“My Autistic Child Makes Me Miserable” – The Google Search Results Series – Part 1
I’ve had it in mind to write articles based on Google search results for a while, and when I put in the word “autism” today, it came up with the usual, “Can it be cured?” “Is it genetic?” “Can they ever be normal?” Those answers have been covered so much by other autistic advocates, that I figured I can give them a skip. I wanted to dive deeper.
Well, deeper I went. I decided to search “my autistic child” instead. Yikes!! I mean, damn! The first result that came up was “my autistic child makes me miserable”. OK. I got this. I can write around this because it’s necessary and needed.
So, if you’re the parent who searched this, and my article popped up: Hello. I don’t hate you. YOU are actually the parent I’m trying to reach, and I’m not going to chew you out about your choice of search queries.
You’re frustrated, you’re scared, you’re angry, you’re sleep-deprived, you’re hurting, and I do understand. Maybe I don’t understand it from your perspective, but I do know what it’s like to go through all of these emotions because I’m the person on the other side of it; the autistic side.
I’m an adult autistic person. I’m your traumatized child all grown up with complex PTSD and OCD, and I want to help you both stop suffering so much.
So, Why Does Your Autistic Child Make You Miserable?
You’re miserable because you and your autistic child speak two different neurological languages, and it’s causing chronic and life-altering misunderstandings between you both on a daily, if not hourly basis. You’re not communicating, you’re clashing, and it’s hurting you both.
Misery Can Be Relieved Through Understanding
He or she is going to go on and on about how challenging things will be, how your child will never have a “normal” life, how your own life is about to be turned upside down, and how you can never die because your child will never have any type of independence.
Having a medical professional say things like this to you when your child is first diagnosed sets you up with the expectation of being miserable, and that can breed resentment that can then be easily picked up on by your child because us autistic folks are very attuned to change in a person’s energy toward us, even if you never say a word.
This misery can be relieved through understanding, though. There are books I highly recommend, and I will list them down below. I also advise following neurodivergent creators on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok (and I will include a few links to those creators, as well).
Understanding the way an autistic person’s brain works and the intentions and motivations behind our behavior is your first step to learning our language, which, in turn, can greatly improve your communication with your child.
- Being Literal
Autistic people are literal. It’s just the way our brains are wired. It can be really frustrating for a neurotypical person, who is used to using idioms, subtext, and roundabout ways of conveying information to get the true meaning of a message across to an autistic person, but it is also just as frustrating for us when you don’t speak plainly.
Also, autistic literalness is not an attempt to be a smart-ass. We truly don’t understand you. When you want an autistic person to do something, ask directly, no hints, no idioms, no subtext, just clear, concise language.
For example, “The garbage needs to be taken out” is not the same thing as “Take the garbage out.” It may sound like it to you, but one doesn’t make sense to us as a request because it’s not phrased as one, whereas the other does because it’s direct.
Always be direct.
- Sensory Overload
The world as it is, with its noise and lights and smells and textures, is an assault on our senses on a daily basis. These things make us miserable all day long, and, if we’re not able to regulate our sensory input, it can cause us to make everyone around us miserable.
That’s not our intent, but without the ability to regulate our emotions and the tools necessary to do so, going to school, a family member’s house, or to the grocery store can be as horrifying and traumatizing for us as swimming with sharks would be for you.
That’s why noise-canceling headphones, sensory aids, and compassion around the onslaught we face every day is critical to our (and your) improved mental stability.
Remember, sensory overload isn’t something we can turn off, and it’s not something we can help, but it is something we can regulate.
- Food Aversions
I hear the phrase “picky eater” used in conjunction with autistic sensory aversions a lot, and I don’t like it. Being a picky eater implies choice, maybe even snobbishness, and it sends the wrong message.
A food aversion is just that, an aversion. It’s a sensory assault. It’s not an attempt to be difficult or get our own way.
