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  • Writer's pictureJenn

Blaming Ourselves as Parents of a Child on the Spectrum

Being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum can sometimes feel like you are riding an endless rollercoaster that is full of ups and downs and several loop-de-loops that can leave you feeling dizzy. One day, your child may do something that astounds you or your spouse, whether they say, "I love you" out loud after days of radio silence, have 100% pottying behaviors, try new food, have a great day at school, or perform a task independently. The frequency of these successes will vary depending on the child, but the commonality amongst parents is that feeling of utter joy. For parents like us, these moments of success and the feelings they evoke are almost equivalent to completing a marathon, winning a radio contest, or receiving accolades at work for a job well done. We, as parents, almost have a subconscious yearning for those days and may secretly chase after them or find ways to increase the likelihood of success. Who wouldn't want their child to do well on a day-to-day basis? For us, on days that our son seems well-regulated, follows one or two-step directions, does well in therapy, says a word or words aloud, plays with toys appropriately, or does well with potty training, my husband and I often exclaim, "We love days like today!"

Conversely, on other days, your child may have soiled their pants regularly or participated in maladaptive behaviors such as biting, kicking, head banging, screeching, or fecal smearing. Similarly, they may have not performed their best in therapy, failed to perform well in school, or even attempted to elope on an outing. Depending on the behavior, or lack thereof, these days may feel like the world is shattering around us or that we are losing our footing. Sometimes, it may be a case of one step forward and two steps back. Situations like these, unfortunately, may leave parents feeling utterly overwhelmed, lost, upset, or in a state of shock, not knowing what to do next. Tears may even arise out of sheer frustration or lack of direction. When our children display unwanted characteristics, behaviors, poor coping mechanisms, or a general lack of success, we may quickly blame ourselves as parents. We often run through that notorious inner monologue asking ourselves, "What did I do wrong?" or "Why didn't I pursue that therapy or medication?" or "Why am I not able to support my child better?" If we were to grade ourselves as parents during these difficult times, most of us would probably assign a "D-" or even an "F." This, more than likely, is our inner saboteur, rearing its ugly face forcing us to criticize even our best effort or intention. As parents of a spectrum or a neurotypical child, we constantly search for answers, causatives, or justification for our child's actions or reactions to the world, and it is easy to blame ourselves. Fortunately, report cards account for one's successes, failures, and everything in between every quarter rather than daily. Therefore, keeping this perspective at the forefront and considering everything we encounter daily is essential.

Being a parent of a child on the spectrum comes with absolutely no instruction, but remember that you are putting in the time, work, and leading with your heart to advocate for your child. You consistently put your best foot forward and pave the way for your child to have the best outcome. For those reasons, you are an ace of a parent and a gold star recipient. Please give yourself more credit, and know you are doing an excellent job, and your child will thank you for all your effort. Being a parent has many ups and downs. Regardless of whether your child is on the spectrum or is neurotypical if your heart is in the right place, then it will be a success story no matter what.

Parent blaming themself
Frustrated parent


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