The most important (and unexpected) lesson I learned from parenting a child with autism
Parenting is equal parts wonder and amazement at this little person you’ve made...and equal parts tear your hair out and run screaming into the street never to be seen again.
Parenting a child on the autism spectrum is a different league altogether. Over the years though, it has taught me some great lessons. I’ve learnt to be more patient, more accepting, more tolerant. I’ve learnt that going to the supermarket isn’t as easy as going to the supermarket anymore. I’ve learnt that apparently sometimes you can put your child on the trampoline for 3 hours and they still won’t sleep at night...
However, the most important (and unexpected) lesson I have learned is that consistency is key. Not what you were expecting to hear? I get it. It seems like one of those things that you should just know, but we all need a reminder sometimes.
“If you are persistent, they’ll get it. If you are consistent, they’ll keep it.”
Being consistent doesn’t just mean if you say ‘no’, you mean ‘no’ - although of course, that is a big part of it. It means not giving in to tantrums, following through with learning programs and staying committed to your end goal...no matter how tired you are.
Plus, being consistent isn’t just about you either. It means making sure everyone is consistent across the board - husbands, family, therapists, friends...everyone. When your child with autism is learning a new skill it takes a village, but if the village isn’t across what is happening...well, let’s just say it will be a lot harder in the long run.
Once you have started a learning program, the best advice I can give you is to stick with it no matter what. If you don’t, your child will probably learn (quite quickly) that sometimes mummy will give in if I REALLY bother her - and bother you they will. Over and over again, testing every patient bone you have in your whole entire body. By being consistent, you eliminate possibilities for what is called ‘intermittent reinforcement’.
It just makes sense that being consistent would help your child forge new habits and behaviours a lot easier and faster than if your teaching schedule is on and off. Being consistent all the time is really hard but worth it.
Nicole Rogerson is Rockmelon's CEO. She has two sons, the eldest of whom has autism.