Feeling Heard in a Loud World

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Autism

The All-Too Familiar Scene

You’re in the grocery store with your child and the music playing overhead is quite loud. Nearby, there are children squealing amongst the high-pitched beeps of the cash registers. You’re standing in line waiting patiently for your turn to pay when suddenly your child starts to whimper. The whimper turns to a whine, the whine to a yell, the yell to a scream as he hits his head with his hands. You remember the noise-canceling headphones that you left in the car while he throws himself on the floor. Understanding the noise is causing him to be overwhelmed, you try to console your child by speaking in a calm, soothing voice. But the other people in line are either staring or giving you dirty looks. You can hear some of them whispering and then someone says, “She needs to show him who’s boss!” You divert your eyes to those of your child, hoping he will miraculously calm down, contemplating purchasing a small treat just to make him stop. But you know it will continue even after that, so you put your items down and leave the store with a flailing child in tow.

Sound familiar? You’ve replayed this scene many times in your memory. You feel like an awful parent. You feel so misunderstood. You just want to talk to someone who understands your situation. You want to feel heard in a loud world of negativity and judgement. And feeling heard is part of a good self-care regime which you want and need to keep your sanity, provide clarity, and maintain good health.

What is Self-Care and Why is it Important?

Being a parent to a child with autism is not just caring for someone else. It’s also learning to care for yourself amongst all the appointments, school issues, housework, and tasks. Self-care is not just bubble-baths or breakfast in bed. It’s more than just physical pampering or exercising.

Part of caring for yourself is talking to people who understand what you’re going through. This will also help with your parenting. And this does not mean talking to an expensive therapist or doctor. It’s about finding people—parents just like you—who can help just by listening, understanding, and offering practical advice.

Talking it Out

The mere act of talking to like-minded people is called support and makes a big difference in your life. Studies demonstrate that social support improves overall mental and physical health with the added benefits of clarity and peace of mind. You can also learn healthy coping mechanisms and tips on how to manage certain situations.

You Are Not Alone

Just hearing those words is a good start to better self-care. Knowing that there are other parents with the same experiences tells you are not a bad parent, that your child is not a spoiled brat, and that strict, traditional discipline is not a solution. Sharing happy stories of success and accomplishment with those who appreciate them will redirect your focus and shed a positive light on your life with a child on the spectrum.

Where to Find Support

It’s not always easy to get out of the house alone to find an in-person support group, but if you can, that is your best bet. Meeting other parents will form bonds and possible new friendships and even establish a community. Your child can also make new friends with other neurodivergent children of these parents, since it can be difficult to maintain friendships with neurotypical children.

Doing a Google search for support groups in your area is the easiest way to find them. Here are some local resources to assist with your search:

Indiana Resource Center for Autism

Indiana Family to Family

Autism Society of Indiana

If getting out causes undue stress due to your busy schedule, there are many on-line support groups. Facebook has private ones which do not show your posts publicly and adhere to rules that protect group members.  A popular one that is available to mothers all over the world is Mothers of Autistic Children, where you can vent, ask questions, and offer success stories without fear of judgment. Even talking on-line can improve your self-care.

Here are some on-line groups to check out:

Mothers of Autistic Children Facebook Group

Autism Parents Support & Discussion Facebook Group

My Autism Team

Support is Being Heard

Being heard is the most valued part of your self-care journey. It offers relief, clarity, and a reduction in stress. But it’s not all negative talk—telling success stories and the joyful experiences that your child brings will lift your mood and highlight the positive aspects of being a parent to a child on the spectrum. It is indeed a challenging adventure, but not one you would trade for anything else in the world.

By Rochelle Blaak-Herron

Rochelle Blaak-Herron is a writer living in Burnaby, BC, Canada, where she lives with her husband, 10-year-old autistic son, and two cats. She has been writing professionally for over 20 years and is a strong voice for parents of autistic and neurodiverse children.

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