For example, if your autistic child pushes peas violently off his plate every time you serve them, he is communicating with you that he cannot stand them the way you would not be able to stand eating a live, slimy, wriggling insect. He is trying to stop the sensory assault that is driving his body into fight or flight.
When an autistic person is prevented from stimming, it can cause shutdowns and meltdowns, which are often misinterpreted as “willful” or “bad” behavior.
If your child is not allowed to stim to self-regulate, she will be absolutely miserable and, because she will be in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight, everyone around her will be, too, most likely because they are completely misinterpreting her intentions and needs.
Unless a stim is harmful, never stop an autistic person from doing it.
- Hitting/Destructive Behaviors
Hitting, biting, hair pulling, screaming, and other destructive behaviors can make the parents of an autistic child miserable. However, this is because the child is miserable.
If any child has come to the point where they are regularly performing these behaviors, they are in deep, deep distress. They’ve tried every other way they know how to communicate a need or a feeling, and it has gone entirely unheeded.
They are at their breaking point, and their overloaded brains, which are now locked into a state of fight-or-flight, can no longer regulate their emotions or movements.
Again, this behavior is not mean, manipulative, evil, or any other of the words that may be used to describe it; these are acts of sheer desperation, frustration, and terror.
This is why it’s so vitally important to understand how the autistic brain works by reading and watching content created by autistic creators, so you, as a parent, can intervene with the right skillset and tools before this type of destructive behavior becomes a pattern.
- Asking Questions
Your autistic child is going to ask you thousands of questions, and it’s never backtalk. Autistic people use questions for one sole purpose, and that’s to get answers.
We don’t engage in the social gymnastics that neurotypical society tends to, and when we are treated like that’s our intention when we are simply trying to understand how to navigate our world, it can cause serious and irreparable trauma.
Answer every question with love and patience, and understand that when you do, you’re bringing your autistic child one step closer to a state of equilibrium.
- Needing Familiarity and Sameness
Autistic people live in a world not designed for us, which makes everything uncertain, even in the best of times. Needing familiarity, sameness, and routine, is a hallmark of the autistic brain, but it is sometimes mistaken for inflexibility or not wanting to do or try something new. This is not the case.
The familiarity of eating the same foods, wearing the same clothes, watching the same TV shows, etc., offers us soothing predictability when everything else seems out of our control.
With routines we’ve memorized, we know what’s expected of us, we know what to do, and we know the outcome will be the same every single time, and that’s blissful when being autistic in a neurotypical world is like looking both ways before crossing the street and being hit by a plane.
- Being Clumsy
If you’re unfamiliar with the autistic tendency to have poor proprioception, you may mistakenly believe your autistic child knocked over your grandmother’s priceless vase in a purposeful attempt to make your life miserable, and you may punish him or her accordingly, which will result in lasting trauma.
Autistic people can be notoriously clumsy. I know I was and still am. Proprioception is the sense that tells you where your body is in relation to other objects, and many autistic people struggle with this sense. This can cause us to knock things over, run into things, cut or burn ourselves while cooking, and be absolutely terrible at sports, among other things.
Poor proprioception is not a purposeful act of destruction, and it should never be treated as such. If you have an autistic child (or any child, really) in the house, put the valuables and breakables away. Your child’s mental health will be much better for it.
- Learning Challenges
Learning challenges are very common in autistic people. Sometimes, this is due to a comorbid intellectual disability. However, I also believe these learning challenges can be the result of neurotypical people not teaching autistic people in the way we learn.
Thankfully, there are ways that you can help your autistic child learn, but you first must understand the way their brain works.
Living as an autistic person in a neurotypical world is anxiety-provoking, full stop. Literally, no other trauma has to happen to the autistic person for them to develop anxiety and/or PTSD.
That’s what it’s like for us every day. Miserable? I promise you we know this feeling very intimately, and we don’t want to suffer any more than you do.
Resources to Help You Better Understand Your Autistic Child
Want downloadable, PDF-format copies of these blog posts to print and use with your loved ones or small class? Click here to become a Patreon supporter!