Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Things I've Learned Along the Way

Since I’ve entered this contest over at Circle of Moms I thought it would be prudent to poke around there a little and check out what the site has to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to see well organized forums where people are exchanging ideas without malice or condescension. People are open, genuine and respectful of each other. It’s kind of refreshing.

The forums are organized into groups, circles, based on common interests and circumstances. There are circles for military moms, foodie moms, moms of multiples and just about any other grouping or hobby you can imagine. I decided to look for a circle to join, somewhere to get my feet wet and do a little cyber mingling. I skipped over the pagan mom circles (for serious, they are there, too!) and found a couple of groups that are more my speed.

I joined a circle of Mommy Bloggers, Mommy Writers and another one for parents of kids with ASD. I started scrolling through posts and reading questions and comments. About half an hour into this exercise I was floored to discover that I know stuff. I know stuff about ASD! Don’t laugh; it was really a kind of revelation.

For all that we’ve been through, I still think of myself as a newbie at this ASD thing. I’m just a mom, not a university educated professional, what do I know? What I often fail to recognize is that I have had the privilege to work with some very creative educators and attend conferences and read books by some of the foremost experts in this field of study. I have street cred. in ASD because I am on the front lines, I am constantly studying my kid, trying to problem solve with him. I may not be an expert on ASD but I am an expert on my kid.

I guess I think that if I know something that surely everyone else in the world must know it to, but that does not seem to be the case. From reading those posts I can see that so many parents are in over their heads. They don’t even know where to begin to help their kid, they are drowning.

Hopefully this is a bit of a lifeline for someone out there. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way that have made all the difference …

1. Kids on The Spectrum, and a lot of adults with ASD, tend to respond to life out of a place of fear. The world is too bright, too loud and too fast for them. Everything is coming at them a million miles an hour, literally assaulting their senses so they panic. If you understand that they are afraid when they act out then it puts the whole situation in a different light. You wouldn’t punish a toddler for being afraid of the dark by locking them in a dark room; neither should you deal with a fearful kid with ASD by doing the very things they are afraid of.

2. Just because these kids cannot express emotion and often have difficulty recognizing emotion in others does not mean that they don’t have feelings. People of The Spectrum feel very deeply, they are happy, sad, angry, afraid, lonely and best of all, they love. Their outward expression of these emotions may look a little different from the norm but don’t, for one minute, dismiss the depth with which these kids feel.

3. For high functioning kids like Dude, the more straight forward information they have the better they are able to cope with life. We have found that having frank conversations where we lay everything out for Dude has saved us a world of headaches and stress. Information is power, that’s true, but information is also the biggest enemy of fear and confusion. Dude knows he has Aspergers, he knows what that means to him and he knows that he is normal, just a different kind of normal.

Most of all, remember that you child is a gift, has gifts and is here, on this planet, at this time for a purpose. He is not damaged goods, this is not something that is happening to you … this is just another of life’s many hurdles that you have to jump over. Jump, keep jumping … every leap gets you closer to unlocking more of the treasure that is your child.

****Please remember to head on over Circle of Moms and click on Vote for Random! Its the thumbs up button on the upper right hand side ... you can vote once a day every day until June 8. Thanks!****

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