Advice to parents of a three year old autistic son

So your son is three years old. Congratulations! Or, to be more precise, goodbye!

If your son is on the autism spectrum, but is high functioning, there's some good news. A high functionining autistic three year old boy isn't that much different from a non autistic three year old boy.

The bad news: having either one is like living with a lunatic midget with Tourrette's syndrome.

If you have an older daughter, like I do, you may think you are prepared for most of what is about to come. But you're not. At three years old, a daughter is kind of like Dory the forgetful fish in Finding Nemo, or Boo, the little girl in Monsters Inc.

Your son, on the other hand, is more like Wall-E the robot: constantly finding things and then crushing them to a pulp.

The next year or two is going to be challenging. Here is some advice on how to handle it:

There will be potty training. Oh god, there will be potty training

Boys tend to take longer to potty train than girls, especially when it comes to number two. Woe to those of you who have an older daughter, because you have been led into a tragic false sense of security. Things go easier with girls, and you're confidence is dangerously high, your expectations dangerously inflated. You're like the couple that books a cruise based on the brochure's picture of the state room; in reality, you get a packet of instant coffee in a long closet one deck above the bilge, looking out a porthole three inches below the waterline. Bon Voyage!

My only advice is, batten down the hatches. We all have to walk our own poopy pilgrimage. Which leads me to my second piece of advice:

Try to avoid public epiphanies

We all have to find ourselves on the losing end of wrongly timed realizations. Example: The time will come when you want to visit Ikea. Bad idea. Have you forgotten that the show floor is a rat maze and - let's face it - you have no idea where you are in that place?

Ikea manages to bend the rules of physics; it's mathematically impossible to make five consecutive left turns and still be heading in the same direction, but they do it all the time.

If you go to Ikea, you will have an epiphany. You will realize that you shouldn't take a constipated three year old with you on this journey through Ikea-space and Ikea-time. That's a good insight to have, if you had it before you left your house. But you had this insight only after you took him to Ikea, where you forgot to bring the diaper bag, things started happening just as you sat down to eat a hot dog, and oh god it was horrible just horrible.

Prepare yourself for one sided conversation

The potty training is one thing. There are also going to be the new conversations, which go something like this:

YOU: Stop that.
THE BOY: (no response)

And that's the entirety of every conversation you are going to have with your son for the next six months.

Think of the next year as preparation for when your parents start to lose their minds

Your time is now no longer yours. When your child wants your attention, he will simply take it. But don't make the mistake that he knows why he wants your attention. He has no idea.

YOU: (Nothing. You were doing nothing. You were just sitting there reading the newspaper)
THE BOY: (coming up behind you, standing one inch from your ear) unintelligible ear piercing screech
YOU: (spilling coffee everywhere, leaping from your seat, looking around in panic) What? What's wrong?
THE BOY: (looks around uncertain)
YOU: What? What?
THE BOY: (after a moment of deep thought) Have you seen my blanket?
YOU: It's in your left hand.

Learn to make a graceful, but quick exit

There is no better skill to master than the ability to quickly get away from your son.

There will come a time when your six year old daughter has extracted Gordon the Hamster from his cage and is carrying him around like Gollum with the Ring. She will burst into the bathroom where you and your wife are bathing your three year old son, she will yell out, ''Mommy look!' and throw Gordon at her, whereupon your wife will shriek like she has been attacked by a snake. Gordon will scurry behind the toilet, your daughter will jump up and down in ecstacy, your wife will simultaneously yell at her, at you, whilst flushing Gordon out with a toilet plunger, and all of this will prompt your three year old son to put down his rubber duck, stand up in the bathtub, bareballs naked, look around in stern consternation, assess the situation, and say, “What the f**k?”

At this point, you need to get out of there as quickly as you can because your wife has a plunger and will beat you over the head with it if you so much as let out a snicker, and God knows you're not going to be able to hold it in for very long.

Withhold your approval when necessary

Your child is going to try your patience once too many times, and you will lift him up, carry him to the time out chair, plop his sorry butt down, and you will wag your finger at him crossly.

He will glare at you. For the first time ever – and you have no idea where he picked this up – he will slowly raise his arm, point a finger at you, cock his thumb, and say “Bang, bang.”

Never mind that he has just shot you out of spite. Never mind that you have noticed that he not only shot you, but he shot you twice, just like a pro. Never mind that you may sleep with one eye open from here forward.

You need to keep a poker face because you are – let's face it – quite proud of him. Don't go there.

Don't think of this as a watershed moment in his cognitive development.

Don't think of this as the next plateau of understanding.

The second you do that is the second you are doomed; if he gets even the slightest whiff of your approval, he's going to be double tapping you and everyone else in the house for the next two months.

Give up

When all else is said and done, just give in to the pandemonium. In a few short years, you will look back on this and laugh. Or cry. You might still cry. But the important thing is that, in a few short years, you will look back on this.

So you got that to look forward to.

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