The following is a guest post by Karen of KarenMomofThree’sCraftBlog. Karen has three boys with special needs and I wanted her to share some of her tips for keeping the balance and control in her busy family’s daily life.
My family is go, go, go all the time. Sound familiar? I am a mom of three boys ages 10, 8 and 3 constantly looking for balance. We are much like any other family busy with daily life, arguing over TV and video game time chores and homework. Our days blend one into the other just like yours. The thing is in our house things are a bit different from most. Two of our three boys – our 8 year old and our 3 year old – have Autism Spectrum Disorder. You may have heard a lot about Autism in the news or perhaps you know someone who has a child with Autism. An important fact about people with Autism and families affected by Autism – just like snowflakes, no two are alike.
I am constantly looking for balance in a sometimes very chaotic world. Trying to find that balance is often easier said than done. Something’s work and something’s don’t, but if I stop trying to balance everything I truly think my world will fall apart. When people ask me what it is like to have a child with autism or what is autism anyway? I pause to think about how to explain it to them. Here is what I say, trying not to use too many scientific explanations that is.
“Autism is a disorder, not a disease.” (I personally believe this, feel free to not agree with me) A disease must have a cure; a disorder is something that needs organizing, getting things in to order or to help bring order to chaos. Sounds good right, sounds simple. It’s not. It takes work and lots of repetition.
I regularly hear from people “I have no idea how you do it, you seem so together what is your secret?”
Guess what I am not all together, it’s a front I admit it. No one can take it all in stride and make it work all the time. My secrets are:
- Let things go. You have to simplify and you have to get in a place in your head where it is okay that everything is not perfect. That is not to say I am not frustrated a lot, I am, trust me.
- Pick your battles.
- Practice situations.
- Give choices. Giving the boys 2 options that give them the sense of control with out compromising the task at hand, has become a valuable tool.
Picking my battles was hard, learning to let go of things equally as hard. Getting control of my family situation was one of the things our behavioral consultant helped us with. When you have a child with Autism you may feel like you have lost all control. You may feel (like I did) helpless. I was a mom of two little boys who lived in two very different worlds when we first learned of our middle son’s Autism. I felt lost. We could not take him anywhere in public. Getting the control back in my family meant we could go out in public as a family and we would be able to function like other typical families. This seemed like an unattainable dream to me. We could not go out to the mall with my middle son. The sounds, smells and temper tantrums caused by our outings made it not only embarrassing, but also unproductive. To get control back, we practiced. Yes, we practiced going shopping and got him used to shopping in small steps. Now he is pretty good in stores and unfamiliar places we have not been in before.
We also gave choices. That helped us in so many ways. This is just an example of what we did as a family. It helped us get control back with even little things like teeth brushing, always a control issue in our house. We would say, “It’s time to brush your teeth. You can use the blue tooth brush or the yellow tooth brush”, bottom line the boys felt like they had choice and they began brushing their teeth with out a fight. I was amazed at how well this worked. I recommend it for any family typical or not. There is a lot to be said for “perceived control”.
In the end celebrate the victories no matter how small. We will remember the moments not the days. While I may have a lot of bad days, I have a lot more great moments to remember, and on the bad days that really helps!
~ Karen Owen