Tosh is making tremendous academic progress this year, and most of the credit goes to cooperation among his therapy and education providers.
Autism support services aren’t as effective when they’re served ala carte. Each service should dove tail the others and work together to achieve shared goals.
In particular, if your child receives outside ABA or other behavioral therapy, like RDI or sensory integration, these providers should work with your child’s teacher to address behavioral problems at school. At a minimum, someone from your ABA provider should attend IEP meetings to provide input regarding goals and how to address behavioral issues.
"Geez, lady, learn to control your kid!"
Oh, those rude, ignorant comments you always get from strangers whenever you take your autistic kiddo out in public. We've all been there.
Whether your tendency is to react with anger, embarrassment or tears, who wouldn't like to get to a place where those comments don't bother you one bit?
I've got a two-step process that can help you achieve that. It requires a healthy dose of empathy and the willingness to do a little deep diving into your soul, but the results are totally worth it.
1. Rude comments have absolutely nothing to do with you.
What comes out of peoples' mouths (yours included) is a reflection of how they feel about themselves on the inside. Judgmental people are telling the world they have a million faults. Intolerant people are telling the world how much they hate themselves. Sarcastic people or those who say something mean followed by, "just kidding," are telling the world they are passive aggressive and don't have the guts to say what they really think.
When someone says something mean about your kid or your parenting skills, what they're really doing is trying to convince themselves that they are a good parent. Chances are, that grumpy old man at the store who gave you a dirty look because your child let loose an autism shriek hasn't spoken to his kids in months. Maybe even years. It's Psychology 101 - we look for fault in others in an attempt to feel better about ourselves.
Look, everyone has experienced pain and trauma that has left lasting scars. Everyone is dealing with their own demons. The best response to people who are rude in public is to ignore them completely or give them a genuine smile, perhaps a quick apology like, "I'm sorry he startled you," and continue on your merry way.
Responding with anger, which most people tend to do (or want to do), will only make the rude person feel even worse about themselves, and they will in turn take that new pain out on someone else. You've only perpetuated a cycle of negativity in the world.
More importantly, your angry response will make you feel like shit because now you're in a bad mood. It will also affect your child, because kids with autism are little emotional sponges. If mom or dad is upset, they're upset. Then they'll act out because their upset, and you'll feel like a bad parent.
Remember, comments from complete strangers NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. This applies to friends and family members, too. It's all about them, a little peek into their injured souls. A little kindness, then a quick refocus on your family, is the way to go.
2. Find out why the opinions of others affect you emotionally
Before you can easily toss aside a stare or rude comment, you need to figure out why you even care what others think in the first place. I mean really, who gives a shit what a complete stranger thinks about you and your family? They don't know you. You'll never see them again. Why in the world would that even bother you?
The answer is because they are triggering a painful feeling you've been carrying around for most of your life. Maybe when you were a kid you got the message that nothing you do is ever good enough. Or perhaps your parents were very sensitive to what other people thought of their parenting skills and whenever you misbehaved in public, you were punished excessively.
Maybe you secretly think your child's autism is your fault and when people notice it, you feel ashamed. (I have a science-y cure for that, by the way)
Everybody has experienced trauma and been taught limiting beliefs about themselves. It's a part of being human. Like it or not, nearly all parents pass along the negative feelings they have about themselves and the fears they have about the world on to their children. It takes constant work to become aware of these things and break the cycle.
If you'd like some help diving into your triggers and figuring out what's holding you back, join my autism parent support group, The Cabana. We're finishing up an online course on silencing your negative thoughts, which are rooted in your subconscious, put there by parents, teachers and others who in many cases meant well, but screwed you up a little bit anyway.
Next month, we're going to learn how to not do the same to your kids.
And on Thursday in our exclusive Cabana Facebook group, we welcome a special guest: Family therapist and host of Autism Blueprint podcast Janeen Herskovitz. Janeen is also the mom of a severe, nonverbal young man so she's been there, too. She's going to talk about the emotional roadblocks that prevent autism parents from justifying time for their own self care. She'll also take questions from our audience!
Click on the LEARN MORE link below and join today so you can attend this life-changing event!
I'm a member of a special needs parenting group on Facebook, and last week another parent posted something that was so relatable.
She wrote that while she normally just scrolls past and ignores posts by parents of neurotypical kids, bragging about their achievements, there seem to be more of them lately. All the dance recitals, awards and other accomplishments and milestones made her want to scream for them to shut up already, and appreciate how lucky they are.
The response from the group was overwhelmingly supportive because we've all been there, right? Especially in the beginning. I remember back when Tosh was a toddler, and I'd see all the cute little Facebook videos of first words, the happy birthday song, preschool holiday programs and the comedy of three-year-olds playing soccer.
Tosh couldn't do any of that then, and still can't do most of it now.
Back it what I call my dark days, when he was about four years old, just one video of a toddler saying something cute was so painful, I would become crippled with depression for days.
I hadn't even gone public with his diagnosis. Only family and a few close friends knew.
Then I began noticing a friend's Facebook posts. Deborah, a friend from college, has three beautiful kids. Two are neurotypical and one, her middle son, has Down syndrome.
But here's the remarkable thing: if you knew nothing about neurotypical milestones or society's expectations for behavior, and just read her posts about her kids at face value, you'd never know that one has a disability.
There's equal bragging for all three kids. As it should be.
I remember one family vacation in which Deborah proudly posted that even though her son wore a pull-up for the plane ride, just in case, not only did he not need it, he even used the airplane bathroom! Airplane bathrooms are weird and intimidating for everyone (at least they are for me) and we've all had (or are still having) our potty training victories and defeats.
That post was so brave and so inspirational.
Deborah also posts about things that make her son unique that have nothing to do with Down syndrome. He loves rock music, just like his dad. He's also a fan of the movie Grease and loves to dress up as Danny Zuko and sing along to the soundtrack. And he's adorable as hell!
I don't think she realizes it, but Deborah became my special needs mom role model when I really needed one. Encouraged by her pride in her son, I revealed Tosh's diagnosis and began posting about his milestones, achievements and adorable, endearing moments. And I couldn't care less if they were age appropriate or not.
When I did that, something wonderful happened. I began getting comments on my posts and DMs from friends who also have special needs kids, but I had no idea because they didn't share that information on social media. But they began doing so because they drew strength and inspiration from me. Deborah lit a spark that has grown into a fire.
Not only that, but friends who don't have special needs kids have become our biggest supporters, loving and accepting Tosh just as he is and celebrating his milestones as enthusiastically as the gymnastics medals and honor rolls.
And really, isn't that what we all want? For our kids to be celebrated just like the others?
There's plenty of disability awareness out there, but so many posts are negative and focus on the struggles. They don't present the child as someone who can learn and grow, and be absolutely adorable doing it, just like other kids.
As a parent, you can do your part to take awareness one step further, and turn it into acceptance by bragging about your child's achievements regardless of their age or ability.
You'll also feel the joy of being a proud parent, which is your right.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!