Parenting autistic children can be quite stressful. Can cannabis use with your autistic child bridge the parenting gap? It might! Read how.
by Lori Gurtman | Follow her on Twitter @LoriGurtman
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Raising a child with autism spectrum disorder is challenging. Lacking social skills, autistic children have trouble relating to others. Many don’t make eye contact, can’t decipher non-verbal cues, often react negatively to physical contact, and have a hard time expressing their needs and emotions.
Undoubtedly, parents with autistic children experience tremendous stress and frustration that can take a toll on their mental well-being.
Marla, a friend of mine with a fifteen-year-old autistic daughter named Folbe, has shared with me how using cannabis minimizes her parental stress and serves as a powerful tool that enhances her relationship with Folbe.
When Marla is stoned, she slows down and connects better. Entering another dimension, Marla’s ego melts. Viewing her daughter from a different lens—one that is clear and light-filled, Marla is present, responsive, and patient. In this peaceful arena, she is no longer concerned with making Folbe follow societal norms. Instead, Marla gives Folbe the space to express her true self.
Marla thinks Folbe knows when her mother has been using cannabis because they communicate better on a subconscious level. With no boundaries and pressure to conform, Folbe gets to be the magnificent soul that she is, and Marla, with her mind relaxed, doesn’t need to interfere and force her daughter to adapt.
Observing Folbe while high, Marla gets a front-row seat into her daughter’s world. “Folbe is like a flower that blooms in front of my eyes,” Marla told me.
Folbe frequently listens to the same song over and over. Of course, this tends to be grating on one’s nerves, but after a hit of cannabis, Marla has a greater tolerance for songs on repeat. She hears the lyrics, the notes, the sounds of the instruments in a different way each time. The music speaks to her, flowing through every cell of her body, allowing her to become one with the song. Maybe this is how Folbe hears it, too.
Parenting autistic teenagers present a whole new set of issues, such as teaching them about their changing bodies, navigating their mood swings, asserting their independence safely, and encouraging them to maintain good hygiene. For a neurotypical teen, this is somewhat basic. For an autistic teen, it’s not—and in turn, this can add another level of anxiety on behalf of the parent and the child.
There are times when Marla’s patience wears thin as she works tirelessly to instruct and ensure that Folbe behaves in a socially acceptable manner. On those bleak days, Marla sometimes wants to give up on this parenting gig, asking herself, why me? The weed helps. A lot. It dulls the angst. It takes away self-pity. It’s a wake-up call, a reminder that her daughter isn’t a burden. She’s a beautiful, loving gift.
I’ve only met Folbe a handful of times. We attend the same synagogue, and I’ve observed her during high holiday services twirling in front of the quiet congregation, sometimes singing off-key, and sometimes making loud outbursts. I find her entertaining. And as I watch her, inside a sacred temple, with the radiant sunlight shining on her like a spotlight, I think to myself that she must be an angel who came here to teach us about self-love. Folbe doesn’t worry about what others think about her, and she’s not judging anyone. She’s carefree. pure love. and egoless.
Like Marla, I’m also a frequent cannabis user. I, too, enjoy the calming benefits. It allows me to feel a greater sense of connection to my higher self. Additionally, it sparks my creativity, particularly when I have writer’s block. Ideas come to me out of the blue, and when this happens, I pull out my phone and take notes, which I later use to complete writing projects. Marla mentioned that this happens to her as well. She often discovers new ways to interact with Folbe that only comes to her when she’s high.
Learning about how cannabis serves to enrich Marla’s bond with Folbe makes me wonder if we need to reevaluate how we interact and value every individual on the autistic spectrum. Spiritually enlightened, autistic children operate from a place where time ceases to exist, living in the present moment. Hearing and seeing the world not with their egos but with their hearts, they intuitively know who has good intentions and who doesn’t. Unfortunately, most neurotypical people get caught up worrying about tomorrow and how people perceive them and they lose sight of the big picture. Meanwhile, our autistic friends and family know how to move through life in a boundless orbit, guided by love. May we all find a way to be like them.