**Originally written 8/18/14
When this whole journey started with Chase and he began therapy with TEIS (around age two and a half) I put a lot of pressure on myself to do as much therapy on my own with him outside of school. I was constantly beating myself up, feeling like I could have done more that day; I should have done more. I hear these same feelings echoed from a lot of mom’s with children on the spectrum. We always feel like we could be doing MORE, always! And it can really beat you down emotionally.
Someone once made the comment to me, “Just be his mom, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself the be his therapist 24/7. He needs a mom first and foremost, more than a therapist.” And when I stopped and really thought about it, it was true. Yes, he may have learned to stack blocks faster if I had pushed harder, or he may have learned to play back-and-forth catch sooner if we had practiced more, but at the end of the day, I decided I just wanted to ENJOY my child. Life is too short and we were all exhausted and stressed out enough at that point in our journey. I didn’t want to always be “working” on something. I just wanted to play! To laugh! To hug and cuddle! And if I could work in some therapy strategies here and there, throughout the day, while we are playing and doing fun things, then great!
Once I took that pressure off myself I felt like I could breathe a little more. I felt like I actually enjoyed my child more and I think he felt the pressure on him lift as well. I’m not saying not to reinforce therapy strategies at home, but there has to be a balance. Now that Chase is in school half the day and in therapy every afternoon, it doesn’t leave much time to practice or do much therapy at home. So instead, I spend at lot of time emailing his therapists and teachers at school, to make sure they know what he’s working on in both places so that everyone is on the same page and there is consistency. We may spend meal time or bath time trying to work in some strategies, but I try to make it as fun an natural as possible. He’s only 4. He still needs time to be just a kid; and this is something I have to remind myself of often.
I get anxious to push and push and see results, but I know it will only hurt to push too hard. My one piece of advice, that was shared with me, is for any new moms or parents starting out on this journey, feeling like they have to do it all, remember that your child NEEDS YOU as a mom/parent first and foremost. The therapists will come and go, but you are the one constant cheerleader your child will have. The more you can praise and encourage your child and make them feel secure, the best chance they have at succeeding. And I think this is true of ALL children, not just children with Autism or special needs.