Recently on Instagram, I invited my followers to ask me anything about autism homeschooling. I received a hearty response with many questions from curious parents. One autism mom asked if I could archive the questions and responses for reference. I thought that was an excellent idea, so I'm putting them into my blog.
This first post will be about the whys, and next week I'll start sharing all of the hows.
Some autism parents are satisfied or even pleased with their local school district's special education programs. That's excellent! An appropriate education from your local public school is such a blessing.
But it's more than just a blessing for those lucky enough to get it.
It's a legal requirement.
If you follow me on social media, you know I've been doing 80 Day Obsession, a workout program I'm streaming from Beachbody on Demand.
Today is Day 52 of the program, and to say it's been a challenge would be an understatement. The workout is a combination of cardio and strength moves designed to deliver dramatic results. In today's workout, I did 88 pushups and that was the easiest part. It's brutal!
But I'm about six months away from my 50th birthday, and because I've pushed my body further than I ever thought possible, I can proudly say that I'm the fittest, strongest and happiest I've ever been in my life.
However, until I started making serious modifications to the moves last week, my knees were not happy. Not amused or entertained and certainly not delighted. They were pissed the eff off.
They ached and they popped and the crunching noise they started making a few years ago when I climbed stairs had become disturbingly audible. Despite Google searches reassuring me that noise was nothing to worry about, I was still worried.
I've had sore knees and back pain as long as I can remember. I always blamed it on the rheumatoid arthritis attacks I had as a kid and figured my knees turned inward and I walked with my feet splayed out because my legs were just put together wrong. Bad genetics, I figured.
It turns out, the origin of both my back and knee pain probably are genetic. As in autism.
Something really amazing happened last Friday.
We went to a birthday party. There were a lot of kids, as you can see. (Tosh is top row right)
The party lasted three hours, he ate way too much candy and cookies and there was a bounce house and balloon fights. It was extremely stimulating.
And yet, for the first time ever, NOT ONCE did I hear somebody complain about his behavior. No Tosh pushed me, or Tosh took my toy, or Tosh won’t stop kissing me, or Tosh won't stop screaming.
Kids with autism need a lot of support and we give it to them. Behavioral therapy, speech therapy, OT, IEPs, special diets, sensory rooms, consistent routines ... we do so much for our children.
This autism parenting gig isn't easy, which means we also need more support than other parents.
We don't provide it for ourselves.
To be a happy, healthy and effective autism parent, you MUST put the right supports into place. A helpful spouse, helpful family and respite care are the most common support systems, but many parents don't have those things. Maybe you're a single mom like me with no family nearby. Or maybe you live in a state that doesn't offer respite care.
Here are three other things I do for myself that make my caregiving more efficient and effective so I can focus on my business, our health, Tosh's education and our happiness.
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 some painful experiences in your past, but the results are totally worth it.
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.
I don’t know about your family, but this has been a tough year for us so far when it comes to health. Both Tosh and I rarely get sick, but so far this year we’ve had a hard time shaking a flu bug that gave us bad coughs plus some stomach cramps and vomiting. As they say, it’s going around.
We know a lot about the immune system when it comes to fighting colds and flu, but did you know scientists believe our brains have an immune defense system that fights our attempts to make positive changes in our lives?
About two and a half years ago, when I was in a pretty dark place, I got into a fight with the guy I was dating.
I was feeling down and defeated. Autism was kicking my ass. Being a single mom was kicking my ass. My job was kicking my ass. Life was kicking my ass.
So naturally, I turned to my boyfriend for support and encouragement.
He did not respond as I had expected.
"You know what your real problem is? You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it," he said.
Last night, Kansas State beat the University of Kansas in basketball, and I'm still flying high over my alma mater's victory over our intrastate rival.
A sports reporter I follow on Twitter observed that although Kansas State fans are very insecure about the rivalry, Kansas fans lose their mind when we beat them.
Well of course they do, I thought. They expect to win, whereas we are the perennial underdogs and expect the loss.
If you attended a state college, you know exactly what I mean. Most states have a flagship university - in our case, the University of Kansas - and a more affordable and accessible state school system, which I attended. The flagship school, whether it's officially a flagship or just implied, is considered the more prestigious campus.
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!