Raising a child that shows you how to be a better person.
My oldest child, who now is in her twenties, has Aspergers. For those who do not know what Aspergers is, you might know the word Autism. If you have ever raised a child with challenges, it can be an exhausting, hurtful, tiring and wonderful experience. It can make you grow as a person, while you raise a unique individual with extraordinary abilities.
The challenge is how society sees these special people and what their tolerance or acceptance level is to people who think differently and have a different perception of the world. Not a wrong perception necessarily, but different from the norm.
Aspergers children and adults have VERY difficult times making friends. Social situations and interaction perhaps is one of the biggest if not the biggest problem for people with this diagnosis and school for most is a nightmare. Bullying is pretty much a given. They are a target to the cruel and the school ground bullies and because they do not know how to interact with others, including conflict resolution, it generally never turns out favourable for the autistic individual. Having a child with autism can challenge the best of parents.
People with autism have problems with social boundaries. They do not understand when it is “not a good time’ to come to you for a million questions on topics that you could never imagine thinking of nor seeing the importance of the topics or situation they are asking you this constant barade of questions about. This does not make for the most peaceful internal existence when you have had a bad day and just want to be left alone. Then you realize that they have probably had no one to talk to all day at school and you are their everything. You take two, maybe three deep breaths and dig deep, finding the patience to carefully engage in answering or discussing these topics as best you can.
Then there is the worry. What will happen to them when you are gone one day? Who will be there to protect them? To be their friend? To take care of them? To talk to them? We all worry about our children and any good parent feels that way. However for the parent of a challenged child, the worry is double. How will they not only make out in this world when they leave the nest but how will they make out when they never do leave the nest and then you are gone?
When you try and look for supports for adults with Aspergers they are few and far between.
Yes there are internet chat groups and some face to face groups but as far as social service supports, that is difficult at best. Many doctors and health care professionals are just learning more about this diagnosis so often children go through their youth misdiagnosed, parents misinformed and the child and their whole family feeling lost, frustrated, left behind and not knowing what is wrong and where to turn.
It took me 15 years to get my daughter a diagnosis. She finally got hers 3 days before her 18th birthday and when we went the following week to start some supports for her, we were told that the supports were only for minors under 18 years of age. The specialist shared their frustration saying that they were ticked about the philosophy only supports were in place for minors, and that no supports were available after 18 years of age according to the medical or social service world. “As if someone quits having autism at their 18th birthday” were their exact words. My daughter left that office sobbing and I was again angry and heartbroken for her because now we had a diagnosis but no where to turn to help her life be a little easier. Just more of the same as the last 18.
So I think Blunt Betty would like to share a bit of this journey in some following posts about what it is like to love and fight for your child when the odds are stacked against them. To love and fight for your child because they are unique. They are special and they are worth it. To love and fight for your child because if we come to understand even a hint of how these amazing people’s minds work, our lives and societies could be the better for it. We just need to get our head out of the sand, our ego out of the “my way is the only way” and realize people are called “exceptional” for a reason.
And it is the exceptional people that have made the biggest positive impacts on our world. One deed at a time.
Hugs, Blunt Betty
Betty Jean Matthews B.A.A. S.S.W., is the Founder of Stuck in the Mud Animal Rescue. She is a mother, an author, an entrepreneur, social service worker, and an advocate for a wide variety of causes. She and her daughters have been featured in Woman’s World Magazine, international news media, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, CTV News, CBC and Global News as well as other local newspapers, television and radio stations including various social media, for their contributions to animal welfare and community involvement. Betty Jean writes a column under the name “Blunt Betty” which is featured on Social Media Morning She lives near Ottawa Ontario with her two daughters. You can write to Betty Jean by clicking here
Feature photo – Betty Jean Matthews with daughters, Rhonda (L) and Terris (R). Undated.