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A Parent's Journey of Connection and Growth with Autism

Parenting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a profound experience, filled with both joys and challenges. To better understand and support our children, it can be helpful to view autism through a lens that reflects our everyday interactions. Symbolic interactionism, a sociological theory by George Herbert Mead, offers a perspective that resonates with the nuances of parenting a child with autism.

Think of communication as a complex dance of symbols—words, gestures, and expressions—that we use to convey thoughts and feelings. For a child with autism, this dance may be unfamiliar or difficult to follow. They might struggle to interpret nonverbal cues, making social interactions challenging. As parents, we can strive to communicate clearly and patiently, understanding that our children may need more direct or explicit communication.

Repetitive behaviors and intense interests, common in autism, can be seen as ways for our children to create order and predictability in their world. These behaviors are like familiar rhythms in a song, bringing comfort and stability amidst the uncertainties of daily life. By recognizing and respecting these behaviors, we can better connect with our children and appreciate their unique perspectives.

Mead also discussed the concept of the "looking-glass self," which suggests that our self-concept is shaped by how we believe others perceive us. For children with autism, understanding social cues and forming a sense of self can be challenging. As parents, we can support our children by creating a safe and accepting environment where they can explore their identity without fear of judgment.

In conclusion, viewing autism through the framework of symbolic interactionism can deepen our understanding and empathy for our children. It encourages us to see the world through their eyes, to communicate in ways that resonate with them, and to celebrate the richness they bring to our lives. As parents, we are on a journey of connection and growth, learning from our children as much as we teach them.

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