When it comes to providing help for parents who have children with autism, I like to share my experiences. If there’s any possibility that I can help other parents like you—I’m there. I am always willing to tell you what I’ve learned.
The way I look at it, there’s always a need for more autism help for parents.
Our twin boys were diagnosed with autism in 2003. They were three years old. My wife and I had incredibly mixed feelings. On one hand we were happy because we finally knew why our boys hadn’t spoke a word yet, and at the same time feeling completely helpless as neither of us knew anything about autism. If you’re a parent of a child—or children—with autism, you know what I mean.
You never forget that day. It’s just so difficult to hear the actual diagnosis. Your child is now described as “on the spectrum”. I actually had to hear it two times back to back.
But then, after you come to terms with your “new life” you know it’s time to get busy and begin your journey of parent/therapist and do your best to help your child live the best life possible.
We quickly decided that we were going to do everything possible to get our boys into mainstream school by the time they were ready for first grade.
It was a BIG goal at the time. You know what I mean if you’re working to get your child into mainstream classes. Or if you’ve already done so.
We’re so glad we set the goal, because our sons started in mainstream classes when they began kindergarten. It was their second time after one year of special ed kindergarten. And they’ve remained in mainstream classes since then. Now they’re in fifth grade.
Autism Help for Parents: 5 Steps We Took to Mainstream Our Twins
1. Get more involved with your child’s day-to-day routine. This step is not for everyone, I know. Probably not for every dad. At that time, I owned a mortgage brokerage. It was a very busy time for my business.
I made the big decision to give up my office and work from home. That way I could be involved in many more aspects of our boys’ therapy, than if I was at an office all day. Giving up my office was a hard decision. It made it harder to do my daily work, but I’m glad I did it.
I’m not saying that if you can work from home you should. It’s just what I felt I had to do. The benefits were that I was able to participate more often in the boys’ therapy sessions. I learned quite a bit from sitting in on those sessions. My wife did too, of course.
2. Understand what your child’s therapists do and why. I learned what each therapist and expert did. I made sure to understand why they did certain things during therapy sessions. My wife and I continued those actions after the therapist left. That’s a big recommendation. Make the time! You’ll be glad you did!
I talked to all of the experts, speech language pathologists (SLPs), and other therapists and educators. I asked them as many questions as I could. Why are you doing that? What should be the outcome of this part of my sons’ therapy? I learned a lot from the therapists.
3. Learn everything you can about autism. I learned everything I could about the autism diagnosis. I created a binder with all of the reference materials I found. The Internet wasn’t as helpful in 2003 as it is today. Today I would go to Google and find lots of helpful websites. I’d read about how children with autism can be helped on websites like Autism Speaks, the Autism Discussion Page on Facebook, and so many others.
But, as you can see from the photo below, I just researched as much as I could about autism. I collected lots of paper documents in a big binder so I could refer to them when I needed to understand something. (See photo of my binder.)
4. Focus your efforts with your child on the right behaviors between therapy sessions. Do this everyday. We worked the hardest on eliminating disruptive behaviors. Disruptive behaviors would prevent our sons from participating in the mainstream classroom. We continued the therapists’ activities between sessions. Often, you have to be your child’s therapist in addition to being the dad or mom. Not all of the time. But lots of the time. That’s the reality.
5. Identify the educators and administrators that are best for you to work with. My wife and I talked to lots of educators and therapists in our school district. We identified the people that were willing to help us work with our children. Then we transferred the kids to a school that was willing to give our twins with autism a shot in mainstream classes. We had to convince them to let them repeat kindergarten, something we’d heard was not possible…
I hope some of our experiences can help you. I am happy to answer your questions if I can. Please type your questions into the comments box below if you’d like.
When it comes to autism help for parents, we’re all in this community together. Thanks for stopping by and reading our blog.
In another post soon, I’ll talk about helping our boys with autism to make friends.
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