Parents get advice and sometimes criticism from all sides; and this is no different for parents with autistic children. Some of the advice is offered kindly; some of it is thrown with a dash of contempt. Our choice was how to respond.
“If you would spank him, he would straighten up.” From my parents and other relatives. We tried it, once. My son thought we were playing. I think about it now and I cringe. We chose to try other methods of discipline.
“What a brat!” Said a young woman when my son was having a meltdown at age four as we were leaving a women’s Bible Study. I was too busy trying to get him and my two daughters into the car to reply. This was one of many such encounters. I chose not to reply or defend myself or my children; I chose to turn my attention to my kids. Still, I pondered these things in my heart, later when it was quiet.
“Try to get your kids into a bedtime routine at night.” This was helpful advice and worked perfectly with our kids. Our routine involved bath time, story time, and singing their father’s made up songs. Each kid had a different song. Autistic kids thrive on structure.
“You shouldn’t give in to him. Make him take the blue plate. You are spoiling him by always giving in to him,” said my mother on numerous occasions and in various forms. My son was committed to green. He wanted the green plate, the green glass, green shirts, green blankets, green toys, and green pop (7-up and Sprite came in green bottles at the time). If it was in our power, we chose to let him have as much green as he desired; and we advised others to do the same. When my mother took care of him, she tried to make him take the blue plate, with predictable results. She wanted to prove her point. I said, why not let him have the green plate? Is that so difficult? He’ll grow out of it. His fascination with the green did fade with time. It took 10 years, but is that so bad?
We had to choose our battles and ignore some advice along the way. With autism, there are so many battles to fight. We only had energy for the important battles. We battled our son over crossing the street at the right time; not over whether his sandwich was cut in triangles. We struggled with teaching him how to cut his food; not whether his plate was green.