Please welcome to Autism Mom the very talented Debra Wallace offering the wisdom of her experience in preparing for back-to-school for our kids on the Autism spectrum.
“An Autism Momma Lion Prepares for Back-to-School”
With summer bidding us farewell, and back-to-school just around the corner, there are lists of errands and details for most moms to tackle. But, for mothers of children with autism, and other special needs, this is just the beginning.
While all of us deal with the medical and dental forms, new clothes and shoes, school supplies, and new teachers and classes, my “to do list” has many more pages than this.
I am also starting to coordinate my 10-year-old son Adam’s litany of alphabet soup: OT, PT, TSS, speech therapy,autism support teacher, one-on-one, reading tutor, IEP meetings with an advocate…and all of this continues throughout the school year.
As the proud “momma lion” of a child with autism there are many aspects of my son’s life that can be greatly enhanced if I am prepared. My son does not like changes, or unexpected transitions, and I do my best to make sure there are few surprises.
A broken zipper on Adam’s new backpack, losing his favorite baseball hat, forgetting a favorite toy or DVD, or having to cancel a special outing can turn a happy day into one fraught with meltdowns.
My son does much better with schedules, predictability and planning,and that goes for people, places, snacks, and everything else in his life.
So as you head into the new school year, and all of the change that comes with it, I would recommend a few tips that have helped me during the past 10 years with my delightful, and gregarious son, and our often chaotic world:
- Look for and use all of the support you can get. If the errands, phone calls and paperwork appear to be insurmountable and you have a close friend or family member who will help, don’t be shy about taking her up on their offer. It truly takes a village to raise any child, especially one with special needs.
- Find ways for you and your son or daughter with autism to de-stress and make contact with others who are in the same boat as you are: look into special needs sports teams, sensory friendly movies, support groups and more.
- Once you find a local group that can help I suggest that you get involved and be sure to stay involved. For five years, Adam and I have been going to events sponsored by the Autism Cares Foundation in Southampton, PA., in Suburban Philadelphia. This caring eight-year-old group holds social events, programs, and life skills opportunities for children and adults with autism and their family members.
- Be your own benchmark – and do not go by your friend’s typical child of the same age or grade level. Figure out how your son or daughter is doing compared to last fall. Ask yourself: How has he progressed? What are his challenges? What can you, the school district and the community do to help make your child the best that he can be?
- Enjoy everything, even the bittersweet moments. As my son climbs the stairs of his yellow bus on the first day of school, I know that I will wipe away a tear and shortly after, I will break into a smile. As he enters fourth grade I know there will be a roller coaster ride of adventures awaiting both us. So I will take a deep breath and forge ahead, with all the support, and will, I can muster, because that’s what mom’s of children with autism do. And, I would like to add, that we do it extremely well!
Debra Wallace is a professional speaker and entertainment/feature writer. Click here to follow Debra and Adam’s further adventures.