Left to their own devices, people with autism are typically not motivated to grow, stretch, or reach into the unknown to help themselves develop or become more functional in the world.
On the one hand, lowering our expectations and reducing the level at which we push for growth (along with revising or downsizing our hopes and dreams for our child’s future) feels a bit like we are betraying our kids; giving up, criticizing them, or branding them as different or negative in some permanent way. Who will believe in them if we don’t?
Yet we need to recognize that our own expectations can quickly become a source of disillusionment.
On the other hand, trying to compensate for the ASD by continuing to push our child beyond his or her limits, and refusing to adjust our expectations of our child and their future, sets us both up.
“Drifting too far in either direction risks creating more pain and difficulty for all of us, while simultaneously sabotaging our efforts to help our child!”
As a parent, it sets us up for struggle, and disenchantment. It also sets our children up to experience failure and our perceived (or real) disappointment in them!
Drifting too far in either direction risks creating more pain and difficulty for all of us, while simultaneously sabotaging our efforts to help our child!
How do we navigate this tightrope?
Taking off the Blindfold
People with ASD have a very distinct and specific way of thinking about and living in the world.
Understanding how this influences their ability to be functional is the one saving grace we have! It allows us to navigate this difficult path with more certainty.
For example, has your child with ASD ever experienced a negative consequence and said “…That’s not fair! I didn’t know that would happen!”?
You might think “how could you not know throwing a rock at a window would break it?”
But our loved ones with autism have difficulty projecting into the future because of the linear nature of the thinking of someone with ASD.
This is brain neurology, not a character flaw, and needs to be addressed as such. Understanding the drivers behind their responses prepares us to help our child on the spectrum learn how their own mind works, which is the ultimate path to independence and success.
Understanding how their world view develops, and how that influences their behavior is the only way to make sure you are not walking the tightrope blindfolded!