Your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Fears, concerns and confusion abound. Professionals provide differing opinions regarding your child’s prognosis. Friends, acquaintances, well meaning relatives and even strangers at the grocery store who do not have children on the spectrum yet claim to be specialists regarding autism appear to provide you with unsolicited advice. No one, not even your doctor or therapist has a crystal ball to assess what your child will and will not learn.
You may have been provided with a dire prognosis for your child. You may be told that autism is incurable and your child’s life will never live a fulfilling life. While I do believe autism is neither curable nor outgrown, this does not mean compensatory strategies, positive developmental and intellectual strides can occur.
Outgrown would infer that autism merely disappears as kids get older. Autism does not disappear. Due to neurological maturity as the child gets older and interventions the child can gain verbal, physical, emotional and basic living skills. Hence some individuals assume autism is outgrown when behavior diminishes, coping skills develop and skills are learned.
Your child can thrive beyond the dire predictions set forth by professionals. As a parent, you know more regarding your child’s needs and issues then anyone else. Never feel disempowered by the overwhelming task of bringing up children on the spectrum. You live with your child seven days a week. You get up with them when they are ill or anxious in the middle of the night. Parents see their children at their best and worst. Professionals may spend an hour or two at the most with your child. Believe in your child and they will believe in themselves.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate, cheerleader, nurse, chauffer and more. It is normal to be overwhelmed and feel as though others know more about your special needs children then you do. Empower yourself and remember that you are stronger and more capable then you think. Never underestimate your abilities.
How do I empower myself one may ask? Get educated on autism. Go to workshops; take a course on the topic of autism, read books. Be involved in your child’s therapy. Do not be afraid to provide input to your child’s treatment team and caretakers. When a concern arises, do not be afraid to speak up. Inquire about treatment options and alternate options when treatment seems to be stagnant.
I have seen many parents refer to themselves as “just a mom” or not a “professional. Parents have much to contribute to their child’s treatment team. Voice concerns regarding behaviors the team and caretakers may not see in the office. Mention a breakthrough made at home through an intervention that you devised for your child. Understand, you ARE part of the treatment team. You are the one who implements programs taught in the therapy room when the child is at home.
Remember that you are an expert regarding your child. You most likely know their triggers that are resultant in meltdowns and defiant behavior. Parents know what will produce positive results as well. Share this information with your child’s team. You will be a beneficial addition. There is no question. Trouble shooting between professionals and parents can be resultant in prevention of behaviors etc. that could set the child back. In my opinion, prevention is always the goal before remediation.
A lesson that took me many years to learn is accepting your child for who they are. Children on the spectrum are individuals just like typically developing children. Defining normal in regards to what normal is for your child versus what society dictates as normal is of the utmost importance.
Comparing our children to the neighbor little Johnny wo lives down the street or classmates will not encourage a child to succeed and reach the highest level of potential they were meant to reach. The only outcome will be a child who feels judged and unloved and a parent who feels incompetent.
Focus on your child’s successes not merely on what there deficits. If we are busy focusing on autistic child’s deficits, it will be impossible to notice their positive strides. What is normal for the neurotypical child will not be the same definition of normal that you or your child possesses. What is normal anyway? It is merely a set societal conviction. Example in point: what is normal in the U.S. would be considered abnormal behavior in other parts of the world.
Never give up hope. No one can predict what level of development your child will be at ten years from now. Children tend to surprise us regarding the strides they make. I personally worked with an 11 year old autistic boy. His parents were told he would never speak, be potty trained, or show emotions.
At age nine, this young man had no vocabulary whatsoever and wore diapers. At age ten, he suddenly attempted to use single words to ask for milk, T.V. and more. At age 11 he started using the toilet.
I was present the day he asked a question for the first time. “When brother be home”? His brother was away at college. Not only did this 11 year old ask when his brother would be home, but responded to his Mothers response by saying “I miss brother”. This is a boy that had a zero vocabulary until age nine! If this does not give one hope I do not know what will.
In my own case, I spent years visualizing my high functioning adult son on the spectrum would be friendless, not hold down a job, ever have a girl friend nor complete high school. At 26 I am proud to say he is finally making friends, has a college degree and is holding down a job. It took 26 years for this to occur. He did and is developing on his time frame not mine. Imagine the years I wasted worrying about what he would be like as an adult when I had no way to predict that at the time.
In order to provide your child with an optimum environment for growth remember that your involvement in the child’s treatment plan will prove to be the most important factor regarding their success. Never perceive yourself as useless. Assure that your child’s interests are built in to treatment. Make sure an area is available in your home for the child to express their individual needs and interests.
Join autism support groups and special needs parents groups. On those days when you feel like a failure, these groups will provide support that will remind you why you are actually a great parent. Perhaps parents could form a mother’s day out program as well so parents can get much needed respite to recharge.
In closing, remember that you have more skills, knowledge and strength then you realize. After all, look how far you and your child have come already.
Dare to hope!
I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9
Mari Nosal M.Ed. CECE