Living with the Spectrum

Our 2016 Holiday card is pictured here. As you can see, one pair of shoes is missing (we excused the dog from donning footwear, because she crossed her paws so daintily!). For a split second, we thought about cropping the bare feet out, but then decided “This is our reality. This reflects our day to day life. To us, this photo is picture perfect.”

When you raise a child with autism, you learn that the techniques you used with your typically-developing kids may not be effective with your special needs child. There is no “rushing out the door.” In our home, it involves a visible timer, a reminder before the timer goes off, the choice of who gets to turn the timer off, the question “what do you need before we go to school” and (hopefully) the response “backpack.” Most days it involves a transition item (a beloved toy or book, taken to the car) and the reminder that it needs to stay in the vehicle to “watch over it” while your child is at school. Basically, it takes extra time, planning and endless patience to get this important member of our family off to a positive start for the day.

One thing that helps parents and families who live with the spectrum is acceptance from others. When you see a six-foot-tall teenager at the store having a meltdown because he or she is not getting a toy this trip, the gift you can give to that family is to withhold judgment. I wish I could say that the raised eyebrows and staring glares meant nothing to us as parents. But the fact is we do realize our child is being disruptive to your wait in line at the cash register and we wholeheartedly wish you did not have to hear or witness it. We don’t want to experience it either! A smile or even ignoring the fuss altogether would be of true assistance to a family in this situation.

For more information on how to support families and individuals with autism, visit https://www.autismspeaks.org/ and http://www.washingtonautismadvocacy.org/updates/.

Never stop learning,

Cassandra

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