A big autism trait is the sensitivity to touches. While this doesn’t seem to affect us all, for those who have to deal with this, it can be an interruption to everyday functioning; especially when you become a parent.
When the simple touch of your arm sends heat waves through your body that you can’t control, or when you are asked for a hug and automatically stiffen every muscle in preparation of dealing with the “blow” of anxiety that is sure to run through your veins the minute you make contact. This is a guilt I will never be rid of. The guilt of having restrictions to the love I can offer my children.
I absolutely adore babies. I love holding them close so I can feel the rhythm of their heartbeat and smell the baby lotion that was absorbed in their skin after bath time. There isn’t a thing any baby can do to make me feel uncomfortable in my normal mental state. The peacefulness I find in their inability to hold conversations and contactless non-judgemental stares, makes for great company.
Babies grow up and become toddlers. Quiet toddlers who entertain themselves and enjoy quiet cuddles still fall into my safe box. With that I mean their presence doesn’t trigger irritation.
Once children merge from the last remaining baby stage of being a toddler, I become more aware of their touches, their impulsive conversations, invasive presence and….their germs. I know this sounds horrible, and I really hope I’m able to explain further in the next few paragraphs.
Let me remind you that I am unable to control how a touch affect me. I can’t seem to ignore the gentle fingers on my skin that cause my heart to race, which leads to the silent screams inside my head that I mask with my fake “tolerance smile” with an attempt to reassure my children that their touches or cuddles are approved.
Sometimes I’m able to survive five minutes through semi-clenched teeth, while other times the anxiety is less controlled, and I am forced to distract them by the nearest activity or command.
“Oh look, Peppa Pig is on…go see what Peppa is doing.”
Other times I may not be able to contain my aggravation and yell, “Please stop touching me!” only to feel like the worst mommy on earth because I am unable to tolerate my own children’s touches. This guilt is usually followed up by a forced cuddle in attempt to undo any emotional scars from a mother’s rejection.
Three of my four children have autistic traits, with one of the three diagnosed. This makes the need for love expressed through hugs and kisses less as neither of them like that sort of thing most times. But there are times when even they desire a bit of emotional connection through touching and it is at those moments that I have to try my best to ignore my own anxiety and make attempts to meet this need.
My youngest daughter is extremely “touchy” and has no clue about personal space, (she has unique challenges that are still being assessed) and holds the record of all my children for being the most “needy”.
I can honestly say that she has forced me to learn how to get through (I didn’t say like) many of my anxieties attached to touching and kisses etc. without losing my mind. I have learned to prepare myself in advance so that she can get the mommy she needs when she requires reassurance through physical bounding. Yes, these periods are still short, and I still use deflection to break them up, but it’s getting a little easier to get through them (probably because they’re not going to go away).
So, how does an adult with autism effectively mother their children?
By showing them a variety of ways to express love. By using my attention to detail to figure out things that the average parent misses. By using my unique outlook on life to show them a view of the world in a simple way that leads them to appreciating the very simple things the world has to offer them.
I can enter into the minds of my children, who struggle with some of the same things I once had to deal with and overcame. I will never see autism as a disadvantage when this condition gives my children and I so many advantages.
While the average person lives in a constant fast-paced world, we have mastered how to slow it down. This survival mechanism allows us the insight to see things in a purer form, by taking something that is deemed complex and simplifying it for the sake of interpretation.
For those of us who are able to verbalise these interpretations, doing so allows us to introduce you to a world you never knew existed. A world flooded with facial expressions that speak louder than words. A world where everyone hurts.
A world full of over exhausted children, elderly people suffering from aches and pains, cashiers who cherish the mannerly customers that are few in number, dogs on leashes that spend more time sniffing than they do walking, spit filled streets, hair-greased smudged bus windows, traffic lights that take longer on four-way junctions, children licking germ infested fingers while eating, the meek wife that hides behind an expressionless face at the fear of revealing the truth, and the homeless man who doesn’t finish his sentences when begging for money because people walk too fast.
Even though parenting has proven to have many challenges, it is still a small feat compared to the things I have endured and overcome. My drive and self-determination guarantees my children a life under the protection and guidance of someone who will do nothing short of protect and usher them through every single accomplishment. To parents of autistic children, or parents who have been gifted with autism themselves, the life you have been granted is a beautiful one.
Embrace the good and push through the challenges. You were made strong…you were born autistic.