We are Not Alone (Kate Altman, M.S.)

My daughter is now three-months-old and she is a delight. She has also provided me with some of the most heart-wrenching, brain-numbing challenges I've ever experienced (like refusing to eat...for no medical reason!). I have noticed that each time I feel challenged, I desperately seek not only support but the sense that what I'm dealing with is "normal". I Google various combinations of words and contact each and every one of my "mom friends" whenever I encounter something I don't understand, in the hopes that I will find validation that what I am experiencing is standard. Somehow, it seems that if a textbook or web site provides an explanation for what is going on, then I can relax a bit, because the phenomenon is somehow validated (like, "Ah! Many three-month-olds refuse to eat while they are in the process of 'discovering the world...'").

My desire for validation of my daughter's experiences and behaviors has led me to reflect on working with families. So often, families would describe their child's behavior to me and ask if it was "normal" or ask for some developmental explanation of the behavior. Many times, these families weren't even looking for a solution necessarily--they could live with the issue if there was some explanation for it or if it was deemed a "typical" experience for their child's age/situation/diagnosis. I often just had to explain, "I've seen this before with other clients," and instantly the parent/s would visibly relax.

As a social species, I suppose it makes sense that we often simply want to feel that we are not alone, not completely out in left field all by ourselves. Even parents of kids with ASDs are comfortable accepting that their child's behavior is not "typical"--so long as it was at least "typical" for same-aged children on the spectrum. This strong desire to have a shared experience once again speaks to the importance of parents banding together and supporting one another. When you are feeling confused, overwhelmed, and worried about your child, the worst thing to feel is alone.