When Jack was small I lived pretty free and loose. I had a minimal routine. We got up, did stuff, ate at times, slept. Nothing was rigid and honestly, looking back, it was chaos.
As the years have passed, I have made a number of changes here and there to make our lives easier. Some happened overnight, and some were perfected over months and years, by making small changes until it worked.
Autism has taught me how to be a better person and a significantly better parent. And I’d like to share the things Autism has taught me.
1) Organisation: I have a planner and day-to-day diary and I use it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I plan my week ahead on a Sunday, as well as setting goals. I make sure every appointment and every minute of my day is accounted for on the busy days. I make sure I have done the necessary things like preparing uniform, chemming the hot tub, packing handbags and backpacks.
2) Forward planning: Many autism parents will have “cased” a joint before taking a child, to anticipate any issues that may arise, so they can prepare things like social stories or answer questions when they mention it to their child. This can be applied to many things, such as preparing for meetings or even just days out. I ensure that I have a plan and a contingency in advance of everything we do, and this has improved my timekeeping dramatically, as well as lowering stress levels.
3) The Power of Support: Supporting others, and receiving support from others, is essential in all aspects of life. Balancing this is tough. Choosing the people in your network is also tough – but you need a network and it is fluid. It will change over time. Some friends and contacts come and go, some stay for a while, some stay forever. You need all of them in the moment. Having a good network is empowering and will guide you through all you do.
4) Breaking everything into manageable chunks: Rather than looking at your list and becoming overwhelmed, you can manage it with concepts used in autism visual timetabling. On my toughest days, I break it up into “Now” and “Next”.
5) Follow your whims: Autistic people, particularly children, often are sensory- driven and explore their environment in a different way. Jack is especially driven by his olfactory sensory behaviours – he sniffs everything. He sometimes bounces up and down. Sometimes he just needs to bite down hard on something. While I don’t go around sniffing members of the public, I do indulge my whims and find they rarely lead me wrong. In fact, they are sometimes good for me and my mental health. I want to jump up and down, I do it. I want to go sit on the beach and look out over the sea, I do it. Just as a “stim” can satisfy a need for someone with autism, a whim you have can satisfy a need in you.
6) Routine: Do the same things every day – as long as they work. Each day I get up, weigh myself, drink my All In products, and get ready. Then I wake Jack, feed and dress him, and take him to school. Then I have my The Organised Mum Method Level 1 Jobs which I do – I’ve added chemming the tub and feeding the fish to this list. Once all those are done, I can begin to do the things I want to do, such as writing, blogging and planning. Sometimes I socialise. But it’s all planned as per point (1) above. Sometimes things change but consistency helps us cope with change better.
I know I’m not a raving success, but I’m certainly finding that these skills are helping me do better every day. Without my autistic son, I don’t know where I’d be for many many reasons, but I do know he’s taught me so much. Love that boy!
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