Sarah Maizes on Autism: Don’t Try to Make the Child ‘Perfect’

[ 0 ] August 16, 2011 |

Parents have more resources than ever at their disposal to help them understand autism and how to best help their autistic child flourish; author, blogger Sarah Maizes’ advice for parents

With one in every 110 children diagnosed with autism in this country, it’s a disorder that is all too common in American households. Having a child with autism can often be a stressful experience for both parent and child if the elder doesn’t fully understand how to interact with, or best help, their child and his or her development given this very special set of circumstances.

Sarah Maizes with her book, Got Milf?

For Sarah Maizes, writer, comedian, founder of MommyLiteOnline.com, author of Got Milf?: The Modern Mom’s Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great, and Rocking A Minivan, and whose writings have appeared on Autisable.com (a web site for parents of autistic children), she views parenting her 11-year-old autistic daughter, Izzy, as a learning experience – for mom, that is – in how to help her child thrive, and stresses that parents striving for perfection will most likely be disappointed.

“I never looked for perfection in my children – ANY of them,” says Maizes, who also has eight-year-old twins. “Perfection is a myth perpetuated by other parents to make you feel inadequate. You should no more believe somebody else has a perfect child than you shouldbelieve they poop roses. It just doesn’t happen. To anyone. Ever.”

Maizes also says the goal of parents shouldn’t be to make their child “normal” – autistic or not.

Sarah Maizes with her children; courtesy of Sarah Maizes

“Whether a child is on the spectrum or ‘normal,’ I believe the goal of every parent should remain the same – to facilitate their child’s strengths and equip them with all of the tools they need to reach their full potential – which can be limitless.”

In America, we are fortunate to have such a heightened awareness of various disorders on the autism spectrum, so that they can be diagnosed early on to better help both child – and parent – understand the world through that child’s eyes and help him or her achieve their fullest potential. In some countries, however, autism is much less understood and accepted, and there are far fewer resources for parents and children.

“Dealing with autistic children can be very stressful for parents, teachers, and the like. In Pakistani society, this is especially difficult, as most parents are reluctant to accept any form of unusual behavior on the part of their children,” says one teacher in Pakistan who helped one of her students develop over the course of a year without the parents ever telling her he was autistic. “They often won’t agree to consult the necessary specialists catering to the learning and training needs of children with developmental disorders. They fear that their child might be labeled as ‘special’ (a term also used in Pakistan for children with developmental disorders).

“By adopting this attitude, parents are setting themselves and their child up for sheer misery. They, in fact, are actually increasing the burden on their children by depriving them of the basic help they crucially need.”

The new research released this week proving stronger genetic links to autism than originally thought provides more information for parents in terms of genetic counseling.

Autism Speaks, one of the organizations that helped fund the study, recommends to parents that if they have an older child on the spectrum and are concerned about their infants, they should talk to their child’s pediatrician about the baby’s risk and have the child closely monitored. Any concerns about the child’s development should be voiced to the doctor immediately.

Autism Speaks also provides links to other helpful resources for parents:

* A one-page baby-toddler checklist can be used effectively as early as 12 months as an initial screen for autism and other developmental disorders. The screener is available here.

* The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at 18 months, using the M-CHAT toddler screener, available here.

* As a parent or caregiver, one of the most important things you can do is learn the early signs of autism and understand the developmental milestones your child should be reaching. You can see the Learn the Signs guidelines on the organization’s web site, here.

* Families with one or more children on the spectrum can contact their nearest “Baby Sibs” consortium researcher if they would like to participate in this important research. The list is on the Autism Speaks web site, here.

“By monitoring your infant closely and promptly beginning intervention if signs of autism appear, you can ensure that your child will have the best possible outcome,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, PhD.

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Category: Family, Parenting, Relationships

Sarah Maizes

About Sarah Maizes: Sarah Maizes is a former entertainment executive turned writer, stand-up comedian, founder of MommyLiteOnline.com, and author of Got Milf?: The Modern Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great, and Rocking A Minivan! Sarah is a [...]
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