Don't Forget the Mothers of Autistic Children
When you think about Mother’s Day ideas, the first thought that often comes to mind is the easy road: a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, or a nice store-bought card with a touching, inspirational poem about mothers. However, the idea behind this fourth largest holiday of the year has grown beyond the focus of your own mother.
Today, many individuals have broadened the landscape to include sisters, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers, and even female friends in their shopping efforts. That’s where a mother of a child with autism comes in. In fact, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be a national holiday, he didn’t confine the celebration to just your own mother. He asked the nation to set aside Mother’s Day to honor all mothers.
With the latest statistics for the prevalence of autism now a staggering 1-in-50 children, according to the latest report released by the Center for Disease Control last month, autism is beginning to touch the lives of many individuals. If you know the mother of a child with autism, going the extra mile and doing something nice for her would make an excellent Mother’s Day idea. It would make a wonderful service project for a cub scout, boy scout, or girl scout troop, and a great family night activity to do with the kids.
But while most mothers of an autistic child would appreciate any of the traditional gestures, stereotype gifts and ideas do not address her special needs.
Mother’s of Autistic Children Receive Little Appreciation
The mother of a child with autism spends a lot of time and energy trying to help her child overcome the challenges that life has dealt to them, but she also receives little to no positive feedback or appreciation for the job that she does. Depending upon the degree of the disability or sensory malfunction, many mothers feel there’s no way they can take a break from their responsibilities, even to go out to dinner. Life for them is exhausting, lonely, and a constant battle.
Mothering an autistic child isn’t like a job where you can go on vacation to get away from the stress for a while. Autism touches and controls their lives every day. While some autistic children have the ability to create homemade gifts if someone guides their hand, abstract ideas and holiday symbols are difficult for them to understand.
Most autistic children have no clue what Mother’s Day is for, even when someone helps them make something special for mom. To them, a Mother’s Day card is something they made, but they don’t know why. That can be particularly heartbreaking for the parent that wishes to see some degree of response from their nonverbal or almost nonverbal child.
While dad can sometimes make up for the slack, he’s just as exhausted as mom is – if he even sticks around that long. Separation and divorce rates are not higher among the parents of autistic children, but when it does happen, it makes coping more difficult for both the mother and the child. Nothing is normal for these mothers, but you can make a difference in the life of one of these special individuals.
While you’re hunting around for a great Mother’s Day idea this year, why not expand your efforts and think about doing something nice for the mother of a child with autism?
What Would a Mom of a Child with Autism Really Want?
Many autistic parents find it essential to let go of their expectations regarding holidays, family gatherings, and presents. The dreams they had for themselves and their children totally dissolve when one or more children are diagnosed with autism. Because of that, they have learned how to accept and be grateful for whatever their child can do or give them, but that doesn’t remove the heartbreak or experiences they have to deal with due to the judgment and uncaring attitude of others.
What troubles them most isn't their child's behavior issues or stimming, but the gross lack of respect, appreciation, and awareness that they receive from others. And although most of the rejection and callousness consistently comes from people who don’t understand what it’s like to raise a child with autism, that does little to heal the pain and emotional upheaval they live through every day.
While they don’t expect you to show interest in all of the challenges and negative aspects involved in raising a special needs child, the most important gift you could give such a parent is a sincere lack of judgment – and a caring, helpful attitude.
Autism Every Day -- What is it Like?
Don't Give Mother's Day Gifts That Help Her Raise Her Child
What makes a good Mother’s Day present? Most moms would probably say, “Something unique or personal.” Yet when it comes to buying gifts for a parent of a child with autism, most people are tempted to give them something to help them raise their child.
Don’t do it.
The purpose of this special day is to celebrate motherhood, to show a mother how special she is. It’s about showing her that you love and appreciate the job she’s doing. It isn’t about giving her things that will help her do a better job. It’s about celebrating the job she’s already doing.
If you want to buy something that will help her raise her child that she otherwise couldn’t afford, that’s fine. There was a mother on an autism forum a couple of years ago that couldn’t afford to buy her child the weighted blanket he needed. Doing something like that would show a large nod of support. However, give that type of gift on a different day, so you can make Mother’s Day all about her.
The best Mother’s Day ideas will help to:
- lessen her stress
- comfort her fears
- give her a break from her daily routine
- pamper her
But the needs of her children are also important to keep in mind. While buying something that benefits the child should be saved for another occasion, the degree of her child’s disability, dietary restrictions, and available outside resources will determine the type of gift that’s best.
Best Gifts for Mothers of Children with Moderate Disabilities
Not everyone is as confined to the home as some of the mothers in the video are. For those who have grandparents or caring friends that are willing to babysit for a few hours, or belong to an autistic mother’s group where mothers babysit for each other, getting away for a few hours is entirely doable. Mother’s raising children with Asperger’s Syndrome or children with moderate disabilities may like a:
1. Gift certificate to go out to dinner
2. Tickets to the local movie theatre, or a play
3. Gift certificate for a manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage
4. Gift certificate for a hair appointment, or a complete makeover
5. Tickets to a theme park, or other place she’s been wanting to go
6. Gift certificate to a spa, or a religious retreat
7. Cooking, cake decorating, painting, or sewing class
Also keep her financial situation in mind. What might be commonplace for you, may be totally outside of her budget. Many autism therapies have to be paid for by the parents themselves. In the U.S., only behaviors that affect schoolwork are covered and funded by the school system. That often leaves little money for outside activities, hobbies, or personal pursuits.
Best Gifts for Mothers of Autistic Children Who Can’t Get Out
Just because mom doesn’t have a way to leave her autistic child, that doesn’t mean that gifts should be boring and commonplace. Try to think outside of the box. Most moms would love to receive a:
1. Makeup gift pack
2. Gift basket filled with travel-sized body care and beauty products
3. Handyman service certificate for a home project she’s been wanting to do
4. Recipe book of 30-minute dinners, or a gluten-free cookbook
5. Framed poem, plaque, or decorative letter that tells her she’s important
6. Bake a special dessert or complete meal once a month for a year
However, there’s nothing wrong with sneaking in a box of chocolates, a balloon that says Happy Mother’s Day, a nice card that tells her what a great job she’s doing, or a bouquet of flowers in addition to any of the above suggestions. Just make sure the gift makes her feel special, needed, and appreciated.
Mother’s Day Ideas Should Help Mom Feel Better About Herself
Gift ideas don’t have to be unusual or expensive, but they should zero in on helping the mother feel better about herself. Why? Because raising an autistic child often brings rude comments from strangers that cause many moms and dads to question their adequacy to raise a special needs child. Generally, these parents are stronger, assertive, and have it more together than many parents do, but they won’t know that if you don’t find a unique way of telling them.
The strides and accomplishments that are possible because of the efforts made by the parents of autistic children can be phenomenal. Take a look at the following video and see if you agree. While most parents didn’t choose their present situation, one mother and father did. They chose to adopt a little autistic boy, so they could love him and treat him as their own.