Autism is a horse of a different color

We must think outside the box to reach students and truly be there for them.

"I want someone to believe in my child's ability, to plan on their achievements and not their failures, and to scaffold an educational and social emotional curriculum that will foster hope, success, and the greatest of their possibilities; maybe not MY greatest desire for them, but THEIR greatest reach - no ceiling to lock them in to one level of growth and no cement to keep them stagnant in one place."

These are the words many parents struggle to say to therapists and teachers for fear of sounding too preachy or philosophical but what they whisper to each other and their loved ones in talking about who they want to be working with their children. Autism is a horse of a different color that needs educators to be flexible and willing to think outside the box. It is not a formulaic condition and it is not solved by numbers, medication, or one school of thought alone - acceptance and the ability to take each day and milestone as an adventure and opportunity is key to supporting individuals and  families with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) at their center.

Parents often feel like they are not the experts on their kids when a diagnosis is given - they may mourn for milestones they think are completely lost - they may be unrealistic but then again other things may take their place and bring new perspectives and growth within the family as a whole. They may be so hurt by not being able to understand their child's intentions, wants, or pains because they are nonverbal; they may be afraid of their children because of aggressive behaviors they do not understand the cause of or how to temper them - what they need is a team to advocate for them to feel ownership as parents and experts. They need translators to teach them the language their child DOES speak and they need to know that their child, no matter how impacted, is a whole person with feelings and thoughts dancing around within their minds and hearts. More importantly, educators and therapists MUST believe and respect the individuals they are working with. Often people want so much to support the family they forget the person they are TRULY working for is the child or adult with the developmental difference. The family is not the client - the individual is! This all to often is overlooked as caregivers may focus on what makes life easier for the family and NOT necesarily what is in the best interest of the individual with whom they are working. 

Many organizations advocate for early detection and intervention for children with Autism, tremendous amounts of money are put into the hope for cures and prevention while services are neglected or play second fiddle. Therapies, dayhab programs, long term planning and recreation opportunities for ADULTS with special needs need financial support and people working in them who truly believe that learning is a lifetime journey and does not end when the Board of Education stops paying. It is time for us to think big picture! Create a forum of advocacy that supports strength in individuals, families, and the community to learn greater acceptance and understanding of different communication styles, physical presentations (stimming, clothing, etc), and learning styles.

Ask of your teachers, therapists, art, drama, and music specialists, that they take on the challenge not only of a certain number of hours a week, data checking, and lesson plans, but excitement and hope and a real fire in the belly to know that they can help give your children the greatest of all possibilities and hope for a better tomorrow!

Why? Because every child can learn, and in fact, they often have quite a bit to teach us as well!

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