Getting Past the Embarrassment
All parents have experienced that moment where their child has either said or done something that caused an embarrassing situation. So it would be unfair to judge a parents who has an autistic child of feeling the same. It is a very taboo subject and can be hard to talk about it openly. Whether it’s an embarrassment you may feel due to their behaviour or the embarrassment of being judged as an unfit parent base on your child’s actions. Whichever way the embarrassments affects you, its not uncommon for parents to feel guilty for feeling this way. The judgment you may feel from others when your child is having a ‘meltdown’ can cause us to build up a negative belief system, which is very disempowering. The pressure to act in a way that would stop the looks and judgemental reactions can be overwhelming. Even when we know to act in this way would be counterproductive.
A Siblings Perspective
When I was a teenager I struggled a great deal with Adrian’s ‘meltdowns’ and ‘public outbursts’. Adrian is six years younger than me and I remember him growing up very clearly. As a young teenager I had to learn better ways of processing my thoughts and feelings towards Adrian behaviours with a rather fragile and sometimes explosive teenage mindset. Our mum, Joy had discovered the best ways of dealing with Adrian’s ‘meltdowns’ but sadly I struggled because I found it hard to empathise with Adrian and almost impossible to see the world through his eyes. In time we all discovered our own ways of understanding how best to deal with one of Adrian’s ‘meltdowns’ and the real eureka moment was when we stopped worrying about what other people thought and instead focused our attention on understanding Adrian as though he were like a new far away country, with its own language, customs, culture, etiquette etc. By unlocking all these parts of Adrian allowed us to gain a great deal more out of our relationship with him. ~ By Mark Butcher
What can I do?
My advice to parents struggling with these issues would be to first of all relax. It’s totally okay to feel like this. What’s important is that you are aware of your own thoughts and that you care enough to discover better ways of processing how you feel. Second of all you can’t change the world overnight but you can start seeing it better. A negative mindset filters out all the positivity. Below is a short list of thoughts that can lead to us feeling very negative about the situation. It’s important that we acknowledge them but we must also think about how much of this is based on our negativity mindset and very little to do with reality.
They think I’m a bad parent
They pity me because I have a disabled child
They think my child is just naughty and need discipline
They find us embarrassing and want us to leave
They’re thinking how grateful they are to have a ‘normal’ child
These thoughts are not the reality. It’s guess work and even if people are thinking these things the final though they have about the whole situation can be hugely influenced by your actions. Believe it or not but you have the power to leave a lasting impression. To do this you must first empower yourself by acknowledging the fact that despite everything that’s happening you still have the power to choose how you feel. Ask yourself this question next time your child has a ‘meltdown’
“Which attitude would best serve me and my child in this current situation? Positive and measured, or embarrassed and frustrated?”
Obviously a positive and measured attitude would be the better choice. Ultimately the way you feel and react is up to you. Try not to be influenced by other people’s opinions. If someone is judging you and your child, think about what this reveals about them. Their opinions don’t define you or your child at all. It just means they are someone who needs to judge others and that has very little to do with you.
The ultimate goal is to respond in a way someone would who isn’t bothered by how others think. No matter what you choose to do to help the situation will be the best you can do at this moment in time. Your confidence in how you now feel about everything will shine and whatever you do in this moment will send out a very clear message. I am dealing with the situation in the best way that I can. As long as you allow the empowerment feelings to drive you whatever you do will leave a positive lasting impression on any onlookers, whether they are judging you or not.
Allow yourself to feel and process the initial feelings of embarrassment without feeling guilty. You can then come out the other side with these new thoughts built upon truth and confidence. The more you try the easier it becomes and you will begin to notice these new threads of thinking becoming instinctive. By choosing to put this into practice you are already supporting your child in the best way you can, when he needs you most. Over time you will learn more about autism spectrum disorders and how the condition personally affects your loved one. You will become better equipped to make informed decisions on how to help them. Before long a ‘meltdown’ will seem less traumatic and you’ll be wondering why you use to feel so helpless and depressed when they happened. Your unconditional acceptance for your loved ones condition and the variety of situations that can arise in day to day life will becomes apparent to everyone around you. You will begin to see looks of pity being replaced with respect and feelings of embarrassment making way for confidence. If we learn to accept that there will be a few hurdles along the way and the occasional run in with someone whose words will break your heart, you will be ready to face whatever challenges life throws at you. Never give up because feeling proud of your ‘perfectly imperfect’ family and life feels a great deal more fulfilling than always striving for societies version of ‘normal perfection’.
If you care for someone with autism and have advice about something that really works for you and the person you support please share your experiences in the comments box below. Sharing your experience could create a ripple effect and help many more people than you think. Share this post on facebook if you want to help more people understand what it’s like to love someone on the autistic spectrum.