Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Autism Awareness

Happy Autism Awareness Month!

April is the month of new beginnings. Flowers begin to bud, a resurrection is celebrated, rainy days begin the harvest, daylight grows longer, and a renewed sense of energy seems to flow through. It is only fitting that this same month dedicates itself to raising awareness for autism, compassion and hope for new beginnings to every family afflicted or those who may become.

Personally, this is a month of responsibilty. A responsibility that involves doing whatever it takes to educate, assist, and involve my family, friends, and community in understanding autism. I am excited to begin by participating in diversity day, appropriately held on April 2nd (World Autism Awareness Day), at my son's elementary school. Stations will be set up to simulate the difficulties a peer with a disability may encounter (during daily tasks that are typically easy for most of us). I will be demonstrating at the fine motor station where the children will actually be given the opportunity to experience the frustrations and difficulties of a disabled peer. It is a reminder to us all that awareness can begin at the any age. The benefits these youngsters receive in understanding their friends produces an empathy that will encourage friendships to be made, to strengthen or to grow. The time to make an impression is when minds are impressionable.

Check back often, I hope to post (often) with personal experiences and triumphs, awareness suggestions, and facts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Autism: Team Meetings

Well, it took me a little while to figure out how to "work" team meetings. I have never felt that adversity is the route to take in motivating others to take action. Since September, I entered each team meeting with encouragement, optimism, and the intention to help the team of therpists and teachers working with my son. Initially, I was met with an energy and openess from each that I felt would positively impact my child's progress.
Over the past 6 months, we have had concerns. At first, it seemed that we were heard. Then I began to realize the inadequacies and my gut feeling telling me that, despite what everyone was saying at the team meetings, my son was not receiving the most out of all his time at school. We hired an educational consultant/advocate to observe him in school. I was hoping that I was just an overbearing parent and that these people...this team of professionals, would do what is best for him. They would just inherently do this...if only because he is a child, right? How could anyone turn a blind eye on a child? Apparently, the politics (between administration and teachers/therapists) at school takes presedence over meeting a child's true potential. No one wants to speak up for fear of ruffling the administrative feathers.
I was correct about the problem in my son's program and meet with the team tomorrow (along with our educational consultant). It is disappointing because we, as parents, have communicated our concerns repeatedly on this very issue(negative peer model), only to have the school tell us they see no problem. We wanted to work as a team to accomplish what we need to....which is to allow my son to reach his potential. The lessons I've learned:
1.) If you want change to happen (in your child's program), you need to hire outside help. The school district wants parents to "trust" them in their cookie cutter approach to handling special needs children. They will work with you, but truly won't listen unless you make waves. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
2.) You will never get more if you don't ask. You must do your due diligence and research, research, research. I would begin at the local advocacy organization and network with other parents to find out what they have. If you don't know what to ask for, you will never be able to get it.
3.) You must give appropriate time to the teacher and any new therapists, but determine how much time is appropriate. I think I waited a tad too long. I think the first 2-3 months of the school year, should be enough time for transition and the beginnings of progression and child/teacher or therapist connection. If your child isn't connecting with his/her therapists, you need to ask why. Therapy may be hampered with a void in that relationship.

I'll let you know how it goes.