Recently a friend asked me how things are going with my daughter and instead of my usual, “everything’s great!” response, I answered honestly:
“I can’t stop thinking about her toenails.”
It’s true. Every time I cut my daughter’s toenails I can’t help but wonder who will do this for her after I can’t any longer. Will they be gentle? Will they be kind? Will she be able to sit still? Will she thank them (verbally or otherwise)? Will they be willing to do it again?
Like so many parents raising kids who will likely require extra care into adulthood, I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night, panicking about her future. These are the thoughts that run through my mind.
Sometimes there’s a backlash from people who complain that some parents raising children with autism are trying to “change” them by “training” them to be different. I’d argue that I work hard to arm my child with skills to be able to not only advocate for herself but also to take care of herself. Sometimes that means teaching her self care skills, and sometimes those are taught through drills- because sometimes that’s the only way she can learn. Other times that means expecting her to behave a certain way. I demand politeness and respect for others. If for no other reason, it’s because I really want whomever will be cutting her toenails to do it in a kind, loving, and gentle manner.
It’s a fact of life that “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Kindness breeds kindness and respect does the same. I feel strongly that teaching my child to be kind and polite will go a long way toward encouraging others to treat her with the same kindness. At 11 years old, we’re working on life skills like dressing and bathing, and certain parts of personal hygiene. We’ll keep working at these things, but will she require help with them her whole life? Maybe. I don’t know, but I hope every day that whoever is there to help her once I’m no longer able to will be kind and respectful, and most of all, gentle.