Their Routine Becomes Your Routine, Their Diet Becomes Your Diet, Their Life Becomes Your Life. Welcome To Life With A Child With Autism

It’s a bit of a long title but it gets the point across. When you have a child with Autism, you quickly find that certain diets will or won’t work, you quickly learn that having a stable routine is essential to not just getting things accomplished but for the sanity of your child and yourself. These things work best when you not only impose them on your newly diagnosed child but also when you work them into your own life and that of your whole family.

When you have a child with Autism, or any real disorder/disease/disability, you quickly find that your life changes so much more than what your family and friends teased you about when they bugged you about getting little sleep or dirty diapers. Your life quickly becomes a juggling act of research, cooking, time management, doctor, advocate, psychiatrist and so much more. You look back and think to yourself how all those family and friends really had no idea how good they had it!

If you’re a single parent having to deal with Autism, I truly feel for you because from where I sit, I don’t even know how it would be possible to manage it… so kudos to you for doing it!

My wife and I tag team it, that is to say that she does 90% and I do 10%… maybe I’m a bit unfair in being modest but it’s not far off, but even if 10% is all I could contribute, I know it’s an important 10%.

This is a short glimpse of how it is in my house, perhaps some of you can relate, perhaps some of you are looking forward to something similar, perhaps some of you are just interested.

If the day were to start at midnight, then I’d be the one on call, getting up with Cameron when he can’t sleep, or has nightmares or gets thirsty. Why does he get thirsty over night? Well, because he doesn’t eat… we’ll get to that later in the day though.

Then I get up at 5am on school days or 6am in the summer (because we let him stay up later in the summer) and handle the mornings with him. This means either scrambled eggs or bananas with peanut butter for breakfast, more soy milk to drink and we sit on the couch watching a movie while we struggle to wake up. We play and watch stuff and do stuff until 9am when my wife Natalie gets up and takes over.

See, Natalie has Fibromyalgia which means that she needs 2 things to function, sleep and exercise. So I handle the nights and mornings… and the fact that I work from home means that she can sleep until I start work since I have no commute or anything. However, this means I generally get no breaks between waking up early, doing stuff all morning and starting work.

So I work while Natalie deals with both boys all day, all the while cleaning, cooking, educating them when she can, taking them to the park or even shopping and more importantly, to Cameron’s therapy appointments.

You see, she doesn’t even drop off the boys anywhere, especially Cameron. She stays with him to ensure that the ‘experts’ don’t do anything that might cause our son to regress (because even they don’t know the cans and can’ts for all Autistic children until they get to know them) and she also soaks in all they teach, learning it all and bringing home reading material when ever she can.

Meals generally consist of what ever Cameron can eat which means rice, eggs, brown rice pasta, bananas, corn and peas… beyond that, there’s not too much. So we’ll usually be eating something that fits that. This means that we may have some meat and things extra that he doesn’t have but generally his diet dictates our diet.

Come supper time, I’m done work and we all sit down for a family dinner which is to say, 3 of us sit there while Cameron runs around the house playing and coming back for bites from time to time. If he’s overwhelmed or had a rough day, chances are he won’t even eat at all, much less come back for bites. If it’s not something he wants, he simply won’t eat. Again, our meal generally fits his diet. When all is done, either we play together for a bit or we all go to the beach where Natalie goes for a run around the lake and I take the boys swimming. Again, exercise is important for her and swimming is very beneficial for Cameron… and just plain fun for both boys.

From there we return home and I give the boys a bath… another downside to my wife’s Fibromyalgia is that she can’t be hunched over the tub or wrestling with wet boys all that well.

We enjoy another movie or tv program, some quiet time and then I put the boys to bed where I read them a story, get them a drink and tuck them in.

Then I go back to either watch a movie with Natalie for some much needed quiet time or, as most often happens, I sit down to do even more work. You see, the therapies and gluten free foods and trips to the city for things like test and such, they leave us living paycheck to paycheck, or worse in many cases… which means that I need to work that much more.

Also, my wife has even started working a little as well, doing some evenings and part time work here at home as well.

We’re both extremely lucky that we can work from home, because commute times would kill us, doing things separately/individually would kill us…. we wouldn’t be able to cope quite as well anyway.

Then around 11 or midnight, I’m back to bed to start it all over again. No days off, no day cares, no babysitters, no rests or breaks. It’s the routine, it’s the diet, it’s the life.

I kind of skimmed over my wife, Natalie’s, part but truly it is the 90% to my 10%…. she takes him to all of his appointments, she deals with all of his meltdowns through out the day, all his fighting with his little brother, does all the meal preparations which often includes 3 different types of meals from mushy processed slop for Cameron (to mix up and hide things such as meats in his meals) to solid pieces for my toddler who likes to use his fingers and then a ‘normal’ meal for she and I. She learns all of the methods and processes for treatments and also learns of the products and toys and devices which aid in helping him write, deal with his senses and so forth… she handles them out and about doing groceries and walks and such…

Every little thing you could do that sounds like a chore when you have a child becomes a very real challenging task when you add in Autism.

You can’t deny the complexity and you can’t deny the struggles that all of us feel every single day. But if you don’t adapt and learn when to make your child’s life a part of yours and to sacrifice and make your life a part of your child’s, then it can be down right impossible.

It’s even more difficult to explain it to friends and family around you who think you’re strange or even down right mean that you don’t take your child to a county fair, or late movie when they want you to just up and join them… if it doesn’t fit the routine, if it doesn’t fit their sensory and social needs, if there is no food for them to eat….  you simply can’t do it. And while they may never understand, you stay home and you keep your kids home… even when they are judging you for it.

Because as much as having a child can be a life changing experience…  their life is now your life.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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One Response to Their Routine Becomes Your Routine, Their Diet Becomes Your Diet, Their Life Becomes Your Life. Welcome To Life With A Child With Autism

  1. mia July 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    dude, thanks for writing this. you and your wife sound like an awesome team and a wonderful example of how to make parenting work. I have fibromyalgia and aspergers and I’m raising my teen son with aspergers and my pre-teen daughter with ADHD by myself. no time off, ever. when they spend the night with their dad I take those few hours to prepare for the extreme behavior that follows because it takes a week for them to recover. my son was diagnosed late but we (his therapist and I) adjusted his routine immediately and he’s doing much better. some days he’s like an angry toddler, though. we keep learning together. most important for me is that I can help him understand himself so he can grow up knowing how to navigate through issues I won’t be there to manage.

    sorry to write so much, but you’re the first person I’ve encountered who understands.

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