Tuesday’s With Autism: Think BIG Picture

MONDAY 11:55pm I’m officially five minutes ahead of schedule, folks. I have a sleeping four-year-old on my elbow, a snoring teenager making my eye twitch, but I’m ahead of schedule and I’m gloating, here and now **confetti throw**

In fact, this is the first time I have been ahead of schedule for the last few months. I recently took a new job as a Program Manager at a non-profit activity center for adults with additional needs. Last week, I would just stare at my phone in disbelief and set it down, like I was a time traveler from 1985 – I just couldn’t deal with the loud rectangle. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting into a groove.

I don’t want to play my hand too fast, but I LOVE my job. I have not only gained friends, but I have gained perspective, dance moves, checker skills, and personal, long-term mama goals. I hang out with an amazing group of adults – and it’s such a cliche – but while yes, I teach them, they also teach me.

Speaking of adults, let’s talk big picture plans – do you have a plan or are you an ostrich with your head in the sand? If you are an ostrich, it’s okay to admit it here and now, but you should game plan to morph into, say, a rhino, pretty quickly.  Are you charging towards your kiddo’s future? If not, why? Are you planning work skills? Money management? Independent living skills?

Listen, even if you are at the beginning of your journey and this feels IMPOSSIBLE, you need to PLAN to make your “impossible”, possible. It is easy to get caught in the cutesy-putesy childhood section of a diagnosis, but I’m gonna shock you with a little known (see: ostrich) fact – Childhood is 18-21yrs long. Adulthood is much, MUCH longer. In an “ideal” scenario, it continues long after you are alive.

Breathe folks, I am telling you this as a parent of a 14 year old that has been diagnosed for 10 years. I could not comprehend what I am personally saying even five years ago, it’s okay if you are not here yet…..just know you need to get here.

If you have started thinking of the post 18-21yr continuum, what skills are you working on? What are you including on your child’s IEP? What social skills and goals are you working on? Please sound off below or share on the FACEBOOK page – we learn from one another – let’s collaborate!

 

 

 

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Tuesdays’s With Autism: Following the Leader

I’m back!

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, and the winds are still whirling, but I wanted to be sure I caught this Tuesday to get back in the groove of things.

Between holidays, a new semester, my advocacy class, and Aiden’s birthday creeping up, I have been thinking a lot about his journey and how we have shaped him for adulthood. I wrote this piece for another venue, but I’ve decided to share it here. Happy New year!

When children show a knack or interest in a particular activity, parents tend to go above and beyond to help them thrive. If a child takes a liking to a soccer ball they get on Christmas, they are enrolled and on a team by spring. Say they have a penchant for drawing. Art classes abound! So why do we, as parents, hesitate to embrace the other things our kids with autism love: vacuums, desk lamps, and tape, oh my!

Your child’s passion is their strength. Use this as a map to help create meaningful short and long term goals. When we threw my son a birthday party at his favorite laundromat, we were sure our typical friends would shut us down. On the contrary, I have never seen such an inclusive community snapshot than being in the midst of washing machines and friends of all abilities. Laundry-related words have helped us kick start speech, challenging behavior, and sets our sights on a long-term goal my son has had for years: Washing Machine Fixing Guy. Recently, I was at our Capitol talking with a Senator who met with my son’s class earlier in the year to celebrate Autism Awareness Day. She told him she had a friend with an appliance repair shop and that he may be able to shadow a few days for some on-the-job training. We took his “silly obsession” as a toddler and have embraced it to the point that at nearly 14, he has an opportunity I would have never thought possible 10 years ago at diagnosis.


If your child uses a reward board or a token system, try using pictures of vacuums as you make your way to the desired reward. If you have an anxious child who enjoys the soothing glow of a desk lamp, write in a desk lamp for their desk during your next IEP meeting. A tape loving teen would be a valuable aide to the teacher always hanging up new things in their class. Heck, a LOT of clubs hang things up and down their school’s hallways! Find a club leader and explain the passion. Sure, some people will say no because let’s face it, we don’t live in an inclusive utopia. But Parents…some of them WI
LL say YES. That’s how you create change.

Every child deserves to be a thriving member of their community. One of the greatest barriers to an inclusivity is awareness. As parents, we want the world to embrace our child, but we need to remember that includes all of our child’s gifts, even the “quirky” ones. Start small and think big: you never know where you and your child’s puzzle-pieced road will go next.