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The Mother of All Autism Challenges

The Mother of All Autism Challenges 2014-10-13

From The Author

Hello, my name is Lara. I am 42 years old and the mother of two lovely boys, Ethan (7) and Joel (4). I say lovely, they are in their hearts lovely, as are all children. In reality they can be bloody hard work. Ethan has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is high-functioning so attends a mainstream school and to the community at large appears normal (non PC term for neuro-typical). Tom is neuro-typical (PC term for normal), but when he is with his brother, when not diving for cover, he too gets to join in all the fun of living on the spectrum.

I am married to Tom. A loving, supportive man, who has signed up for the autism journey 100%. He is, without a doubt, the rock of the family and without whom, I would have slipped down stream, flailed for a bit and drowned several years ago.

We live in our ideal home in a small country town in Australia. We are a 30 minute drive from my family. My husband commutes to the closest capital city for work and because of the nature of his job is away Monday-Friday. We have friends, but we don’t have a huge social circle as we moved here from the UK seven years ago. We are fit and healthy and get by financially so in the great scheme of things have nothing to complain about.

So why the hell am I writing a blog? Certainly not to gloat about my middle class life, albeit with a small hiccup of autism. No it’s because Ethan’s autism has been more than a hiccup to me – I would describe it as a total regurgitation of my mind and soul. On a good day I am calm, capable, caring and confident . However on a bad day I can be intolerant, impatient, inflexible and inexcusably grumpy… none of these are good traits when parenting a child on the spectrum. Oh and I also suffer from PMT, so everyone in my immediate orbit is guaranteed to bear the brunt of those less than desirable qualities once a month … lucky them!

Saying I have struggled with Ethan’s autism is an understatement. I have at times been dragged away, frothing at the mouth and force-fed valium. It has been tough. About 2 weeks ago, I found myself in the darkest hole yet. Ethan had started being verbally and physically aggressive with me if I asked him to do anything that took him away from his play. He was relentless. I felt as if I was in an abusive relationship that I couldn’t leave. I could no longer help him. I could see no future for me as his parent and therefore no point in living. I don’t say that flippantly. I wasn’t angry or hysterical. I was calm, but my heart was dead. I had lost my sense of self entirely. The only thing that stopped me from doing something stupid was the fact that my love for Tom hadn’t died. It was stronger than ever. Caring for Ethan has changed us both profoundly in ways we could never have imagined. It has made us stronger as a couple, but I feel as if I have lost a large chunk of myself along the way.

So this blog is about my journey to find a way to parent Ethan and Joel and to actually feel fulfilled, not resentful and angry. To find a path that I feel more able to tread as a parent, to trust myself that I can help Ethan and make a difference and to be able to roll with the punches (and yes Ethan literally punched me yesterday) with a little more grace.

My lofty aim is to achieve the following:

  • To accept that Ethan has autism and it is a life long condition (yes I am stupid enough to kid myself that one day he will wake up and be normal… sorry neuro-typical).
  • To minimise the crash and burn.
  • To get a greater understand of Ethan’s needs.
  • To research and implement strategies for Ethan – everything from diet, speech therapy (and all the other therapies), to buying a dog.
  • To find the energy and will power to actually implement those strategies at home – something I am consistently **** at.
  • To help Joel be a sibling to Ethan. To give him the time he deserves, but is often robbed of because Ethan takes up 95% of my mental energy.
  • To set up a support group.
  • To stop (or at least try to stop) being such a grumpy ***** once a month. (My husband read this and laughed ‘what do you mean once a month?’ Ok, I concede … To stop being such a grumpy ***** full stop.
  • To want to spend time with my children and actually enjoy being a mother.
  • To make sure I never fall into that dark hole again.
  • And finally to lower my expectations – I don’t have a hope in hell in achieving everything on the list – as much as I would love to succumb to being a control freak perfectionist it ain’t gonna happen.
  • Oh and in addition to that last point … to ****ing relax a little!
I am an incredibly private person. Yes you can ask again, ‘why the hell are you writing a blog?’ I should just shut up and get on with it. The thing is for several years I have wanted to do all of the above, but not achieved any of them. I figure if I write a blog I may be more compelled to stick to my plan, I will in some way be held accountable. Also, I could be totally wrong, but I have a feeling that I am not alone in my quest.

Let the challenge begin!
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