When my son, Noah, was diagnosed with Asperger's 15 years ago, we were told he needed to have speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, sensory integration therapy and join a social skills group. I felt like I had to do everything the doctor recommended or else I'd be missing an opportunity to help my child. I spent a large proportion of my time driving to appointments and sitting in waiting rooms with lots of other moms. And I wondered, how will I know if this is the right thing to do?
By Brenda Dater
It's the middle of the night. I can't sleep--not because I'm not tired--but because I've got a list of "to-dos" running through my mind. I'm thinking about planning the next year's workshops and support groups at AANE. I'm sorting out the details for upcoming Parenting without Panic book events. I'm thinking about the follow up my 18-year-old son with Asperger's needs to do before he heads to college. And I'm wondering how to sort through the mountains of paper I've accumulated in our home over the past year. I know that none of these tasks are critical. If they don't happen, it will be inconvenient and frustrating, but not tragic. And yet, it's still keeping me awake when I'd rather be snoozing next to my husband.
Even though my rational brain knows that there's only so much thinking and doing I can accomplish on any given day, I still expect that I'll have the time and energy to do more. And yet, the harder I try and push, the more depleted and overwhelmed I feel. And I don't think I'm alone. Many parents feel like they should be able to do more, accomplish more, help their kids more--especially when they have kids on the autism spectrum. But what happens when we are too hard on ourselves, focus too much on what we should do and not enough on what is possible in this moment? We can start to feel like Lucy in the candy factory…and we know how well that turned out.
Brenda Dater is the author of Parenting without Panic: A Pocket Support Group for Parents of Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum (Asperger's Syndrome). Brenda is also the Director of Child and Teen Services at AANE.