On Mother's Day from Dr. Bradstreet's blog www.drbradstreet.org

A Mother’s Day Reminder about Autism
Dr Bradstreet | May 8, 2011

This may be painful for many of you to read, but we all somehow have to find the courage to wake up our societies to the great harm befalling our children. Over the years I have been caring for children with autism I have grown in respect for the power of the Mother. We in the US see nearly 2% of our boys and one in 250 girls with autism, and we observe similar perhaps even worse rates of autism in the UK, Europe, Asia and throughout the remainder of the World.

This horrible statistic also means this “Mother’s Day” brings mixed emotions to millions of mothers around the globe. Women think about their children’s lives even before they are pregnant. They imagine the special events and the joys they will share with their children. Now for far too many women the joys of motherhood are overcome by worries and fears. Autism presents with variable symptoms and severities, but at its core it steals social interactions and communication. Those are the very things every mother longs for from her children.

I am a father, yet as much as I try I am sure I can never feel the same pain and fear a mother feels when she first learns her child has autism. Nor can I ever fully understand what a mother experiences each day when her child shuns her hugs and affection. My heart breaks so often over the children I meet, that I too need to dig down deep to find the courage and strength to never give up. But within all these trials and sufferings, I have witnessed the most amazing testimonies to love offered daily and consistently by the incredible mothers and grandmothers I’ve met along this path.

A lot of people have applied their version of an acronym to MOTHER but let me offer this sincerely and from my heart.

M – managers: Mothers usually manage the household, which means they manage the nutrition and medical care of their children. Even with healthy children that is a tough job. But with autism we doctors ask you to change the diet, give bunches of supplements or medications (often these are met with serious resistance from the child) and then we add on managing a behavior therapy home program. Amazingly you mothers do it all, but often it takes it toll and wears you done. When progress is slow or worse during those all to common temporary setbacks, its easy to become depressed. I get that, so within all of this managerial effort PLEASE take time to nurture yourself and care for your own soul.

O – organizers: You can only manage effectively when you are organized. Some of you moms excel at this, and it helps in the care of autism. And with a little effort at organization on the front end, a lot of effort can be spared later on. Here are some tips: 1) learn to use Excel or some similar electronic spreadsheet if you don’t know – set up the schedule of therapies, food and supplements. It is then easy to change and track. If that’s not within your universe, try to use note cards like you did in school (5x7 works best). Lastly, try a marker board in the kitchen where everyone can see the plan for the day.

T – teacher/therapists: For most of you moms there is a huge shortfall in both government and insurance benefits to take care of all the financial needs your child has. This means you have to make up that gap with your own efforts. But even in the best funded situations, you as a parent have to reinforce and be consistent with the team’s plan. That means you have to learn about behavioral and sensory integration therapies, and many of you moms take that on in stride. You also teach after the teachers teach. You work to teach language even when there is none. You teach simple skills (like using the toilet) over and over even when you think your child will never get out of diapers, nappies or pull-ups. And I am eternally thankful for all wisdom you moms have taught me.

H – heart: I have to laugh in disbelief that anyone ever thought autism was rooted in “refrigerator” mothers. Nonsense. I have met so many mothers with so much heart for their children it is remarkable. Everything you do flows from your heart for your children.

E – endurance: Most of the mom’s I know have their dark moments of despair where they are tempted to give up, but they just work through it and simply never quit. Blessings flow from the persistence you apply to this battle.

R – researchers: It still amazes me how much effort you all apply to researching treatment and therapy options. Research is my background so it is natural for me, but for you moms – wow – you often lead the medical establishment in your insights into this problem. You have earned my respect and admiration.

So for all you do for your children and for all you have shown me – thank you.