Managing Burnout: My Tips for Autistic Mothers.
Accept help whenever you are offered.
Now is not the time for guilt or judging yourself. Think of it as the rule on aeroplane safety; you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can save others.
Beware the Google’d path.
Naturally, we can't get enough of subjects important to us. Now we have a tiny, mysterious person to look after and stuff is coming out of it that we find alarming. Or they've not cut a tooth yet. Or they looked iffy after too much sweet potato. And the siren of Google wants to lure you onto the rocks of panic, through the choppy waters of parental anxiety. Worrying has its place and only time teaches us (if we are fortunate) where to place it. Try sticking to trusted websites like the NHS, Baby Centre or The Bump. Forums and anecdotal advice are also tricky so use with caution.
Fight sensory with sensory.
Sensory play will benefit you and baby. Stick to comforts you like, browse Pinterest for inspiration and teach baby how to find a little bit of calm. Teaching is the best way to learn.
Plan, plan, plan!
You’re having to put yourself second a lot and it’s hard. But schedule regular ‘me time’ as part of your routines. Communicate your routine schedules with friends and family, so they can offer to help in advance.
Hub is one of a few free apps on App Store that allows you and chosen family members to sync schedules.
Use your stims.
Our wonderful brains create these for a reason, so stims are a great tool to release pressure throughout the day. Old, memorised nursery rhymes are mutually beneficial to you and baby. Ear defenders and a coffee in the garden while baby sleeps kept many meltdowns/shutdowns at bay for me.
Use your scripting.
There are many occasions that scripting (preparing for conversations in advance) is useful. It’s great to have pre-prepared phrases for situations where you feel uncomfortable with baby. If your Health Visitor doesn't know how to speak to autistic adults well, have a book title or reference ready. If someone offers unsolicited advice or touches your baby without asking, have a neutralising phrase prepped.
The National Autistic Society has cards available to buy on the NAS shop to hand out to explain autism if you want a 'get out of communication jail free card'.
When people see someone visibly trying to be left alone they'll pick up on that half the time and leave you alone. When you have a child with you, be they a shiny newborn or a tantruming toddler, all people see is the child, not you. Some will go out of their way to strike up conversations with you, touch your child's face, comment on their appearance and behaviour. This is a horrible invasion of our space to us and utterly normal and polite to them. Use a scripted phrase if possible, try to understand their intentions. If you can't, just walk away. Chances are you'll never see them again anyway!
Never be afraid to ask professionals.
Nobody knows your baby like you but allow people to get to know you both. Ask for second opinions or switch midwives, doctors, psychologists who can adapt to your new role as an autistic parent. Parent play groups can be great but for many of us they're too overwhelming.
There are alternatives if you don't have the spare brain power to ‘do people’. Social media is a great lifeline and Twitter is full of supportive autistic people. Facebook also has groups for autistic Mums, one by the lovely author and speaker Lana Grant (whose book is available on Amazon!)
Blogs are a great way to showcase writing or any other creative outlets you have. Here are some handy references: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/services-support-for-parents.aspx http://www.autism.org.uk/services/local.aspx https://www.babycentre.co.uk https://mamautistic.wordpress.com/ Thank you for reading! I wish you well on your journey as an awesomely autistic parent.