Many of the parents of autistic children that I have worked with over the years have expressed an urgency they feel in seeing their child develop within a certain time frame—trying to ‘beat the clock’ before they lose the ideal ‘window of development.’ This can result in an anxiety-filled experience in the background, or foreground, of their everyday life. Like a ticking clock—Tick. Tick. Tick.
THE RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK
This race against the clock is especially heightened at certain times of the year, such as birthdays, holidays and back to school after a vacation It is during these times that parents will often reflect on the past year—and either be amazed by the growth that has been made or disappointed that more has not been achieved. In looking at the year ahead, there is often a heightened urgency to reach certain milestones, especially as each year passes.
This relationship to time and your child, as you likely know, creates a huge amount of stress and pressure. Not only that, it often turns your relationship with your child into something more like a time-sensitive project, making you feel more like a project manager than a parent.
At the beginning of the new year, I want to offer a paradigm shift in the way that you might relate this year.
GETTING BACK TO THE BASICS
What can help turn the ‘tick tick tick’ down and create more calm and ease in your life and in the life of your child?
As I mentioned, parents of children with autism often lose sight of their natural role as a parent and become project managers instead; tracking goals achieved and goals yet to achieve. What can get lost along the way is the relationship: the experience of enjoying your child, having nurturing moments where you are present with who your child is today and honoring his or her unique interests or ways of doing things.
First and foremost, you are a parent; someone who is there to love your child for who he is and respect his individual path in this world.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU…
Simply enjoyed being with your child (whether you are reading a book, cuddling or running your fingers through the sand together)?
Sat back and observed your child in wonder for who she is today—delighting in her unique interests, quirky sense of humor or incredible dexterity in a specific area?
Spent time together with no goals in mind other than to enjoy being together, even in total silence?
These are the basics of parenting that often gets lost in the shuffle of IEP’s and developmental check lists. These are the basics that get lost when your child’s achievements override your relationship with your child.
PRIORITIZE YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Yes, developmental goals are important. But remember—especially when you begin to hear the ‘tick tick tick’ urgency of goals to be achieved in the upcoming year—that above all else, you are a parent of your child. Take a moment to prioritize your relationship with your child first and the achievements you would like to witness in your child next.
Doing this takes you out of the construct of the race against the clock, since focusing on your relationship with your child can happen now, in this very moment—no matter what skills your child is or is not demonstrating at the moment.
Plus, interestingly, when your child senses that you are with him with ease, delight and with no time pressure, you cultivate the ultimate environment for true blossoming.
Tali Berman is an autism specialist, developmental play expert and author of, “Play to Grow! Over 200 games to help your special child develop fundamental social skills”, (with foreword by Jenny McCarthy). She is also the founder/leader of the “Autism Empowerment Telesummit.” You can learn more and receive her free “Developmental Game Action Guide” at: www.taliberman.com