Being the mother of two children with autism does have its perks.
Don’t get me wrong; my boys certainly bring out the “extreme” in parenting. However, when I talk with my friends who are raising neuro-typical (NT) children and I listen to their many frustrations in raising them, I have noticed a number of difficulties we do not share. In fact, I have a much easier time of parenting the Trouble Brothers because they don’t engage in many of the “normal” behaviors of their NT peers.
1. No Whining. My boys do not whine. Ever. They may scream loudly like wild banshees at times when their developmental limitations prevent them from using words to express their dissatisfaction with something but they never resort to that incessant nails-on-the-chalkboard whine that lasts hours and leaves a mother white-knuckling it through the day.
2. Lack of Sibling rivalry. Growing up with two sisters I remember the antics we used to pull that left our mom wanting to sell us to the gypsies. Every trip in the car, grocery store visit, and family photography was laden with the whines of, “MOOOOMMMMM, Caryn poked me!”, “MOOOOMMMM, Sunday touched my new Barbie and gave it cooties," “MOOOOOMMMMM, Molly picked her nose and touched my pillow!” Truly, I don’t know how any of us lived past the age of 10.
Thankfully, I have never had to experience this with my own children. My boys tend to steer clear of one another and will gladly enjoy their own books, videos, or toys independently from one another.
3. No Fashion Awareness. “But MOMMMMM, everyone has more Silly Bandz than me!”, “I can’t wear THAT! All the kids will make fun of me if I don’t have such and such jeans!”, “I am NOT wearing anything that comes from Walmart, Mom!”
Thankfully the Trouble Brothers will never utter these words. Individuals with autism do not recognize the social desire to fit in and follow the crowd. They are their own crowd and they like it that way.
4. Lack of Greed and Competition. Thankfully my boys don’t spend Christmas morning counting who has more presents than the other. If money is a little tight and they only have one present on their birthday they are overjoyed with what they do have instead of being mad that there wasn’t more. In fact, I can visit the local children’s consignment shop and buy a gently-used toy for a quarter of the price of a new one and they could care less. They are happy to have anything that is new…even if its only new to them.
5. Not hearing “WHY???” Endlessly. If there is one thing I am most thankful for in having children with autism it is that I never have to listen to the barrage of whiny ad-nauseam “WHY?” questions. In general, individuals with autism do not tolerate not knowing what is coming next. This is why the question “Why?” makes them uncomfortable. The autistic mind prefers knowing the answer to a question before asking it. At the very least, they prefer a simple “yes” or “no” answer over the unknown that can follow the question, “Why?”
6. Routine. My kids have a very set routine to their day-to-day life. Their diets are boring and quite limited but those limitations also make meal times a snap. I know that as long as I have bread, cheese, and chocolate chip cookies in the house the boys are set for life. Noah has a definite addiction to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers but other than that my kids are easy-peasy eaters. I don’t have to listen to my kids whine and complain that they are having peanut butter and jelly AGAIN or that they want to try those expensive yogurt snacks all their friends have in their lunch.
Similarly, the boys love watching the same DVDs and episodes of "Dora the Explorer" or "Yo Gabba Gabba" over and over again. And while I do sometimes complain about watching Finding Nemo for the 1,342,893rd time I am happy knowing the same movie makes them laugh in all the same spots each time. It's simple and yet, beautiful.
I’ve never been a Pollyanna optimist but I am neither a cold-hearted pessimist. Instead I find myself being more of a realist, and reality dictates that when you raise children with autism, whether it is high-functioning Asperger's or a diagnosis of profound autism, it's imperative that you find the joy in the small things. Like the above.
Sunday Stilwell writes about having two sons on the severe end of the autism spectrum at Adventures In Extreme Parenthood. This post originally appeared on ScaryMommy.com: http://www.scarymommy.com/the-perks-of-autism/