Health & Fit What I Learned Parenting a Child With Autism During the Pandemic
7 Strategies to Help Autistic Children Manage Meltdowns
Lara Sandora offers ideas to help children on the autism spectrum manage meltdowns.If you take your child out in public (and you will, again, post-quarantine!), then you may have experienced the side-eye and under-the-breath comments that passers-by tend to dole out. While these comments are beginning to dwindle as our society becomes more and more understanding of neurodiversity, many people will continue to judge your parenting. These are challenging moments as a parent. But as Naoki Higashida reminds us in his first-person account of autism, “The Reason I Jump,” if you think it is hard to witness, it is many times more difficult to live it.
When I had my daughter at the end of November 2019, the nurses in the hospital were whispering about athat was sweeping across China. Three months later, everything was in lockdown. I, like everyone else, wondered how long this could really last — surely it was just a matter of time before they’d figure out a cure, or the disease would die out, and we could all go back to normal? We held our babies tighter, but as the news trickled in from Italy and New York, and the grim reality of climbing numbers and horrific deaths weren’t just overseas, but in our country, in our state, in our town — I panicked.
4 Diagnoses That Kids Can (And Can’t) Outgrow
Why do kids outgrow certain diagnoses and not others? We look to the science.Just look to four common, but significant, early childhood diagnoses: Asthma, allergies, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. How are parents to know what to expect long-term for these wide-ranging diagnoses? How are they to plan the future? A closer look at the science can help parents make sense of such moments.
My 4-year-old son, Trip, is nonverbal and has, and I can’t even describe to you the fear that set in when I realized that if Trip were to get sick with COVID, it’s very possible he would — and he wouldn’t be able to tell me that he couldn’t breathe. So we went into lockdown mode, sanitizing groceries, not seeing anyone, not going anywhere, but as the year dragged on, I realized that my son was failing, and flourishing, in some surprising ways; so here’s what I’ve learned about parenting an autistic child during a global pandemic.
Distance learning blows.
When schools went remote, I became painfully aware of howAside from losing the therapy resources he was getting at school, there was no way that Trip would sit still and stare at a screen for hours each day. His poor teacher, who was doing her absolute best to include Trip, watched me chase him around the house, trying to bribe him, plead with him, trick him into just being in the frame of the Zoom call. After the first day he tried to throw my laptop down the stairs. Anytime he saw a laptop or tablet he would start crying. He was angry and irritable, and even after distance learning had ended for the day, he was cranky and barely slept.
How Does Child Support Work With Joint Custody?
Everything parents need to know about child support payment when it comes to joint custody.First, some basics. Child support is the term for the payments a noncustodial, divorced parent is required to make to support their child or children. For a more precise definition, here’s how attorney and author of the new 20 Great Tips for a Successful Divorce Tanya Helfand defines child support.
After the first week ended with his speech therapist spending 45 minutes watching me try to get Trip to look at the screen, (while corralling my newborn, trying to hear the therapists’ instructions over Trip’s screaming and the baby crying, and keep all of my son’s tiny toys out of my daughter’s mouth) I asked his speech therapist with tears in my eyes, “How do people DO this?!” She shook her head and said, “Maybe we’re doing more harm than good.”
I was relieved. Admitting that Trip was getting nothing out of this and that all it was doing was making everyone cry (me, him, the baby) gave me permission to say, “Screw you, Zoom!” and focus on things that I could change. Once I made my son’s mental health a priority, he was happier and I was happier.
A post shared by Lily Burns (@lilyjburns)
We live on a farm in Connecticut, so we were lucky that we didn’t have to change too much to be completely isolated in lockdown. What I didn’t realize was how many places I depended on outside of school for Trip to burn off all his energy: swimming at the local YMCA, playing on playgrounds around town, weekly gymnastics class. Suddenly the playgrounds were wrapped in yellow caution tape, the YMCA, gymnastics. and soft gyms had all closed their doors, and I found myself Googling “where can my kid play.” Trip had burned through all of hisin a matter of days. I was , and he still wasn’t getting the input he needed. While some people took up baking, or bought a goat, or built their kids an indoor slide, I was searching online for an answer to the question, “How are other special needs parents surviving during this insanity?”
How Music Producer Marcus Boyd Is Using His Autism Diagnosis to Help Others
Jennifer interviews music producer Marcus Boyd about autism and how parents can support kids on the spectrum.Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental diagnosis that involves life-long challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The condition and challenges it presents are different in each person.
Obviously, there was no answer. But I did find a few things that made life a teeny bit easier. We spent 98 percent of the time outside. We wandered our small town, hiking in the woods until the sun went down (we got lost), stumbling across a river that became our new favorite hang out spot (we got lost), and visiting what felt like every farm in the tri-state area (shocker, we got lost a few times). Being outside seemed like the only option, and it turned out it was the best one.
