When Autism Requires You to Parent Differently

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...

Autism has forced me to parent so different to how I expected.

That child you see sitting on the windowsill can’t speak. Despite appearances he is an anxious child who cannot cope with change.

On the day in question he could hear fireworks outside but could not work out where the nose was coming from.

He has severe learning differences so has no understanding of Guy Fawkes Night or any other celebrations.

He just hears different noises and sees the sky full of different colours and he has to watch, not for entertainment sake, but because he is anxious.

I tried removing him from that windowsill so many times but he was pinching me, screaming, kicking and pushing me away.

Parenting a child with autism has taught me to pick my battles wisely.

As long as he was supervised I figured he was safe to sit there. So I sat in his room and kept a close eye on him. I sat there and sat there as time moved on and he still refused to move.

Of course as time went on I knew he would be getting hungry but not even food (a huge motivator) would get him to budge from where he was while the noise and strange lights continued.

I was fighting a losing battle all because so much of what was going on that day was different.

I am so grateful that my husband was around and able to not only look after my other child but able to cook for the children too.

He set up my son’s meal as he always has it: on a table in front of his seat downstairs. As a seasoned autism parent my husband did everything by the book.

He came and told my son what he had made (something Isaac loves) and even said ‘first dinner then back to window’. That usually works but that day was different.

I suggested taking a photo of his meal which my husband did and brought that up to show our son. Isaac still screamed.

Isaac was not being badly behaved. His refusal to move was not disobedience or hot headedness. He was not being naughty despite how many would view him.

His anxiety meant he physically could not cope with leaving the windowsill even for ten minutes to eat.

So I took his meal up to him. That’s when I took the photograph.

It was one night and I knew that. I don’t know what had went on at school that day with my son (when your child is nonverbal you have no way of fully knowing even with a home-School diary) so there could have been more than just fireworks making my son distressed that day.

He knows we eat downstairs and generally we do not allow food upstairs. He knows we do not eat sitting on windowsills in our family and he knows he should do what his parents ask.

However autism means that there are times when anxiety or sensory needs mean my son is completely unable to think rationally and I have to understand that.

Every other day since then he has eaten downstairs with the rest of the family. Forcing him to do so on November 5th though just was not going to work.

My child is different. He has severe sensory needs, anxiety, communication difficulties and learning difficulties. He has autism.

Parenting a child with autism is not the same as parenting a child without autism. My child is different and therefore I need to parent differently too.

Some days that looks like a child screaming in public and not being told off. Sometimes that looks like a child going to bed fully clothed as they refused pyjamas.

Sometimes that looks like the photo above of a child having dinner sitting on a windowsill.

However that looks to you that is ok by me. I get it and I hope by writing this it helps others ‘get it’ too.


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