By Dan Coulter
If you’re raising a child with autism or Asperger syndrome, you don’t have to go it alone.
I’ve met a lot of parents who are super-dedicated to their kids. Sometimes they feel they can only depend on themselves. This is more likely to happen if they run into roadblocks from schools, insurance companies or other organizations they had looked to for support.
Self reliance is important, but when dealing with the autism spectrum, I’ve seen overdoses of it result in anxiety, stress and burnout. One way to avoid these problems is to continually look for new sources of support. I was recently involved in a recognition program that allowed me to learn about a lot of special individuals who’ve made life better for people with autism or Asperger Syndrome and their families.
Let me share a few examples:
A mom in Missouri was concerned that the male teacher her son had been assigned for the third grade might be intimidating for a child with Asperger Syndrome who’d previously only had female teachers. The teacher turned out to be sensitive and understanding and made her son feel safer than anyone he’d worked with before.
Many moms and dads in Eastern North Carolina are better off because of an autism advocate who works in a TEACCH center, facilitates support groups, trains police officers and camp counselors about autism and tours schools to advocate for better services for kids with special needs. She understands these needs all the better because she has a son with autism.
Hundreds of families in Arizona have received information about Asperger Syndrome and encouragement because a mother of a son with AS started an extensive support group in her state. Through her intensive volunteer efforts, both families with new diagnoses and “veterans” have a trusted community they can look to for support.
A mom in Sydney, Australia credits the teacher of a high-functioning autism class with transforming her son from a depressed and isolated child to one who looks forward to school and takes pride in his work. This mother marveled that the teacher took such a comprehensive approach, helping her son with timetables, organization, school work and social issues.
In New Jersey, a school principal helped a family learn to “let go” of anxiety about their son with Asperger Syndrome by providing an atmosphere where whatever happens during the school day is treated calmly, fairly and with dignity.
In Wisconsin, an autism spectrum disorders consultant helped a family see that previous advice focusing on negative consequences increased their son’s sense of failure and isolation. By teaching the family about positive behavior supports and other helpful strategies, this consultant helped the son become more stable and social and focus on his talents and interests.
All of these families report dramatic improvements in their lives because of special people who provided them support. Some lucked into these encounters; others had to seek them out.
If your family hasn’t found the help you feel you need, keep looking. Support groups can be great networking sources. Many experts in autism and Asperger Syndrome are willing to visit informally after lectures and seminars and offer direction. Experienced counselors may have ideas that we’d never think of ourselves.
The more we look, the greater the chances we’ll find special people who can supercharge our lives for the better. Your family’s supercharger may be just a day or a phone call away.
About the Author: Dan Coulter is the producer of the DVDs “Understanding Brothers and Sisters with Asperger Syndrome” and “Understanding Brothers and Sisters on the Autism Spectrum.” You can read more articles on his website: coultervideo.com. ©
Dan Coulter 2008 (Revised 2014) All Rights Reserved Used by Permission