Monday, May 27, 2013

Patience vs. Understanding

There is a special fellowship between parents of children with autism, regardless of the children's ages.  Invariably, someone (generally one who is not raising kids with ASD) asks, "What have you learned most in raising your child with autism?"  So often, you hear "patience" as a response.

To me, patience is what's required for long suffering, whether purposeful or not.  You have to wait something out.  According to a couple online definitions, patience is

Talking my son back from a meltdown, circa 2003
I used to think that parenting two children with autism made me, by necessity, a more patient person.  But more accurately, I think it has made me a more understanding person.  I did indeed need patience early on.  I needed to wait out my children's challenging behavior.  But as I learned what lead to some of those behaviors, I was either able to prevent them or understand them.  Once I understood the function of those behaviors, I no longer felt like I was just waiting out a set of circumstances.  I felt like I was a meaningful witness trying to make sense of a complex puzzle.

The summer gives us an opportunity as caregivers to make some of the pieces fit.  If your child on the spectrum has never had a functional behavior assessment, consider reading up a bit on what one is and then trying your hand, over long periods of observation, trial, error, and do-overs, at piecing one together.  This tool and method of thinking, more than any other, has helped me realize that parenting with understanding is better for me and my kiddos than parenting with patience alone.

And your child's educational team will SO appreciate the effort when you present them the compilation in the fall!

Finally, and not as punctuation, THANK YOU to the families who've given up their loved ones for service to our country.  Memorial Day is a day dedicated to you, and those of us raising children under the banner your fathers and mothers and daughters and sons and spouses fought and died for so appreciate the sacrifices you have made, and continue to make.

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