Why “Autism Moms” Need to Stop Judging Each Other

Why “Autism Moms” Need to Stop Judging Each Other

It’s sad but I see moms in autism parent support groups judging each other all the time. Mom’s are judged for their child’s diet, or for making the choice to use medication. They’re judged for putting their child in ABA therapy, they’re judged for not putting them in therapy.

Can we all just acknowledge how wrong this is and stop?

We are already constantly judged by everyone else around us. This includes other moms, strangers, family members, and teachers. Their judgment is usually due to ignorance, so I can’t help but ask… what’s your excuse?

Autism Spectrum Disorder

If your child has autism, you should already know that autism is a spectrum disorder. It is an extremely broad, extremely diverse spectrum. When your child is diagnosed they are given a level, as described in the DSM V. These levels divide the spectrum up based on the level of support required. If this is new to you, you can read all the diagnostic criteria here.

The problem is that even within these levels the spectrum is broad and diverse. Since everyone has their own strengths and weakness, two children within the same “level” can still need different types of support.

Communication Challenges

Children with autism struggle with social skills and communication skills (verbal and non-verbal). These challenges can differ significantly. Some individuals do not speak at all. Some have exceptional vocabularies but struggle to interact with their peers.

We know communication skills vary as do how much children understand. A child could be completely non-verbal but understand everything you say, or verbal (even articulate), and understand nothing you say. It all depends on their expressive and receptive communication skills. Most individuals would fall somewhere in the middle-range (whatever that means), but again this is a broad spectrum.

To put this into perspective my son’s vocabulary is in the 99th percentile, but his receptive language is in the 7th percentile. He speaks extremely well and can have complex conversations, too. But doesn’t understand multi-step directives. Tasks need to be broken down into one or two-step segments and explained piece by piece for him.

Sensory Challenges

As”autism moms” we should also know that autistic children struggle with sensory processing. Did you know that 95% of children with autism have atypical sensory processing?

Sensory processing is also a spectrum.

There are 8 senses

  • Touch
  • Hearing
  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Proprioception
  • Vestibular
  • Interoception

“Atypical sensory processing” means that any (or all) of these senses could process sensory information either too much, too little, or incorrectly. Basically, an autistic child could have any combination of challenges within the 8 senses or have some within a “normal” range. If you do the math, there are over 2200 different possible combinations of atypical sensory processing.

Keeping that in mind, understand that it is nearly impossible for anyone to comprehend what this experience may be like for another individual.

Have you wrapped your head around all the possible differences there are between each child with ASD?

Co-morbidity

Now, also take into account that 75% of children with autism also have a co-morbid condition. The most common co-morbid conditions are

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • OCD
  • ODD
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Toileting disorders
  • Bipolar disorder

All of these conditions also come with their own set of symptoms and challenges, and their own type of treatment or management, whether that be medications, or therapy, or diet requirements, etc.

The reason why autism moms need to stop judging each others.

How can one autism mom judge another?

Now ask yourself – how can one autism mom judge another for how they support their child? You know the saying “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism”? It could not be truer.

I hope if you’re reading this, that the next time you are about to criticize someone’s choice to medicate, or not to medication , to use therapy or not use therapy, to let their kids eat hot dogs every day …whatever; that you remember this post. Remember how different that parent’s and child’s journey may be to yours.

Common Things Moms Judge Other Moms About

1. Nutrition

I’ve read comments from moms in support groups, telling other moms that if they eliminated certain things from their child’s diet that their issues wouldn’t exist anymore.

If a diet change worked for you, that’s wonderful. I am so happy for you that you have been able to get your child to eat good food and that they feel better because of it.

However, at the same time, there are other children who have severe oral-motor processing problems. They may refuse to eat almost everything. They may have extreme aversions to textures or flavors. There are mom’s who’ve literally had to get feeding tubes for their child in order to keep them alive.

So please, don’t judge a mother on what she feeds her child. We all want our kids to be fed. However, you can’t begin to understand what it’s like for someone else.

We are all on a different journey.

2. Medication

This is another subject that I frequently see autism moms judging each other over.

Do you medicate your child or not? What medication do you use?

There are autism moms who are completely against medication. If that’s you, and you use essential oils, or a sensory diet, or nutritional supplements, or some combination of those,  and it works for your family, that’s great!

That was your choice and I’m sure you did what was best for your child.

However, it doesn’t give you the right to judge the other mom who chooses to use medication. As I said, three-quarters of children with autism also have a co-morbid condition.  A child with a sleep disorder may need medication to help them sleep. A child with ADHD may need medication to help them focus on school.

There is no one size fits all. Even different medications work better or worse for different people with the same condition.

3. Therapy

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding ABA therapy.

A lot of autistic adults are speaking out that parts of ABA were literally painful for them (like being forced to make eye contact, or to stop stimming). Some report PTSD symptoms as a result of their ABA experiences. And trust me, we should listen to their experiences. We can learn more about autism from autistic adults than we can from any other source.

However, also remember that ABA has changed a lot over the past 20 years and that all ABA therapists are different, too.

Even therapists will agree that ABA is not for everybody. But for some children, they truly do need it.

The same is true for discrete trial, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. The best course of therapy is dependant upon the individuals’ unique needs, learning style, and personality. One person’s poor experience does not mean the same therapy won’t be life changing for another. It’s not fair to judge another parent for their choices in this matter.

Considering or using therapy now? We should never discredit the experiences of other autistic individuals. Check this list of 5 red flags to watch for in ABA therapy.

Let’s Support Each Other

Instead of judging, we all need to take a step back and support each other. We are all autism moms, we need to stick together.

We need to accept the differences our children have and understand that everyone’s challenges are unique. It’s hard enough at times to find someone who can relate to us, so let’s all be there for each other.

We are all doing our best for our kids, just sometimes what’s best is different for different people. I often write about ways to avoid meltdowns or make transitions easier. Do I expect them to help everybody? No, not at all. But it helped me and I know there may be someone out there who hasn’t tried what I’ve tried and will take away something positive from what I have to say.

However, I will never tell you that your way is wrong.

I challenge you to spread some extra love today. Take some time to show support for a fellow parent on this journey.

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