Special Needs Parenting: Raising a Perfectionist

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

So far she is doing well.

The problem is she is doing too well.

My autistic daughter is a perfectionist and it is throwing up all sorts of problems.

At home everything must be lined up 'just right'.

That is her calming place and comfort and I have no issue with that even when it makes moving around the house like walking on a tight rope or navigating a cliff edge.

I absolutely love and embrace her autism and her need for order but school are now very worried about her need for everything to be perfect.

Her writing is the neatest in her whole class and while that is such a beautiful talent and skill it is also a problem when you spend so long forming the letters 'just so' that you hardly have time to complete the work.

She is now falling behind because she cannot write quickly or ignore a spelling error or forget capital letters and full stops.

Her presentation is so lovely but it is so clear that her pace is so far behind she has pages and pages of incomplete work.

How do you teach a perfectionist that, sometimes, it's OK not to be perfect because it is holding you back?

Her jotters were full of ticks but at times I noticed there were missing answers on tests.

I asked the teacher why she thought this was and we both knew right away that unless she was one hundred percent convinced her answer was correct my daughter would just chose not to answer.

She cannot cope with the thought of an 'x' in her work from her teacher.

The problem with this is we learn through our mistakes and there is no way she will be able to avoid confrontation or corrections all her life so we need to work together to help her cope when everything is not always perfect.

That is a challenge.

I came out of parent’s night so proud of my little girl. To have huge issues with anxiety and be diagnosed on the autism spectrum yet cope everyday with mainstream school is incredible.

I was truly in awe at her art work, writing and presentation and the time and care she puts into everything she puts her hand to.

Her teachers had such positive comments to say about her yet we both agree we need to help her overcome her fear of not being perfect.

No-one is perfect. Sure some people are extremely gifted and talented in some areas such as painting or sport or foreign languages but not one of us are perfect.

Life is never perfect either. Things break, food burns, we run late and challenges happen.

All of these teach us something very important though: resilience.

I actually need my daughter to learn to make mistakes. I need her to learn that this is OK.

I need her to realise that she is not loved any less, looked down upon or valued less just because she put an extra letter on a word by mistake or made a simple addition error in her maths.

I need her to laugh it off when a toy won't line up just right or we are two minutes late for school one day.

All of this takes time though.

Most parents want their child to take more care of their work, or keep their clothes a bit cleaner or tidy their room.

I want my child to take a little less care of her work at times, make more mess of her clothes and play freely in her room even if she gets toys everywhere.

It seems crazy doesn't it, but that's one of the hard things about raising a perfectionist: few people realise how much patience is actually required when your child has to have everything, 'just right', at all times.

To all those parents raising a fellow perfectionist: you are not alone!

I know how hard this is even if no-one else can see it! Just know you are not alone.

P.S. Just for the record I am not a perfectionist so if there are any mistakes in this piece feel free to say.

I won't get upset :)


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