Parenting when you're autistic is not talked about enough and it should be 1 year ago

Parenting when you're autistic is not talked about enough and it should be

April is Autism Awareness Month.

During Autism Awareness Month there is a lot of awareness brought to children with autism or parents whose children have autism (which is brilliant), but very little is mentioned about autistic parents.

Most of the time when I tell people I'm an autistic mum, they think I mean that my child has autism.

No. I do. I'm autistic and a parent.

Autism and neurodiversity in general can be very misunderstood, but for the most part I'm just the same as every other parent.

There are some things which are additional challenges, especially when parenting, sensory overload being the big one.

During lockdown trying to work from home with one child playing their home school lessons in one room and the other watching Peppa Pig in the next room, was not easy.

It's not easy for any parent but when you're more sensitive to things in your environment like sound, light and crowded rooms, it really takes a toll on your mental health.

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Being diagnosed late in life (which is very common among women and girls) also left me with a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Because I wasn't properly diagnosed until I was in college, I went through my formative years pushing myself too hard so I could keep up with my peers.

In life and as a parent I find myself taking too much on to prove (to myself mostly) that I can do what everyone else can do, leaving myself mentally and physically drained.

Luckily my husband (who has been my partner through my whole diagnosis journey) knows when to tell me to take a step back and let him take over.

He also knows the signs of when I'm dealing with sensory overload or when I've forgotten to eat due to executive dysfunction.

Many people who know me don't know that I was diagnosed with autism and a lot of that has to do with my fear of the stigma still attached to autism and mental health in general.

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I've overheard many a person who doesn't realise that I'm autistic talking about how adults with autism aren't capable of looking after themselves. If they really feel that is true then would they say I was capable of looking after my children?

The misconceptions about what autism actually is can be scary at times and there's many that I'd really like people to become more aware of this April.

Firstly, it's not something you grow out of and it doesn't only affect children.

Secondly, it's not how it is portrayed in most movies and TV shows.

When most people think of autism in adulthood their mind goes to Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, and while autism can affect some people in those ways, it's not like that for everyone.

For example, acclaimed award winning actor Anthony Hopkins is autisic and it's never stopped him from having a career or living independently.

If there's one idea overall that needs to be squashed this month, it's that autism is one size fits all. It's not.

You probably know an autistic parent without even realising it and they deserve recognition this April too.