Parenting an Autistic Adult Child
The CDC indicates there are nearly 6 million Autistic Adults in the US or approximately 2-3% of the general population with differences state to state. This means that the parents of these adults continue to deal with the joy and anguish of life on the spectrum.
As autism is a spectrum this means different things for different people. In some cases, high functioning can mean life with quirks while low functioning and even moderate mean the necessity for constant care. There is a high rate of comorbidity for those on the spectrum. This can include physical disorders, other psychological or neurological issues or some combination.
Let us focus for this article not on the conditions of life on the spectrum but the roller coaster ride many parents experience. This can include trying to re-aim hopes and dreams for their adult children. Knowing that what matters is the quality of life of their child, irrespective of their age.
As parents, we never stop hoping for happiness, safety, and justice for our children whether they are 4 or 44. The repetitive and disruptive patterns of the spectrum require enormous patience and consistency on the part of the parent. Deep love of our children should go unstated but loving someone on the spectrum can plummet parents from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. For some that means that while parents are dealing with jobs, pandemics, the needs of their family and the stress of the universe they are fighting to stay calm, patient, consistent and positive. Some days that is a harder fight.
Spectrum adults are often trying to redirect behaviors that we acceptable in their childhood to new roles and responsibilities as they move into adulthood. Helping to develop independence as much as possible, the balancing act can be challenging.
Ask for help. Build a team. Look for resources in advance. Their independence as much as possible is important for both of you. It is immensely challenging to go from wrapping them in bubble wrap to letting the fly. But mastering skills leads to new skill development. Mastering skills leads to improved self esteem and confidence. Patience can often be a struggle. Centering yourself, finding that quiet corner in your mind to regroup, finding a place where you can take a deep breath and moral as well as emotional support. It will pass. It will be calm again. The meltdown will stop. Calm and order, as much as they exist will emerge again.
There is a middle ground. Your adult child will find a place in the world. They will build a network of resources and support. They will find balance and peace in the world. You will have moments where laughter, singing and giggles will rule the day. The world is brightened by the spectrum. Your world has forever changed and in ways it may take a while to realize but the spectrum teaches us to see things in a different, more creative way. There is a purity to life on the spectrum there is deep and abiding joy. Do what you can do. Get help when you can not do more. Find ways to take care of yourself, self-love and self-care will help with your anxiety and potential depression. Find a counselor that can be an off ramp for you. A strong mental health professional can help you set a personal strategy and coping skills that will help you get through the rocky times. They will also help you find gratitude for the whole thing, the joy and the frustration.