Not Another Parenting Course!
Being a parent is hard. It’s not like new babies come with an instruction manual. The most important thing I have learnt since becoming a mum myself, is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We are all human and sometimes make mistakes.
Now imagine that your child is autistic and sometimes presents extremely challenging behaviour. How would you deal with it? How would you deal with the ignorant people who tut or stare when your child has a meltdown?
Before my son was diagnosed with autism, I struggled to understand him. Since his diagnosis, whilst understanding what generally drives his behaviour, I am still lost as to how I can help him. The older and stronger he gets, the more violent his outburst are. Does it mean that I haven’t disciplined my child or set clear boundaries? Does it make me a bad parent?
After an autism diagnosis, as a parent you are left to cope alone. Desperately sourcing any help I could find, I attended my first parenting course. Recently I have completed my fourth. All the courses were different, yet they all teach essentially the same things: routines, boundaries and consequences. The reason I have been to so many courses is probably because I am still looking for answers to my child’s difficult behaviour and even more so, way to manage it. Professionals seem to think this would be a good start!
The strategies I have learnt on these courses have good results for neurotypical children. The problem I have is that many of them make my child’s behaviour worse. Telling a demand avoidant child to stop what they are doing and go into quiet time is never going to work. In fact, I would likely be verbally or physically assaulted by my child for suggesting it. Telling a child, the consequence of not turning the TV off to do homework means no TV for an hour, would make a neurotypical child less likely to do it again. My child would likely throw things at the TV, shout at me and after all this, would not have learnt anything. Why? He hasn’t made a conscious decision to do these things. Most of the time, he can’t even remember what he has done. When he does remember, he is full of guilt and self-loathing. Does punishing a child who already hates themselves and their actions achieve anything?
The staff at Familyfocus have been a wonderful source of information and their support group, a fantastic place to meet other parents with the same issues as my family. Now, with this charity, I find myself not only taking part in yet another parenting course, but training to be a facilitator. Why am I so excited by this new course, after my dismay with the others? The Cygnet Programme, devised by Barnardo’s is a parenting programme specifically designed for parents with children on the autistic spectrum. It is a very interactive course with lots of ideas and activities to help in parenting an autistic child. It is a programme that focuses on the communication and sensory issues that many autistic people struggle with and there are separate sessions on understanding and managing behaviour.
Finally, I have some of the answers that I have been searching for. I will never be the perfect parent, but I will keep on trying to understand my child better and help him develop into a confident, happy and independent adult. Even if it means just one more parenting course!