Making Time to Just Be a MomLisa Quinones-Fontanez
Being an autism mom isn’t easy. There are too many hats to wear, and only one woman to wear them. I am: teacher, therapist, chef, chauffeur, caregiver, provider, money manager, secretary, social worker, translator and lawyer. You get the point.
But there’s one hat in particular I wish I could wear more often.
After Norrin was diagnosed with autism, we started working with an ABA therapist. Once a week, the therapist would give us homework. Nothing major, just activities for us to work on when she wasn’t around.
One of our assignments was to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear – three times a day. As a working mom, doing anything three times a day with my son was difficult. But I made the time. We woke up a few minutes earlier and I read Brown Bear at breakfast. When I came home from work, I read it before dinner. And at bedtime, I read it again.
But I wasn’t just reading the book, I was pointing at pictures. Taking his fingers and helping him point. Asking questions on each page and answering them myself because he didn’t have any language.
I was doing this three times a day, every day, for months. Months. The same book.
Now, I’m a reader and was reading to Norrin since he was in the womb. And after he was born, I loved rocking him to sleep with a good book. But suddenly, this assignment took our bonding time and turned it into work.
And since then, it’s been that way with everything else.
I have learned to be more than Norrin’s mom. And in almost every aspect of our life, I have to tailor it to autism. I have stay two steps ahead.
Before meeting with the school district, I brush up on the special education laws. And every year, I need to assess Norrin’s progress and make sure that his IEP goals make sense.
When out at the playground, I follow behind Norrin – prompting him to play or facilitating conversations.
There are always emails to send, someone to call and mountains of paperwork to fill out and file.
If Norrin has a melt down, I need to stop and think about what’s going on, what’s setting him off and how can I prevent it from happening again. And when he starts scripting, I need to stop and listen to figure out what he’s trying to say.
Sometimes I just want to be Norrin’s mom. Not his therapist. Sometimes, the mom hat is the only one I want to wear. I want to just read a book with him or play a game without thinking about pragmatic speech or functional play. I want to let him be, enjoy the moment with my son. I want to go where he leads.
So I read what he requests–even if I’m reading the same book three times in a row.
We watch silly cartoons out of pure enjoyment, regardless of educational value.
I push him on the swing rather than making him do it himself. Because I know a day will come when he’ll no longer need me to push.
I make time to let Norrin just be a kid. And I take time to just be his mom. Because I think Norrin deserves that time just as much as anything else.