I always have been the type of person that didn’t shy away when things got hard. I would have my moments of fear and a slew of tears but I would always pick myself up with lessons learned, a few scars and a new outlook. I am no stranger to the trenches of life. My upbringing was often an up and down unsure where I am going to land type of life. Alcoholism ran rampant in my family and now that I am older I am thankful. The trenches are where people find out who they are and what they are made of. It is a place where character is built and lives are saved.
A diagnosis, thats where it all starts. One small “A” word and as you walk out of that office you are met with a list of recommended interventions. You sift through the wait lists and insurance requirements not sure where you are going to land. You put your name on a wait list for three different aba providers and sit back and wait noting the first to the call will be your decision made. A BCBA walks into your house followed by up to three technicians who talk in another language as your head spins and they call them “your team’ but you feel left out in the cold. You note immediately there is a stronger relationship between the clinicians than with you. As time progresses your techs, being at that ripe age of early adulthood, get pregnant, cancel sessions on account of “personal issues”, the are at the start of their careers so stay for only so long before moving on. Its a cold exchange as you stand at your kitchen counter watching the life before you knowing that person working with your child is not seeing them beyond the “program” they are told to run. You want so badly to intervene. You know they don’t truly get it. You know text books cant teach it. You know they aren’t clicking with your kid and you just don’t know why. They refuse to care for your child when they start having pee accidents or wont clean their nose when it runs and call you to do it for them because that’s “not part of their job”. This is the reality, I get it. I live it. I understand. I feel you. That is why I am doing what I am doing. That is why I am here. Even as we speak, at this very moment my son, just like yours, is at home with his own therapists. I’m living your reality right this very moment.
I know what it feels like to look at your child and listen to the moans praying they would produce even just one word. I know what it feels like to watch your child meltdown while the therapists push just a bit too hard while trying to teach a hard task but they have forgotten this is a child. I know that feeling of desperation and exhaustion as different strangers come and go from your house as you feel the judgments and sometimes hear a whisper. I get it. I’ve felt it. I’ve had it done to me. I pray I can offer both a place peace and progression not only for your child but for your family and you too.
I always told my fellow autism parents, ” I am not afraid to crawl into the trenches with you”. Until now, that meant a bit of encouragement, a coffee and sometimes a hug here and there but to me that was not enough. I felt like I needed to do more. I had pulled myself from the depths of the darkest trenches. I had done the research and one day as I sat in tears knowing the inpatient setting was no longer where I was supposed to be it occurred to me that it was time to do what I had been wanting to do for years. So, I studied, I learned the correct terminology for things I had been doing for years, I applied, did the trainings, and now here I am I am that therapist that has been in and out of my house for about two years. Now, as I sit in on meetings, I can say, “I see you, I feel you, let me climb in this trench with you. Lets walk this together. I have been there and this is where I am. This works and I have proof. I am here just as much as I am for your child i get it that’s often the missing link in this therapy. Your plight is not forgotten. You are doing a great job!”
After my first day in the field I sat in my car and had to pull over as the tears made their grand entrance. It had been a tough tough year. I had to take a chance at a job change for my own good and I wasn’t sure where I was going to land. I put in over twenty resumes and had gone on about three interviews to no avail. I guessed that most jobs did not require skills in breaking up fights and fifteen minute rounds. I could have never guessed I would land in such an amazing role. My heart felt so full as I thought about the prospect of bringing to a family what I needed when I was in their shoes.
To me, just saying, “hey, you are in a trench how can I make this moment better” wasn’t enough. (Don’t get me wrong, dropping off a coffee to an autism momma stuck at home is the ultimate gift but I felt I had been blessed with a skill that could allow me to be more) I wanted to ACTUALLY get in there because I know I’m not afraid. I had dug myself out of many and now it was my turn to show someone else the way out. Time for me to lead instead of leaving someone out to flounder.
To me, working with autism is not a job it is a gift. It is a gift of brilliance. And as I signed my name in the “therapist” box for the first time and stared at the parent box being signed by the mom I was there to help I realized my dream had finally happened. I was now doing what I was called to do. Thank God for the struggle. Thank God for the hard times because it lead me to the best of times and to finding the best in me and I can only hope that I can help others to find the best in themselves as well.