To honour April as the Autism Awareness month I want to share my thoughts about raising a bilingual child who is on the autism spectrum.
First of all, I do not regret raising my daughter bilingual. I do not think she struggles with two languages or she can not cope to switch between two languages.
We started our bilingual journey before she was diagnosed. We have to think outside of the box to cater for her interests sometimes, but this would be necessary for monolingual or bilingual upbringing anyway.
She taught me to communicate more clearly, give more precise instructions and think about how we use our languages in general – but is that really bad?
She sees the world in a unique, quirky way and sometimes I wish I would understand her world better. I keep trying and that is really all she is asking for.
The memory my daughter has is amazing and frightening at the same times. This makes communication sometimes difficult as I have no idea what she is talking about half the time because I forgot long ago that we talked about certain things or we owned specific items (e.g. goodies out of a magazine).
To be honest I was dreading the shutdown, but it surprised me how well my daughter is coping. She is much calmer, has fewer meltdowns and in generally happier. She loves nursery but all the stress which comes with it (getting dressed, doing her hair, getting out of the house when she is not quite ready) makes the afternoons difficult and not pleasant for her.
I enjoy the calmer atmosphere at the moment and happy to see her growing confident in both languages.
Every parent will admit that raising children is not easy sometimes and we all have days where we quite happily would take a day’s holiday from this parenting lark, or the mummy/daddy guilt. Special-needs parents, I dare say, experience it even more so, but I would not change it for anything.
This is the 13th awareness/acceptance day/month and I wish people would stop judging too quickly and stop picturing an “autism child”. Every child is different – on the spectrum or not. It is a hidden disability, so there is no particular look. Those children are amazing in their very own way – if we give them a chance to show us. So please can we stop being too judgmental and make parenting a bit easier.