Autism, The Eradicator: Caring for the Caregiver.


{Alida Valli / via Tumblr}

{Alida Valli / Photo: via Tumblr}

By Dr. Mary Chang.

One of the many surprises I discovered as a mom of a son on the Autism Spectrum is how quickly I was forced to prioritize my life and eradicate the drains.

Time and energy were simply too precious to waste on activities or individuals who sucked me dry. I had to focus on finding activities and individuals who would contribute to the circuit — i.e. the continuous circle of give and take that is needed in all relationships.

Weeding out the circuit-less moments of my life was painful. It meant saying goodbye to activities and individuals that society via the media was demanding I spend time and energy on. What, no girls night out? No parent/teacher conferences? No date nights?

Everyone was telling me that I had to take time for myself…I did. I went to the bathroom.

I had to get alone and reflect on exactly what I needed in my life, not what I was told I wanted or previously thought I needed in my life. There wasn’t enough time for me to have it all anymore. Autism waits for no one.

Mindfulness became the ever demanding discipline that I needed to practice.

But how? So many would-have’s, could-have’s, should-have’s to fill my mind. Every time I thought I was finally reaching a state of being fully in the present, something as silly as a slogan on a billboard along the highway would trigger a flood of memories about past events or worse, anxiety over all the  future dilemmas I was certain were on the horizon.

Yep…that’s all it takes. Some slogan that made me wonder about all the things I had no control over.

It was time to get in control. The only way I could accomplish this daunting task, especially in light of the ever present Autism looming ethereally, was to focus, focus, focus.

Okay, you are probably thinking this is so easy, just put your mind to it. Not really. Especially when you have serious drains that suck the totality of your mindfulnes so cleanly, so efficiently. Serious Drains can be defined as anything that everyone in the world does to keep up the illusion of sanity like keep time; my son with Autism simply deals with life without a need for clocks or calendars; therefore, I had to follow suit.

Learning to just say no didn’t apply to drugs. As a mom of a son with Autism, that slogan did not apply to abstinence any longer; it applied to fantasies of indulgence. That is not the answer.

Imagine my surprise when I read Yogi Bhajan’s wisdom:

“So please take away the ghost of your life and stop chasing round. Consolidate. Concentrate. Be you. And may all the peace and peaceful environments, prosperity approach you forever.” ~ Sat Nam

So true, so true. This could work!

We have been convinced that our lives are meaningless unless we spend every second of our waking hours multi-tasking. After all, they do it on television. What do you mean you are relaxing? You should be doing this, that, and the other thing. Uh no, I don’t.

A wise neurologist at Mayo Clinic who examined my son once asked me what I enjoyed doing.

I told him that I enjoyed taking care of my son. That is the right answer, isn’t it? No. He replied that it would destroy me if this was what I was going to focus on since my son could never respond in ways that would even remotely resemble appreciation.

Initially, I was appalled at what I interpreted as his suggestion of a life of selfishness, not self-sacrifice. How would my son be cured if I didn’t give him my full attention?

I threw caution to the wind and listened to this neurologist, not because I believed him, but because I just didn’t believe in myself.

Eventually, I came to realize that if I am happy, my son is happy.

So, one of the wonders of Autism that I will always be in awe of is how I developed a keen sense of reflection.

I have stopped being a ghost simply drifting through my days as vapor.

I am consciously mindful of time and energy in ways that contribute to the circuit. And I am conscious, also, of the fact that my peace and happiness matter, for both myself and my son.



Mary Chang In the early 1970’s, Mary first encountered individuals on the Autism Spectrum as a student at the University of Wisconsin. In 1990, the birth of her youngest son provided an opportunity to experience Autism up close and personal as his mother; he was formally diagnosed by the Western medical community with classic, severe autism in the early 1990’s. Through much exploration, she found yoga to be a strong tool for people on the Autistic Spectrum and founded Yoga and Autism to help others with the strategy that she finds most helpful in the long run. You can visit her blog and join her on Facebook.

{Care for yourself.}



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Rebelle Society

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  • linda buzogany commented on September 4, 2013 Reply
    Hello, I can certainly relate to your message as a mom of a son with Type 1 diabetes. Very much a 180 in my lifestyle after a few years of it. And I went to UW also! Best to your fam.
  • cerulean blue commented on September 4, 2013 Reply
    thank you
  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on September 5, 2013 Reply
    It is so very important that we remember to put on our oxygen masks first, especially in the case of parenting special needs children. Bravo on such an important message. Thank you. More please!

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