Is My ASD Parenting Style Toxic?

Parenting is challenging. Taking care of a child, while teaching him/her how to become the best version of themselves is tough. Now, parenting a child with autism takes things to the next level due to all the challenges that come with ASD diagnosis.

Children with autism cannot be raised like their neurotypical peers for they need specific attention to help them grow and blossom. 

ASD Toxic Parenting Styles

Although most parents have the best intentions when raising their children, it is important to know that when it comes to raising an ASD child,  many positive archetypes can be extremely toxic.

1.- The Helicopter Parent:  This particular type of parent has a tendency to look over every single thing the child does and tries to control them by all means. Helicopter parents are involved in all activities the child does and if possible they intervene to ease all tasks. This kind of parenting far from being positive can, in fact, become dangerous for children, as it steals their capacity to problem-solve and makes them extremely dependent. When it comes to children on the spectrum, it gets worse, for they need to learn by doing. Trying, succeeding, and even failing is necessary for a child’s development, especially for an ASD child because he/she learns pragmatically.

2.-The Relaxed Parent: Hands off parents believe that children must pursue their own interests and learn (somehow) on their own. Free-range parenting can be a good option if children are self-demanded and goal-oriented, however, for children in the autism spectrum, this could be a wrong option. Contrary to the helicopter parent, the relaxed parent expects the child to solve most of the things himself, and this is definitely not an option when it comes to autism. ASD children need to be oriented to engage with others, and guided to achieve their full potential, thus making the relaxed parenting style an inappropriate option.

3.-The Frenetic Parent: Frenetic parenting requires making the most out of every second of your child. They subscribe their children in all possible activities and are totally focused on helping their kids overachieve. If this parenting style is overwhelming to neurotypical children, imagine what it can be for autistic children. Autistic children need time to process, to learn, and even to develop. They understand things differently and at the same time, need space to practice what they have learned. This learning process requires more time and can definitely not be rushed by a tight schedule.

4.- The Permissive Parent: Permissive parents have really low expectations for their neurotypical child and almost zero for ASD children. This parenting style is characterized by having few rules and no structure, which can be vital for ASD children to function properly. Since they are raised with almost no standard, children raised by permissive parents tend to struggle with self-regulation and self-control. Autistic children require parents that teach them how to manage their emotions/actions properly, and certainly, this parenting style fails to do so. Additionally, since children know no boundaries the chances to experience tantrums and misbehaviors increase dramatically.

5.- The Overprotecting Parent: Most parents on the spectrum are “labeled” into this category. However, what most neurotypical parents might not understand is the fact that your child has different needs. Let’s start with some facts we can all agree upon:

-Your child needs more help than most other children. You will have more contact with teachers and school staff, more contact with medical providers, and more contact with therapists of all stripes.

-You will need to set up social opportunities and playdates and provide guidance during these events. You will need to do this longer than most other children will require.

-You will develop amazing skills related to anxiety and stress management, and you will be the touchstone for your child. You will be able to read and comfort your child better than anyone else. You have a necessary role in your child’s life.

-You may need to accompany your child to appointments for more years than other children require. You may be more hands-on as your child transitions to work/college/dating.

-You will change your parenting style over time. You know this. You already do this, but maybe don’t see it happening. But you do actually change how you parent.

You are sometimes criticized for your role in your child’s life. Others fail to understand what your child needs. And, if we are being honest, sometimes you “over parent” because not doing so results in meltdowns, high anxiety and stress, and some other things you are actively trying to avoid. So the answer is no, you are not overparenting your child as long as you know his/her limitations, and allow him/her to do what he/she is capable of.

Autistic parenting is a full-time job that requires all your efforts and resources. Know that no parent is perfect and no parenting style is flawless. Parents on the spectrum are under more pressure than most parents, which can lead to exhaustion and burn out. Parenting is a journey and if you feel tired or overwhelmed don’t hesitate and reach out for help. 

At WSCC, we offer support for autistic families and their children with stem cell therapy treatments that can transform autistic conditions by healing the gut, decreasing inflammation, and improving overall brain functioning. We also created an autistic community on Facebook that is destined to offer support and companionship for ASD parents and their families on their journey.

Remember, you are not alone!