Navigating Neurodivergence When Friends Don't “Get” Autism

Hi Moms! I am what you might call a late bloomer. I went to college and grad school then dove head first into my practice. I was married to my work for years. 

I have many life-long friends. Some chose to get married and have children right away. 

By the time I slowed down, married, and had my child, their kids were graduating from high school. 

I remember what it was like when we got a minute to catch up on the phone and they were constantly interrupted. Everyone wanted a piece of mom. 

I didn’t fully understand that then, but I do now that I’m a mom. So, why am I telling you this? 

I didn’t get it initially because I had never had that experience. How many times have you looked back and realized you didn’t fully understand a situation?

We have all had those moments. So shouldn’t we show some grace to those who didn’t fully understand what we were experiencing at the time?

Is it possible to deal with misunderstandings and maintain our friendships with those who do not get autism?

In this episode, I explore navigating isolation, those awkward moments, and when others don’t understand autism. 

Find the full transcript for this episode at https://thrivingmomsofautistics.com/84

Please share the podcast with other moms to help them grow in their autism journey. You can also do this by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. I appreciate you!

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Why Do Some People Struggle with Understanding a Mom’s Autism Journey and Can That Be Changed?

Moms of autistic children often report feeling isolated, especially in the beginning. It is challenging for many reasons. Others don’t understand why you handle situations with your child differently or why your child requires different parenting strategies. 

For example, spanking my child would increase the behaviors because he is sensory seeking. Many neurotypicals don’t get that.

As human beings, we mentally organize information that we know about the world based on our experiences. These are known as schemas, which help us interpret new information. 

As human beings, we can learn and adapt to new information. Unfortunately, we try to fit new information into our existing schemas, which leads to misunderstanding when it doesn’t fit as we think it should.  

Can we learn to understand the challenges of others? Of course we can! We learn by watching others as they experience challenges when we are open to it and when we move beyond our existing schemas.

I struggled with all the interruptions when I was trying to catch up with my long-time friends. 

My journey was different from theirs, but I genuinely wanted to know how they were doing and how I could support them.

Having children at that time was completely foreign to me. But I had great empathy for others, and that bridged the gap between my experiences and the experiences of others. I wanted to view the world through their lens to better understand their perspective. 

Just because someone doesn’t get autism at this time doesn’t mean that they won’t learn. So how do you build your supportive community in the meantime?

I still have those life-long friends. They are as supportive as they can be. Now, will there be some that take their lack of understanding to a toxic level? 

Absolutely! I no longer surround myself with those people. 

Achieving the Goal of Gaining a Supportive Community for Autism Moms

The goal is to build a healthy, supportive community that you can count on during challenges and celebrate the victories with. 

I’ve left mom groups and changed pediatricians because they don’t understand autism. 

They were toxic and I don’t have time for that. I refuse to subject my son to that. He has enough challenges.

Now I have a couple of family members, who don’t understand autism and create a lot of chaos, but I don’t see them often and when I do, I set very firm boundaries. They know I mean what I say and follow through.

So what does your supportive community look like? Mine includes life-long friends and family that do their best to support us and several people who get my autism journey. 

There was a time where I didn’t have this. I’ve been very open about how we were at rock bottom when we realized we could no longer do it on our own. 

Having others who show up for playdates, sensory meltdowns, & stressful meetings has changed our world. And our son feels so loved and has friends. 

In the next week, consider what your support system looks like.

We no longer hear insensitive comments about meltdowns or deal with cancellations. Now none of us are perfect, of course. But we are a blessing to one another and I am so thankful for them. 

3 Tips for Bridging the Gap While Developing Your Autism Support System

  1. Communicate! Clearly communicate your child’s sensory needs, strengths, and challenges.
  2. Include others! Allow others to experience your autism journey. Give them a chance to learn if they are not toxic.
  3. Set boundaries!

You may not have control over what others think and how they behave, but you do have control over who you include in your community of support. 

Do you need help developing your supportive community? I help moms do just that in my Thrive VIP Program! Check that out at https://thrivingmomsofautistics.com/work-with-christina/

I hope this helped today!

I look forward to our time together next week!