Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Positive change over time

Many parents talked about the ways in which their children changed over time. Some parents of grown up children remarked that their children’s achievements far exceeded their expectations. For example a 19-year-old girl, diagnosed with autism when she was five, had gone through school, done some GCSE’s and three years at a college of further education. Her parents could go to a nearby pub for about an hour and leave their daughter at home watching a DVD. Parents talked about their children becoming calmer and less fearful as they grew older.

Some parents linked this to the development of their children’s understanding and improved concentration so that they could explain things to their children or prepare them more effectively for change. One parent commented: “he understands the word ‘no’ now” and this had led to fewer tantrums.
One mother was delighted that her sons had started fighting because that was “a normal thing to do” while another couple talked about how they were less worried about going out now because of their son was less likely to “make a fuss”. These improvements were sometimes linked to particular changes in the children’s lives such as changing schools, being removed from school, starting at a residential school, moving to a different village, or having some form of therapy (see ‘Types of schooling’, ‘Therapies’, ‘Medical and dietary interventions’). Parents noticed visible improvements when their children were in settings more appropriate for them.
Some parents also felt that they had changed in the ways in which they viewed their children and in the way they approached things like going out. As one mother said; “at the end of the day, they are just your kids and you kind of get used to the fact that it’s not as bad as that”. Another mother said “nothing is as bad as you fear.” A few parents of older children reflected on how scientific and social understanding of autism had improved over the years which in turn made individual improvements more possible.
While challenges remained, the interviews with parents showed that their children had experienced positive changes in their lives over time. They had learned different communication and social skills, and begun to sleep for longer. Parents had also learned to deal with things differently as they adapted and adjusted to living with autism. Some of these issues are discussed further in ‘Messages to parents.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated November 2010.

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