When my son was younger I saw a youtube clip of a Lion who had adopted the young of some sort of antelope. I was really moved by the footage, what struck me most was how alone and vulnerable it made this strong lioness seem. She had had to leave the pride to protect the calf and yet she did not seem to resent it, to think of it as a different species nor treat it like it was an inferior lion cub it was quite simply her baby.
Looking back at the feelings I had watching that clip I can see that the lioness’s experience must of resonated with me. You see having an autistic child is tiring and isolating not because of your child, not because you think there is anything wrong with your child but because it is a struggle to support and protect them while learning about their different needs yourself. It must of been hard for the lioness when others feel you should be treating your cub like any other cub when they are actually a calf and that they either see them as different or believe you should not be making exceptions for them. In the same way is soul destroying to see your child being damaged by others lack of understanding, and to try and fix that damage while you are still learning yourself.
My child may have a very different set of needs and priorities to many children but that doesn’t make them wrong or less any more than a carnivore is wrong and a herbivore is right. Some animals are more sensitive, quicker to react and more on guard than others because this is their nature, if raised by a parent who doesn’t have the same nature it may be hard to understand. In same way if you are a non autistic parent raising an autistic child it can take a while to get them, it can take even longer (maybe a life times work) to get others to understand their child’s needs and some may just never get it and you will expend a lot of energy protecting your child from those people (more often than not professionals sadly).
So yes, many parents of autistic children may need support, may suffer from stress and stress related illnesses, may some times get bouts of depression and anxiety and may feel the need to go on seek the support of others in the same situation not because they need pity or are thinking poor me or that they see their child is a list of issues but because supporting a child who is perceived as different and not understood by society as a whole is all encompassing, because you always have to have their back, be their voice when they can’t find theirs, advocate and fight for them when they are not getting what they need to not only survive but to thrive. Equally we don’t expect to be seen as hero’s, get pats on the back or be told that you don’t know how we do it, we are simply caring for our child.
You see being the parent to an autistic child is a wonderful thing, just like being a parent to any child, but acting as their shield and having to fight or educate almost everyone you meet just to have your child and their needs accepted so they can not only survive but thrive is not quite so wonderful.
I guess what I am saying is please cut us parents some slack, we have a lot on our plates, we may get things wrong, we may feel afraid for our child, we may even be hostile at times but we do it out of love and commitment because to us, our autistic child is just our child – our beautiful, loved and unique small (or not so small) person who has our heart.