As I write this post, finding out your child has special needs is an emotional process. The journey often comes with trials, challenges and pressures, including services, ongoing therapies, arrangements for special education, and maybe medical care. I feel the need to step back and address a topic that often isn’t discussed but deserves attention. I want to explain how it feels when your child with special needs, in my case high functioning autism, does not seem to return your affection, care and most importantly your love.
When my son was diagnosed with autism, I felt driven to support him in all ways possible. Over the past year, our son has had what seems like hundreds of ABA therapy sessions and appointments. My husband or I accompanied him to everyone and applied everything we learned there at home. Every interaction with our son was focused on practicing the strategies we observed and learned at his therapies. All the supports, gluten diets, strategies, and approaches we have poured our hearts and not abolish from our son—that the spectrum would always be a part of him and us as a family.
This is a painful, hurtful and not to mention hard understanding that knocks the wind out of us each time. I began to see autism as an uninvited houseguest that had long outstayed its welcome. It’s an invisible yet invincible enemy that highjacked me of the apperception, affection and love I long for from my son.
Andrew has done nothing wrong. He did not choose to have autism.
When your child does not respond to you or you feel like you are tired exhausted and wondering why you are draining so much into him when you are not feeling love in return, here are a few things to remember:
- Your love and adore your child.
- Your child not choose their disability.
- Your child loves you.
Your child did not choose their disability
There are days when my Andrew yells and screams at me. These are the days when I can’t put feet on the floor and deal with it. I talk with close friends with about what it is like to be a parent of a child on the spectrum, but they don’t get it, and that’s okay, I don’t really expect them to. I am reminded that my son did not choose autism. Andrew does not choose to be overwhelmed and panicked by his surroundings and even the world surrounding him sometimes. Rather, his view of the world is seen through a different lens. Andrew is more than a diagnosis—that it is only a part of him. So, when it fells all consuming, I hold on to that. He did not choose autism, nor did autism choose him. It simply is. But each day I can choose to love him.
Your child loves you
In the early days of Andrew’s autism diagnosis, I didn’t want to know he loved me, I wanted to feel that he loved me. I wanted to connect with him and to have him reach out to me. One the days he does not, I feel alone and sad. I see my friends taking their children on playdates, while my son and I largely stayed home and survive one meltdown to the next. I don’t feel loved.
Then, one day my thoughts change. I see that the love I had envision receiving from Andrew is not the kind of love he is able to give. And that’s ok. My child loves me in a different way.
My child loves me, and your child loves you. His love is just expressed in a different way.
You love your child
Before you have a baby, everyone tells you what to expect, but ultimately, being a parent is being whatever superhero your child needs you to be. Andrew needs me to separate my personal feelings from his behavior, and to love him purely, exactly as he is. When I love him in this way, he brings me into his world.
Autism is not the enemy, I must remind myself of this daily.