Parenting autistic teens is accepting the gift of neurodiverse development

It’s time we humanize kids with autism because “there is someone out there praying for what you have.”

Some of the brightest humans on Planet Earth are on the autistic spectrum. Greta Thunberg (our teen crush of the month), Temple Grandin, and Albert Einstein pop to mind as out-of-the-box thinkers that literally make/made this world a better place…for all of us. Where would we be without #FridaysforFuture, theory of relativity and humane animal handling systems? C’mon. It’s high time we ditch the old story of “autism as a medical disorder” and make way for its true colors…

“We acknowledge diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, skin color and political affiliation, among others. Why not neurology?

Stepping outside the ‘neurotypical’ comfort zone

Fancy way of saying this: if you have kids with autism, trust that their gifts and strengths will emerge so long as you are willing and able to support them. Sometimes, “it’s NOT always best to just go with what feels natural to you as a parent.”

Worry not! Whether you’re an autism newbie or suspect your child is showing early behavioral or emotional signs as they slide into puberty, knowledge is power and there’s no shortage of professional or self-help available. It’s time we press play on evolving this poorly misunderstood condition, and get curious. What does it mean to live a neurodiverse life with unique abilities and completely manageable challenges?

Apparently, acceptance is the name of this game. Take it from Kev, an Autism Activist and father who recently broke the Twitter verse with 14.3 million views in one tweet, and got picked up by the BBC.

When asked what advice he’d give parents everywhere who are worried or struggling with a newly diagnosed child, he shares,

“Accept the diagnosis as soon as you can and the moment you suspect Autism. Don’t bury your head into it, but face it. The longer you leave it, the bigger problem you may create. You may suffer at first as it will feel like a bereavement for the loss of the child you had, but acceptance will lead to happiness.”

On raising teens with autism

We interview the inspiring and passionate Toby Price. He’s father to three teens and Assistant Principal at Gary Road Elementary School:

Q: Two of your three teens have autism. What advice do you wish you had received earlier to raise healthy and happy kids with autism?

Live in the present. Don’t get stuck worrying about the future. Soak up the times when they are little, and enjoy them. Even though they are crazy, difficult, and panic inducing…they go by fast.

Q: From your experience, what is most misunderstood about teens who have autism?

One of the most misunderstood things is that just because they can’t speak, doesn’t mean they don’t understand you. It’s about talking to kids, teens and adults with autism like they are people.

Q: What has raising your kids taught you most about who you are as a parent?

My kids have taught me that as a parent, I am like Marlin from Finding Nemo (perpetually worried). Jokes aside, they have taught me that my idea of what I think they need to be happy and what THEY want are two different things. Addison is 19, and is happiest in a dark room watching Blues Clues on VHS and drawing with crayons. It is just different…NOT less.

Q: One thing parents raising autistic kids can start doing today to be a smarter parent?

Try to fill their days with your time and as many different experiences as you can. Go to the store. Go to the beach. Try to make sure they experience as much as you can. Some of these outings will end disastrously. Some of them won’t. The experiences become awesome memories. Most importantly when it gets really bad, stay grateful. There is someone out there praying for what you have.

Follow Toby Price @jedipadmaster and Kev Harrison @kevharrison_ for inspirational guidance on raising kids with autism.

Written by Tiffany Wen

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