Olds: What it's like to live with a child who has autism

Here's a parent's first-person account of...well, parenting. It's old, but it still rings true.

This is an updated version of a post from EBD Blog that I originally published 27 April 2016. I still find it compelling. Thanks to the wonderful resources at the Internet Archive, I was able to retrieve it and post it here.—JohnL

Katherine Osnos Sanford, who blogs at KatherineSanford.com, published an article in the Washington Post 26 April 2016 under the headline, “Want to know what it’s really like to have a child with autism?” that provides an insightful glimpse into some of the thoughts of parents of young children with autism. In just over 1100 words, Ms. Sanford captures a lot. There’s Saturday morning errands, education issues, considerations about the future, and family visits with neighbors.

There’re also challenges. Dressing an eight-year old who uses diapers. Contending with a meltdown in a public place. 

My husband and I are at our local garden store, running errands on a typical Saturday, when Mae, our 8-year-old, becomes agitated. She quickly goes from bunny-hopping down the Azalea aisle — smile on her face, dimples on display — to growing fidgety and vaguely cranky to screaming and hitting herself. The sound is horrifying. Heads turn toward us.

Mae is wearing a bathing suit under her leggings, not because we have plans to go to the pool but because she still wears diapers and recently developed a habit of removing them — spandex and complicated straps slow her down. In this moment, she’s got rock-star hair: What’s usually a neat black pageboy is sticking up four inches, thanks to the way she compulsively rotates her head back and forth in bed as she falls asleep. Her beautiful long eyelashes now are plastered together with inconsolable tears — trying to intervene only ever makes it worse.

I don’t want to foist this on other people, and I want to protect my daughter. So I scoop her up — for now, at 48 pounds, she’s still light enough to carry — and take her back to the car, where I can strap her into her car seat, keep her from hurting herself and limit the sensory assault on her brain.

It occurs to me that it’s Autism Awareness month, and we’ve just hosted our own autism awareness event at the store.

Go read the entire article.

Meanwhile, I encourage readers with interests in parenting and children with autism to read Ms. Osnos’s posts. She has published many articles in the Post and elsewhere that are informative, and most are available at https://katherinesanford.com. She also has a book, Autism with HEART: A Guide for Parents with Newly Diagnosed Kids; surely you local, independent bookseller can find it for you if you tell the folks there that the ISBN-13 is 9781539783657.

This post is public, so feel free to share it with others who might find it helpful.