Do we really need to prepare our kids for this mythical real life? Have you heard that expressions before?
“We need to prepare our kids for real life” or “In the real world your child won’t be able to do that”
I genuinely thought that was my job, to prepare our kids for “real life“. I forgot to acknowledge that this actual point in time, is my child’s “real life”.
It really hit me hard when my child told me that life was just too hard and they had had enough of life. My heart broke. Immediately I sprang into action. Booking psychology appointments, hospital referrals. I looked for the support of allied health professionals. I had one message to them all.
“Help my child.”
It wasn’t easy and it really was not making a significant difference. I stopped and did this one thing.
I started acknowledging the now as “real life”.
What actually happens when we forget about the now?
My child’s life had snowballed into this demand driven entity.
They had to go to school, they had to do well in school, they had to have friends, they had to learn how to follow directions, they had to play sport.
See where I am going with this? That expectation of what my child should be doing was driven by own perceptions of what was considered normal. I was following the cues of other parents, and, of course the school. My own child just could not cope with all these demands that did not come naturally. Ultimately they fell into autistic burnout and sensory overload.
Teachers were telling me things like, my child did not complete assessments tasks on time, or that they did not participate in sport. We even worked on strategies to improve this. But I stopped and asked my child one simple question, this is the single question that changed my whole world and my child’s world for the better. I asked,
“Why do you not like sport?“
and the answer blew me away.
“I do not like sport because I have to interact with other kids, and it is hard work”
What I did next may seem dramatic.
It was in that moment I pulled my child out of sport class. Teachers and others immediately told me that this was a bad idea.
“You can’t just give in because your child doesn’t like things” or “what will happen in the real world when they get a job they do not like?”
My answer “They will quit, because no job is worth my child feeling like life is not worth living”
According to Amaze “50–70% of autistic people experience mental health conditions” We have to make a change and acknowledge that we can no longer force autistic individuals (kids and adults) to conform to what we consider “Normal”
What I know now and want to tell other parents.
I now see that by accommodating my child’s very valid needs, they are happier, healthier and 1000% better. Their emotional and physical needs are being met and they no longer see life as a burden. Sure my child is not going to be that social butterfly sports star who has a public speaking job. After all that is my dream not theirs. Who are we to say what brings happiness to others. My child loves being online and to them this is social connecting. They also do well interacting with family who understands and accepts them. By creating choice it leads to safe supportive spaces, my child now thrives.
So do we really need to prepare our kids for Real Life?
As for preparing our kids for the real life or the real world, this means spruiking autism acceptance. Encouraging employers to accept and cater for the needs of autistic individuals. By acknowledging this their productivity and contribution will be far more valuable and productive. High school students who have the option of 3 years to complete VCE or HSC studies will thrive and excel. The pressures and demands are offset by acceptance and acknowledgment of their needs. Pre-schoolers or primary school aged kids who are given choices on participating in class plays or excursions will feel more comfortable and less liely to be overwhelmed with sensory issues. Just giving our kids a choice can help them immensely. They can then learn to self regulate and understand and accept themselves and their identity. Instead of forcing.
It is not easy, but worth it.
I am now teaching others how to acknowledge my child’s needs. I am also constantly battling school to accept that my child does not have to follow the norm, and it will not ultimately impact their life in a negative way. It feel like I am constantly battling a system not built for my child. It will always be my goal to have a healthy happy child rather than a child who wants to end their own life. And if my child does not want to go to university, that is ok. If my child can not do scored year 12, that’s OK. Life is now good and the future looks damn bright.
I will always say “my child’s life is far more valuable alive and without mental health issues than they are being dead with a resume filled with achievements”