hello friends. I couldn’t wait to get home to my laptop today. I know I havn’t been keeping up with this blog as of late but I have been focused on some things with my sons therapy thus my focus has been else-ware. But today was pretty awesome.
I live in Michigan and today the Autism Alliance of Michigan put on their annual navigating autism conference for all of those in the area. The morning began with me getting in my truck which adorns my “child with autism on board” stickers in almost every back window turning the key and hitting the door pad for the garage door to open… insignificant right?….. well the door was already open and as the door began to lower behind my truck I couldn’t help but giggle at myself as I pushed the button twice to re-open the door. Just another morning after a sleepless night I thought as I backed down the drive way.
I grabbed a couple gallons of gas as I had let it slip into the “extremely low” category with 6 miles until empty (nothing like living on the edge) and hit the backroads that would eventually lead me to the highway. It was a perfect morning for a small drive. The sun was out and I was headed to the conference where I would be met with some friends from my local autism support group. I turned on the radio and my truck was filled with oldies music leading me to remember the family roadtrips growing up as my parents would play the oldies like “brown eyed girl” and “under the boardwalk”.
I walked in and settled at my table with my friends just before the panel began to speak. I leaned over to my friend as this was her first time to attend a conference and i said, “get out your tissues. you WILL cry, I cry every year and I’m not a crier”. A father spoke, then a mother, then a sister as both my friend and I regretted the decision to wear mascara almost in unison. What hit me the most though was the sister as she spoke of her brother. She kept repeating “My normal growing up was ________”. I sat there staring out the window at the cars parked in the parking lot wondering would my kids would say their “normal was”. Whats my normal I thought….. I mean, “what is normal parenting”? My special needs child is my oldest so my normal in parenting is different than everyone else’s parenting normal. I pondered this a moment as I tried to focus on anything but her sincere poetic monologue (I don’t do well showing emotions to anyone, I much prefer the closet breakdown).
My parenting normal, is having more therapists numbers in my phone than friends’ numbers.
My parenting normal is spending every free dime not on recreation but therapy in hopes of even a bit of progress.
My parenting normal is throwing out furniture after my son pees on it when there’s no chance of salvaging it and being left with an empty room that I refuse to fill less it happen again.
My parenting normal is long phone calls with insurance companies to obtain coverage for a therapy while my child sits quietly by incessantly rewinding the same five seconds of wheel of fortune and I can’t reach him.
My parenting normal is looking at my two typical children wondering how I will go about getting them to soccer practice with severe autism in tow.
My parenting normal is taking turns with my husband going out to places my son cannot handle.
My parenting normal is knowing that there will never come a day when all three of my children will be able to reside in the same school district.
My parenting normal is not fitting in with other parents because I dont have time or the ability to attend the things that they do. (even in cases of adaptive sports, My son just cant do it)
My parenting normal is begging people to visit but my house remains empty with only the sounds of iPads and “Do this” from his therapists.
My parenting normal is a glass of wine to ease the effects of isolation.
I could go on but I will not for the sake of the purpose of this post.
After such a thought provoking parent panel we all consequently broke off into break out sessions. The first I attended was one that I, before I left, Thanked the teacher with tears in my eyes. She was a psychologist who had recently crossed over into the ABA field and she discussed how to incorporate humanistic psychology into ABA and what that would look like. I sat rigid though the whole class. Focused. Intent. She wins! She validated many of my thoughts on ABA and its almost complete lack of room for emotion. I sat engrossed as she spoke and I cant wait to email her this evening. I have a suspicion that she may change my life and be a huge asset in my work as an ABA behavior technician. Lord knows I have much to learn and I want to learn it right the first time.
The second break out session I attended was on on augmentive and assistive communication technology. With Aiden obtaining his device soon i was so excited to see this on the agenda for today. I sat down took out my notebook, pen and set my phone to my right just in case my sons teacher were to call for some obscure reason. The teacher who is an SLP handed out a core vocabulary board and a packet of her powerpoint presentation. I learned so much from this woman!!! I learned so much that I actually texted my mom mid class that I was so furious that I had not been told a lot of things.
For instance, did you know that in proloquo2go and the general pecs system that the pictures are actually color coded according to word function? Dude! I had been using these programs for about 8 years and no one ever mentioned this to me. I was furious. for eight years I sat looking at these boards with all these words as a whole confused as to how they worked and finally, today, because I attended a conference, I was finally notified that there was a specific method to the madness. so for instance verbs have a green background adjectives have a blue background etc.
eight years and dozens of therapists and thousands in co pays and I learn this at a free all day conference in a session that lasted 45 minutes? wow. Sad really.
I had to leave a bit early so I missed one of the break out sessions but I would say that the day was a great success. I am noticing that every year the number in attendance grows and the amount of people I run into that I know increases just as much. What a thing to be passionate about… This autism stuff… What a community… What a calling…
my takeaway for today: Therapists, don’t assume competence. We parents have a lot going on. Please give us the information to make things easier. and parents You have never learned everything despite your experience and I know life is easy but maybe if you take a moment, examine the tools set forth for you, you might notice some patterns that could enhanse that tool or even make it more functional. Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep learning, keep sharing, keep loving and as they said today “Have FUN!”