Waiting for over a decade to have a baby is brutal, but it becomes almost painless when you compare it to realizing that the offspring that you prayed for has an irreversible mental health condition.
That’s what I realized when a child psychologist revealed that Jayden, my darling son, was in the autism spectrum.
I was already 40 years old when I found out that I was pregnant with Jayden. My husband and I had been ready to have a baby in the last ten years, but we somehow didn’t get what we wanted until now. Although our close relatives raised their concerns about my health and the baby’s health, we went through the pregnancy like a breeze, and I carried Jayden to full term.
My husband and I genuinely assumed that things would continue to be smooth sailing, considering I didn’t deal with any complications before or during childbirth. The first few months of motherhood were blissful, too, since Jayden didn’t cry unless he was hungry or needed a diaper change. Even his bath times went well because he seemed to like being in the water so much.
However, we started noticing that Jayden’s behavior was different from other babies when we attended a mommy-and-me class when he was 12 months old. There was a portion where the facilitator asked us to leave the kids in the middle of the room and let them interact with each other. It was said that this little activity would show their level of independence when the parents were out of sight.
Some of the most independent kids began to crawl or toddle and even waved goodbye to their moms. The others who had not been away from the mothers until then were already crying as soon as the door closed. But then, they eventually adjust after seeing what the rest of the babies were doing.
When I looked for Jayden, my amusement faded as I saw him playing with his toy car, oblivious of what’s happening around him. He didn’t seem to notice that I was not in the room or that none of the adults were. In the entire 30 minutes that the parents were out, Jayden didn’t even show interest in the other children.
Road To Diagnosis
The facilitator saw what my child was doing. After the class, she said, “Ms. Smith, I had been watching Jayden ever since you entered my class, and I know that you noticed his behavior during the activity today.”
I uttered, “Yes, and I worry that it might not be normal.”
I talked to my husband about my observation, and I called the facilitator that night if she knew any child psychologist. Luckily, her sister had a clinic nearby, and she helped us secure an appointment within the week.
Since neither my husband nor I had any encounter with psychologists, we merely assumed that they could diagnose someone’s mental health condition during the first appointment. However, the mental health professional said that despite showing some signs of autism, Jayden was still too young to diagnose his condition. She scheduled us for a series of appointments throughout the year to see how his behavior would change.
And the psychologist was correct – Jayden’s behavior changed indeed. He could not make intelligible sounds yet, so we could not always understand what he wanted. In such cases, my son would have a meltdown and throw his toys around or cry as loudly as possible. Sometimes, when he’s playing with a toy, he could do it for an entire day. If we tried to feed him or take the toy away from him, Jayden would simply keep it close to his chest and not interact with us.
After some time, we finally understood that Jayden was on the autism spectrum.
Disciplining A Child With Autism Properly
It has been five years since Jayden’s diagnosis, and he is growing up to be a strong and healthy boy. He has been receiving therapy for the same amount of time, teaching him how to function like other children. Still, with autism or not, kids tend to act up and require parents to enforce disciplinary tactics to keep them from becoming spoiled brats.
Here are some disciplining tips that I have gotten from autism parents.
Use Simple Words
Children with autism cannot understand complicated words, such as “Do not touch the hot water if you don’t want to burn yourself.” With Jayden, I tend to say, “Hot water is not for touching,” and he understands.
Set Up A Simple Routine
A simple routine includes waking up, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating, playing, napping, and preparing for bed. It wouldn’t be advisable to add more things to this list, especially when the child is still too young. Otherwise, your routine may fall apart.
Avoid Triggering Your Child
When you want your kids to understand something, you cannot yell or make loud noises. That is a common trigger factor for individuals with autism. You need to be calm yet firm so that they can hear you well.
Jayden is only eight years old now. We are still a long way away from adulthood, but my husband and I hope that he becomes a highly functioning individual by then.