Once winter hit and that wasn’t an option (my kiddo hates the cold), I found ways to bring the outside inside, like thisfrom B4 Adventure that transforms a doorway into a classic swing, a sensory swing, or a ring bar. Grab a pillow to slide down the stairs on your butt, and you’ve got a full fledged swing set in your house.
Not all classrooms have four walls.
Every month that schools remained remote, I was sinking deeper and deeper into the mom guilt that there must have been something else I could be doing to help teach Trip. There must be something more, something better, something I wasn’t doing. I was exhausted from living in the constant state of feeling like I was failing my son, and the constant terror that he or I would get sick or die. He wasn’t getting therapy in school, no therapists would come to our house (because pandemic), and I felt like my miserable attempts at homeschooling lessons were a joke.
'Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood' to Feature New Autistic Character
There's a new neighbor in "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" – Max, Teacher Harriet's autistic nephew.The show authentically cast Thomas-Bruce, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 years old, as Max. Thomas-Bruce said this experience gave him “an extra boost of confidence.
But here’s the thing. Not all classrooms have four walls. Trip picked up drawing during lockdown, something he has never shown interest in before. He learned to put his snacks in bowls and on plates instead of dumping the bag out on the nearest surface. He learned to get a fork out of the kitchen drawer to eat, and get his own glass of water. He learned to hug his sister, and roll down hills. He learned which rocks are best for stacking, and made piles all over our yard. He learned to garden, and when he goes to sleep at night now, I tuck him in, say goodnight, and WALK AWAY (a huge win). He has learned so much during lockdown, and I have learned to let go of the naggingthat convinces me I’m doing a terrible job.
A post shared by Lily Burns (@lilyjburns)
Ask for help.
One thing that came into sharp focus when the pandemic hit was food. Trip is an incredibly picky eater, and only has a handful of things he will eat. And not in a I-really-don’t-like-that-but-if-the-choice-is-eat-it-or-starve-I-guess-I’ll-eat-it kind of way. He would rather starve. But as grocery shelves emptied and those few items he eats disappeared, we found ourselves calling countless grocery stores, trying to find the items online, even driving over state lines to find them. One such item is Yummy brand chicken sticks. Only that brand. I have no idea how he knows, we’ve tried every chicken stick out there, even putting a different brand in the Yummy brand box to try to trick Trip — to no avail. (Somehow, maddeningly, even though they’re all identical, he knows.) One day, about six months into lockdown, we were out of these chicken sticks, had searched all local stores, tried to find them online, I even reached out to the brand directly and pleaded with them to tell me where I could find them. By sheer dumb luck, I happened to find a store that said that they sold them. I ran (yes, actually sprinted) down the frozen food aisle, and when I found the empty shelf where they were supposed to be, I burst into tears. Nothing says autism parenting like crying in a random grocery store frozen food aisle over chicken sticks. The sweetest woman came up behind me and said she completely understood — her daughter had Down syndrome and would only eat peanut butter and jelly or mac and cheese. She told me to reach out to a Facebook group for parents of special needs children, as they might have some leads.
Early Intervention It Isn't the End of the Road for Kids With Autism - It's the Beginning
When I turned 30 a few years ago, I couldn't keep track of the number of people who felt compelled to tell me that "age is just a number."My oldest son has autism. I won't speak for every family of a child on the spectrum and, truthfully, I won't speak for my son either. I hope that one day, in his own words, he can share his thoughts, perspective, and journey if he so chooses. Until then, I'll share my experiences. At the end of January, we celebrated his seventh birthday. I've now spent seven years on the most exhilarating, exhausting, emotional, and inspiring journey.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help!” she called over her shoulder as she walked away, and that rings in my head every time I am struggling.
I did reach out to the Facebook group she suggested, and they did have leads. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had asked for help sooner. Everyone has a community, and if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all in this together. Ask for help. Reach out if you need it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there—you’ll be so glad you did.
Thesemake us all feel better when they share the highs and lows of parenting.
Gallery: 36 Funny Mom Quotes That Will Make Your Mother Laugh Out Loud (Woman's Day)
Holly Robinson Peete Talks Breaking Autism Stigmas In Black Communities & The Importance Of Inclusive Travel .
In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, the proud mom shares how Beaches resorts have added a little more sunshine to her family's journey."Navigating all of it was hard," she tells ESSENCE. "I didn't wake up with a big smile on my face in the beginning like "Oh, we got this!" I spent a lot of time feeling very sad and defeated and hopeless for years. I would say, other people inspired and encouraged me. But mostly, it's been by example.