As I watched my son race full speed down the sidewalk this morning toward his school bus, my mind went back to one of his greatest fears.
Unlike many kids, especially those with autism, my son was never a runner. He wouldn’t go more than ten feet away from me and in the few instances when he did, he made sure that I was within eye sight. For example, when we would go to the park he would constantly look up to make sure that I hadn’t moved from where I was. If I moved even a foot, he would run over to me.
When we would head to the car, he would be panicked to get to the car door as quickly as possible. As I would reach for the handle, he would reach for his. I never had to ask him to get in the car or to hurry up. He hurried on his own. He was terrified that he would be left behind.
He’s been that way since he was a young boy and to this day, I don’t know why. With the exception of his father and grandmother, I had never left him with anyone. So, what caused him to be so afraid of being left?
What’s odd, is that he didn’t start being that way until he had grown out of his toddler years. Even as a baby he never had the attachment issue that most babies do. In fact, he didn’t seem to care at all when he would be placed into someone’s arms or when I would walk away from him.
So when he got older and became terrified of being left behind, I was baffled. Why was he so afraid? Even now, when we have him go throw something in the outside trash on our way to the car, he will run as quickly as possible to make sure we don’t leave him. He’s 14.
I’m a firm believer in that we can’t hold our children’s hands their whole life. It is our job as parents to make them do things, in order for them to learn. Making everything easy for them, isn’t going to teach them anything. They have to learn and in my son’s case, he had to overcome his fear of being left.
Public places have always been the most challenging for him, so in order for him to gain independence, he had to conquer this. To do so, we started with small steps, such as having him get napkins from across the room in a restaurant. It sounds simple, but for him it was terrifying.
When he accomplished that, we moved to having him go to public restrooms alone. The first few times, I had to stand next to the door and wait for him. That took all but 30 seconds at most, because he would run in and then right back out again. I’m positive he didn’t do anything while in there, but at least he went alone.
Over the course of a few months, I started moving further and further away from the restroom door. Finally, he got to the point where he would go the entire distance by himself. He’s still very quick when he goes, but at least he does it now. He’s also learned to trust that when I say, “I won’t go anywhere”, that I mean it.
To further his independence, I also worked with him in busy settings, such as grocery stores. He’s now able to go a couple aisles away from me in the store to fetch items, with only experiencing a minor panic attack. Sometimes he’s made to go even further away to do a task; one in which will take several minutes for him to complete. Needless to say, this makes him a nervous wreck.
I test him often, which may sound mean to some people. But because of it, he’s learning that he doesn’t have to be so afraid. Even more importantly, he’s learning that he’s more capable of doing things than he thought.
Not only do I force him to do things in public, but in school the same is asked of his teachers. Make him work. Make him read difficult words. Make him talk. Unfortunately, if we don’t request teachers to do this, some of them will allow kids with disabilities to just sit on the sidelines. Not my son. He needs to get in the game.
I refuse to go easy on him just because he’s Autistic. That label does not, and will not limit his potential. He’s smart, funny, compassionate and very creative. Just like I tell him, he is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to do.
Never let a label determine a person’s future.
I admire all parents who 1. parent and 2. don’t let someone else or something else (labels) determine what their child is capable of. Your son will benefit. And so do we when children are encouraged and taught well. 🙂
I’m not the best parent by any means, but I certainly try. I don’t want my son to just be another statistic. He’s got a lot of potential and I refuse to let anyone try to convince me that he’s limited. Like you said, children need to be encouraged and taught. The future of the world is relying on them.
YES WE ARE! 🙂
Well done you for teaching him valuable life skills. Temple Grandin is a remarkable example of how being raised in the right way by your parents can make a huge difference.
You know we have a client at work. She is just adorable but she refuses to speak if she doesn’t have to. She knows that when there are certain workers around they make her speak and if she wants a lolly from our font desk, she has to ask but it doesn’t stop her trying to get away without asking every.single.time. 😀
Temple Grandin’s life proves that no obstacle is too big. Anything can be overcome with the right tools.
The client at your work reminds me so much of my son. Same thing. He knows who he has to talk to and also who he can get away without talking with. Just like that girl you know, it would be great if everyone would be on the same page and make her talk in order to get things.
My son went almost his entire 6th grade year with his teachers believing that he wasn’t able to speak at all. It wasn’t until they suggested the use of a communication device, that it was finally brought to my attention. After that, everything changed. He’s not fooling anyone now, no matter how much he tries.
I get flack sometimes for allowing my kids to fail or try dangerous things (like skateboarding, or jumps on their bikes). If they feel they can do it and it’s within reason, I say why not! My parents let me try things and I’m much better for it.
I agree, Ryan. Kids are too ‘soft’ these days, because people are so afraid that they’ll get hurt. Your parents let you be adventurous and my parents let me, and we survived. Plus, we had fun. Good, old fashioned fun.
Your son will live up to his potential with the hard work you and his teachers are putting in. I have seen it with the son of a friend who is now 19. Though I realize each child is different, my friend never let people tell her he “can’t- won’t be able”- she always let him try- and she too was never easy on him. He is an amazing young man as a result, with a fulfilling life.
Thank you. I believe he will also. It’s good that your friend pushed her son to try. It’s not easy to be hard on our kids, but it’s necessary. It will help them in the long run.
I love that statement to never let a label determine a person’s future. It’s great to “push” a little beyond what we think our kids are capable of. With Autism, I can’t speak specifically about because I don’t have much experience, but it seems some of the behaviors are the same as a lot of kids when they are trying to take the easy way around something. I’m happy to hear of his successes. I can imagine the patience you must have to pull upon. Keep up the good work.
You’re exactly right, April. Many of their ways are just like that of typical children. That is why I don’t treat my son like he’s any different. He’s treated just how I would treat any child. I also don’t tell him he’s ‘different’, because I don’t want him using that as an excuse to not try. He can succeed just as other kids do. His meaning of success may be different, but it’s still success nonetheless. Thank you, April.
Excellent mommy 🙂
Blessings, you’re doing a wonderful job.