A Positive Mindset Isn’t an Option

Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder often feels like going to war knowing you are going to lose yet having to pretend you stand a fighting chance.

My son is almost 5 years old and he has ADHD and autism. This morning I woke up hearing his sweet little voice on the baby monitor scripting out a scene from one of his favorite Star Wars movies. After a few minutes he shouted, “Mommy, Daddy, I wake up!”

I walked into his room and he greeted me with a hug and a cheerful, “Oh, Hi Mommy!” before bolting out to begin his morning routine. That routine begins with a sippy cup of half Pediasure, half milk and an epic battle between his Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader figurines while I pack his lunch. I could use a lightsaber for the next step.

My son would prefer to remain in his pajamas all-day and most weekends that is what he does. But during the week he must wear actual clothes to preschool and therapy. Timers are key to transitions, so I set a two-minute timer and tell him, “Two minutes pajamas off, clothes on.”

The timer rings and like a UFC match, the battle begins. I won’t go into all the gory details, but it isn’t pretty. This is one of the ugly truths about autism. It’s not just quirky kids who have savant memories. It’s not just sensitivities to loud noises or picky eaters. Autism is big, very big.

By the time my son is dressed, my glasses are nearly broken, I have scratches on my arm that are near bleeding and we each have the heart rate of an Olympic sprinter and this is every day, every single day.

Why are things that should be easy so difficult? Getting dressed, eating, showering, brushing teeth, these are giant challenges for him and I don’t understand why. I may not ever understand why.

But what I do know is I can’t let these multiple daily struggles impact my mindset. I must compartmentalize the challenges and accept that he is doing the best he is capable of at this moment.

After our morning showdown is over he says, “Mommy, you happy?”

I hug him and say, “Yes, Mommy is happy.”

Autism – where hearts melt and hearts break on a daily basis, sometimes at the same time. Autism is hard. Love is easy. My child is worth every moment. – Fiona Goldsworthy

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.