Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why We Must Remain "HOPE"ful Parents

I want to share a story with you.  This story shows me, and I hope it shows you, the important role that we as parents play in our children's lives.  Not just in the way most people think of.....by loving them and caring for them and raising them, but also by advocating for them.  By setting goals for them and expecting them to reach for them, and knowing when it was time to call a victory, even if it means modifying the goals we have set.  By recognizing that we know our children well enough to have trust in their abilities to succeed, diagnosis or not.

This is a true story......one that happened to me when my twins were 38 months old (so a year after they were diagnosed).

There is a local organization here who strives to help students on the spectrum from kindergarten through 12th grade who are working towards a college-bound high school diploma.  Their specific mission statement is (taken from their website), "To promote, support, and advocate for the education of diploma-bound students on the Autism Spectrum in grades K-12".   As a parent of 2 children on the spectrum, I believed this to be a great organization to be a part of.  True, we weren't as far as kindergarten at the time, but it would be good to know what resources are available when we needed them.

As a member, I volunteered to help out at an event they were running.  The purpose of the portion of the event I was helping with was to educate parents and teachers of preschoolers of what resources are available to help get children services if those services were needed.  One of the attendees was an officer of this group.  She is a Parent Educator with our county's Early Intervention Program and a parent to an Autistic son.  I sat through the session and then was having a conversation with her at the end.

I introduced myself and told her about Ballerina and Music Man.  I told her the preschool programs they were each attending per their IEP Meetings a few months previous.  These happen to have been 2 of the more intensive programs that were offered by the schools (Ballerina was in a full-day ABA Program and Music Man was in a more generalized program that is generally considered quite intensive).  She then asked me what I was doing there.  When I told her I was there trying to learn what I could to help them when they were ready to begin kindergarten, she informed me that they would NEVER be diploma bound and I was simply wasting my time.

Skipping ahead a couple of years to kindergarten, Ballerina is now in a General Education Classroom (with supports) and has been successful once the transition period was over.  Music Man is also in an academic program, working his way towards a college-bound high school diploma, but he is in a self-contained Special Education classroom.  Both of them are EXACTLY the types of students that this organization is designed to help.

In other words, the "expert" was WRONG!

If I had listened to her, I don't think we would be where we are right now.  I don't know if their own personal drive would have been enough to push them towards the successes that we've seen.  I knew my children.  I knew the potential that they possessed.  I knew that they were bright and starving for knowledge.  And I pursued.  And now we are almost exactly where I envisioned we would be and far further than where I expected we would be at this point in time.

The worst part of this story is the lack of knowledge an authority figure possessed.  This woman is a Parent Educator, working with families who are just learning of their child's diagnosis.  For many of them, I can only assume they are thinking the same thing I was thinking at the time.....that their children's futures are ruined.  They need encouragement.  They don't need someone shooting down their goals and allowing their children to not develop to their full potential.  Because, I'll be honest, getting Ballerina and Music Man to where they are now took a great deal of pushing on my part as well as by their teachers.  Where would we be if we lived in a different part of the county and she was our Parent Educator?  Our Parent Educator may not have thought that we would see so much success by kindergarten, but she NEVER told me that.  She encouraged me to do everything that was in my power to help my kids.  And whatever happens would happen.  Just keep pushing forward.  And that's exactly what I have done.

It may be hard, but it's worth it.  My children are on their way to the bright futures they deserve.  And all because I remained a "HOPE"ful Parent and didn't allow anyone to convince me that they wouldn't achieve success.

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My name is Ilene and I am a SAHM with 3 amazing children, a loving husband and a dog.  My children are 7 and 6 year old twins.  Both of my twins (girl and boy) were diagnosed with Autism at the age of 26 months.  I have a tendency to take on more than I can handle, but this sometimes feels like it's a little bit ridiculous.

My personal blog is My Family's Experience With Autism and I write stories there whenever I have the inclination and the time.  I also submit stories periodically to The SPD Blogger Network or whoever else would like to publish my stories.