A Mother’s Views on Parenting Autistic Children

With 1 in 110 children being diagnosed with Autism, it’s hard to find a family that hasn’t been effected by this complicated and confusing disorder. Diane Mayer Christiansen knows the difficulties of parenting such a child firsthand. She recounts her experience in Planet A: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This excellent book provides a real-life take on anger management, social conflict, inability to understand/relate to peers, sensory overload, and so much more that Autism families must cope with every single day.

She was also kind enough to provide the following insight:

When my son, Jackie, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) right before second grade, I wasn’t shocked. I had known that something was different about him. He began his life with sensory issues that expanded into social and anger problems. He was unable to understand the basic pieces of the social game and became angry as he constantly felt misunderstood by the world around him. I, too, felt misunderstood by those around me. My parenting had to change to adapt to Jackie’s brain and what he could and couldn’t understand. In the beginning, it was tough. It took a lot of research to figure it all out and I’m still not always thoughtful in my response to him.

Now fourteen years later, I feel as if we have come a long way. Planet A is the journey of high functioning autism from diagnosis through middle school. Two things inspired me to write Planet A: First and foremost, I am a story teller. As I speak to parents and educators about it, personal stories like mine are what inspire the “typical” world to want to learn more. There is unique something about hearing what autism really looks and feels like from those who live it. 

The second thing that really pushed me in the Planet A direction was my visit to the many ASD parent online chat rooms. The struggles that many parents face today are the same struggles that Jackie and I faced. I found myself reading many of the posts and nodding my head in agreement, saying: “Yes, I remember that problem!” So, Planet A is also for those who are going through the same issues with ASD. I want them to know that they are not alone.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from parenting an ASD child is patience. Patience to be a better listener, for being understanding, not only towards Jackie but towards those who do not understand him. In our journey together, I have also realized that love and kindness are really all it takes in this life. Jackie has struggled with bullying, feelings of inadequacy and the fight to fit in somewhere. In the end, the lesson of learning to celebrate who we are as unique, individual people is the greatest of them all. We’re almost there.

Find Planet A: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism Spectrum Disorder and more of Diane’s books on her web site.