My son depends on me. Like the rest of you who are parents of children on the spectrum, I play a vital role in my son’s life; advocating, understanding, adapting and helping him traverse and survive in the world as it is.  In spite of my son’s difficulty in expressing his love and appreciation in ways that I might typically recognize as love, I know my son loves me and depends on me.

For most children on the spectrum, there is one parent, the primary care giver, usually Mom (but sometimes dad) who acts in this role. They are the linchpin and lightning rod for the child. As the linchpin, this is the parent who is the anchor for the child, holding their world together and helping them navigate the difficulties they encounter. As a natural result of playing that role, this is the person who the child is most likely to look to for help, because this person represents the safest and easiest place to express themselves and their needs. Because the expression of those needs sometimes happens in an angry fit, that also makes us a lightning rod, attracting the worst behavior of the child. The connection between these two roles was so counter-intuitive to my social perspective that it was incredibly upsetting until I understood that linchpin and lightning rod go hand in hand in a relationship with a child on the spectrum. Before I understood how these concepts were related, I didn’t know why my son would treat me so badly at times.

The next time you are the lightning rod for a meltdown from your loved one with autism, remember that is also an expression of the safety they feel in your presence because you are his or her linchpin.