It is not uncommon for mothers of young children diagnosed with autism to speak publicly about their experiences. However, those infants will eventually develop into adolescents and adults who live with autism, and their parents will face additional challenges. Christine Weiss, an educator, has personal experience with this topic. Her son Marston is now 27 years old, and she recently talked about her experience with autism with LittleThings. This experience is detailed in her memoir, Educating Marston: A Mother and Son’s Journey Through Autism.
She notes that “during the time of Marston’s diagnosis, the rate of autism was roughly 1/1000, and in the 1950s and 1960s it was approximately 1/10,000,” which means that there was not as much information available as there is now. “No Google. No internet.
Today, one in every 24 or one in every 27 boys is diagnosed with autism. This is a heartbreaking piece of information.
When they were first informed of Marston’s diagnosis, Weiss and her husband, Eric Weiss, responded in precisely the same manner as described above. “We were devastated, puzzled, and frankly, overwhelmed,” she recalls. “We had no idea what was going on.” When we scheduled an appointment with a pediatric neurologist for Marston to have him evaluated, that’s when we found out he had been diagnosed with autism.
At the time, Marston was falling behind on a number of significant milestones, and we had no idea what was causing the difficulty.
She elaborates by saying, “Everyone goes through the emotions of happiness and sadness, rage, excitement, fear, surprise, and loneliness.” Children on the autism spectrum have feelings that are just as intense as other children, but they typically speak in an unusual manner, struggle more with issues of self-confidence, and have no idea what comes after the greeting “hi,” which makes it difficult for them to concentrate and succeed in social settings. When I was with Marston, I used to wake up every day thinking that today was the day that he was going to look into my eyes, realize that he wanted me, and walk away. He would reach for me, and that was the first time I saw him grin.
Walk. He’d call out things like “Mama” or “Daddy” or even “ball.””
However, that did not take place. According to Weiss, by the time his third birthday rolled around in 1998, “I had whispered that same old prayer a thousand times, and I was more determined than ever to smash the glass wall that separated my baby from the rest of the world.” Now that she has successfully negotiated the challenges of raising a kid with autism, Weiss offers advice to other mothers who are attempting to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives while doing the same thing:
- Find trustworthy assistance, and maintain a consistent routine: “I know that I prefer a routine, but Marston thrives on one. A routine gives your life as a human being a sense of security and harmony that is unmatched by anything else.
- Find a reliable child care provider and get to know your community: “I went to the education department of a nearby college, expressly looking for students interested in special education. I asked the head of the department who their top students were, and he sent me in the right direction.
I made them an employment offer.”
- Be adaptable, and make sure your employer is aware of your circumstances: “Be honest. The majority of people have sympathy and are willing to assist in making accommodations. You should strive to find employment in an environment like this one.
- Remember to be patient with both yourself and your child: “Conflicts may come; if you have the first two covered, you will be okay.” Your child requires more assistance than most children do, and there are times when only mom will do. Be patient. “The sun will come up in the morning,” is something that I usually tell people.
- Get organized and figure out how to assign tasks: “I have discovered that the more organized I am, the less the unknown interrupts my day and ruins it.” Because I strive for perfection in all I do, I am the only one who can get it right. This is not the case: become skilled at delegating.
- Make an effort to avoid bringing work home with you: “I am aware that there are exceptions to any rule; it is clear that this is not an absolute. Your one-on-one time with your child is extremely valuable, and your youngster requires both your focus and your love.
- Take care of oneself: “Take some time to be by yourself. It was a time for me to unwind and collect my thoughts, so I would get in my bathtub, light a candle, and let myself soak. It is quite vital to give yourself some time to relax and clear your mind before starting a new day.