You're not a Bad Parent, Your Kid Just Has it Rough
I spend a good deal of time on Facebook groups about autism, reading posts from parents and caregivers sharing experiences, venting, and asking advice. Often I read without commenting, because I don't have anything worthwhile to add, but I'm reading them all the same.
Every day I see posts from parents about challenging behaviors from their children. As I shared before in my article about Aggression, some of these include aggressive, or even violent behavior from their children.
It's heart-wrenching to read these accounts and the struggles that parents go through. Parents wonder why their child is like this, and what can be done about it.
Posts like this I have rarely commented on in the past, because I didn't know what to say. I didn't have advice on what to do about it. Now, I'm ready to at least offer something; to offer some insight as to why it may be happening.
While I'm not violent, I do struggle emotionally. I struggle with perfectionism, anxiety, and depression. I have thoughts in my head that tell me that I am not enough.
There was a time (during the 1970s and 80s) when the field of psychology said that autism was the result of bad parenting. And while I still see accounts where autism parents have been told this by people they know, it has been discredited by the professionals.
And if you'll bear with me a moment, I'll be sharing something that at first seems to support this debunked theory, but will lead into something entirely different.
In an excellent book I recently read, The Mind-Gut Connection by Dr. Emeran Mayer, it talks about how similar symptoms to the ones I have described above have been found in animals with negligent parents. With a negligent parent, you find children that are less emotionally stable, and can be prone to anxiety, depression, and fear.
Now to lead it in a different direction. Studies have found that oxytocin, the bonding hormone, tends to be low in autism. This can in part be caused by low vitamin D, which activates oxytocin. The low oxytocin would make it difficult to connect and interact socially.
Low magnesium also poses a challenge, because the body needs it to use oxytocin, as it helps the oxytocin receptor function. Low vitamin D leads to low magnesium, vitamin D is needed to magnesium absorption.
It is a theory of mine that an autistic child's difficulty in forming a social bond to their parents, due to low oxytocin, may mimic the trauma of negligent parenting.
Lack of oxytocin in autism resembles the effect of having a traumatic, neglected childhood.
All of this is hard for me to put out there, because it may be difficult to hear, and may be a controversial idea.
So, the theory from the 70s had a grain of truth in it. You're not a bad parent, but your autistic child's altered brain affects their lives as if you were a bad parent.
Happily all is not lost. There are ways to boost oxytocin. Giving vitamin D supplements can boost oxytocin, and have helped me better connect emotionally to my wife. Cuddling, pets, and listening to music are other ways to boost it.
If your child is older, the effects of the low oxytocin have already happened, and may be difficult to correct. If your child is young enough, early intervention may be able to make a difference.
And as always, if you're considering supplementing vitamin D, I recommend talking to your doctor about dosage.