Autism- Finding Our Place in Society

J running at the Special Olympics this year. Photo courtesy of Ken Wickiser
J running at the Special Olympics this year. Photo courtesy of Ken Wickiser

A challenge almost everyone faces in life is finding ones place in society. Some of us find it with little effort and others struggle to the point of depression and even suicide. The same is true in the Autism community. However I feel as a parent it is my shared responsibility to find a community for J to be able to find his place. However it’s not just a struggle for him to find his place but mine. As an adult I had already felt that I found my place in society, but my community has changed since J’s diagnosis and thus so has my place. And there are times when it is hard to feel as though I belong somewhere. There are times when fear of J’s capabilities hinder me from finding our place.

For example, one of my favorite things in our life is J’s Special Olympics team. It was our first year and as terrifying as it was to have him join the team it was even more rewarding for J and myself. We found a great community, great kids, great parents and a feeling of acceptance that I hadn’t felt in society since J was diagnosed. However Autism is unique and we all have our own challenges with our kids, but we empathize and understand our shortcomings in a non judgmental way.

I encourage anyone who is having trouble finding a spot in your community to look into

Me, J and Big J at the end off year sports banquet for J's team. Photo courtesy of Stacey Orzell
Me, J and Big J at the end off year sports banquet for J’s team. Photo courtesy of Stacey Orzell

your local Special Olympics organization or other sports or hobbies that interest your child. And if there is no such thing in your area I encourage you to start one even if only two people show up, you gotta start somewhere. My son does not have the social skills some of his team mates have but I can see them growing because of this experience as well as his confidence as he sees there is a place for him in society.

I have also benefited from my interactions with other parents who are going through similar challenges. Not only can we relate but we offer suggestions and references, forming our own network of support.

Would love to hear back from any parents involved in your community, how it’s helped or hasn’t.  If you need help finding something comment me and I will try to help you find something in your area.

-JRED

A Quick Thought on Fear When Parenting Autism

So my last blog I wrote about exuding confidence, but what happens when its just not there? As much as I would love to say that I am always strong and always ready for action, I’m not. There are days when my fear gets the better of me, but on these days I still manage to learn something about myself, I don’t like that feeling. Which means the next time I will be stronger and ready to kick fear’s ass!

Photo Courtesy of Casey Robertson
Photo Courtesy of Casey Robertson

Exuding Confidence: Create a Calm Environment for Children Living w/ Autism, Even if Your Faking It.

beach

Well J is back in school, it’s so hard for me to send him to summer program. I feel so bad. Every kid deserves a summer vacation. He does get one but it’s for about ten days at the end of June and almost two weeks in August. I still felt bad putting him on that bus this morning but the social aspect and routine keep him focused and calm. I really enjoyed our time over the past ten days, thus not much blogging from me. I wanted to focus every second I could on him. Of course we had some challenges and behaviors, everyday can’t be perfect or else how could you spot a perfect day right?

However the way J reacted to these challenges was very improved. With kids on the spectrum any little bit of progress is major, so to see my son tolerate small children in the booth adjacent to ours at a restaurant, was a huge accomplishment. The next morning not so great but the challenges were increased and relatively speaking he was amazing. I always get so much anxiety when I am planning a getaway with J. Will the place be too noisy? Will there be too many small children for him to tolerate? Will I be able to catch him if he bolts? Will people be understanding and accommodating? Unfortunately I can’t plan ahead for every moment, but being prepared always helps and believing in myself, that I can get him through this, as well as believing in J is really the best form of preparedness.

My confidence in J and myself are the best tranquilizers to any high intensity situation. I guess that’s why I missed him so much this morning as his bus pulled away. Our adventures brought us even closer and our respect for each other was visible in the smoothness of this morning’s routine. Compared to last year this is major, I had a child who fought like a wild alligator to stay home and my lack of confidence in his prior program left me helpless. Thus the year of home school before finding a program that worked for us.

It was tough to see him go this morning. I couldn’t share my feelings of  sadness with J, I had to mask them with the confidence of our routine. I had to show him via my body language and words that I was confident that he was going someplace I approved of. He reads the tiniest cues of body language and can decipher them to work to his advantage very well, he’s a smart boy. I find it fascinating that a child who hates eye contact can see so much. If I did relinquish my poker face he would realize he had an opportunity to guilt me into staying home and all structure would crumble. When he comes home and the day is done I will let him know that he was missed so he understands emotions better, but not with the day still in front of him. I won’t project, I won’t project, I won’t project 🙂

It’s always hard to let go, especially when your child can’t communicate his day fully to you,  third trimester pregnancy hormones don’t help either, it’s like my tear ducts are just ready to go. I have to remind myself he will return, we will have more time together and more opportunities to bond. I have to remember to keep busy even if it is busy relaxing. I have to take our time apart and better myself as a human being, get things accomplished and come back to him full and ready for more fun! Would love to hear if any of you have noticed your kids picking up on subtle body language and facial cues like J. Hope all your summer’s are off to a good start 🙂

-JRED

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