As a parent, you know your child best of all.
You know her better than her friends, her grandma, her speech therapist, or her teachers. Yes, teachers.
Please Note: This post is not specifically aimed at homeschooling families, because many of us utilize outside therapies, programs, teachers and even have our special needs kids attend school. If you’re raising a child on the Spectrum, this one’s for you no matter where your child attends school.
I’m talking about advocacy.
Most parents reach a point where we decide we will do what ever it takes for our kids to be successful and have a good life. For the parent of a child with Autism, this tends to hit us very early on.
It hits us on the playground at the park, when our child is excluded from a game. It hits us when a careless observer comments on a behavior our child is exhibiting, remarking on how we need to discipline better. And it hits us when a so-called “expert” tells us that our child has limitations that prevent him from doing something we know he is capable of doing if he has guidance.
I call it the Momma Bear Instinct.
It doesn’t take much to get Momma Bear riled up. Just think about telling my kid he can’t do something, or should conform some way he’s not able, and you’ll meet her. I’m not talking about helicopter parenting; no, Autism Mommas are NOT helicopter parents.
We are intermediaries out of necessity.
We are the voice of a child who can’t speak for herself.
We are the defender of a kid who craves friendships but can’t always participate in them the way other adults think that they “should”.
We are Momma Bears. Hear us roar.
Parents know what is best for their children. We know if a situation may go poorly, and what it is possible to do if we take a few advanced planning steps. We are purposeful. We are intelligent. And doctors and therapists be damned, we will step in and speak up for our kids if the situation warrants it!
When my son was in 2nd grade (and still in public school, in a gen ed classroom with resource pull-out time), we had just such a situation. I was in a dreaded IEP meeting, and the principal very happily exclaimed, “Oh! The other day when D1 was on the playground, I brought him to meet Mrs. Smith.”
“Oh? Who is that?”, I asked.
“She’s the assistant in Mrs. Green’s class. The self-contained classroom. I thought she might be able to introduce him to some appropriate friends.”
This was my son, the boy who mimicked other kids’ behaviors sometimes. The one who had several friends, from our neighborhood, IN HIS CLASS. Nice kids. Kids he played with after school.
Apparently they weren’t “appropriate” enough for the principal’s idea of who a young special needs kid should be playing with so she thought he would be better off playing with profoundly disabled kids, some of whom had severe acting out behaviors.
I was so angry. So very, very angry. I told her in no uncertain terms that his neighborhood friends are quite APPROPRIATE and that we are very capable of helping him seek friendships.
Autism Mommas and Daddies, don’t shortchange yourself. Don’t take an expert’s word for it if you feel in your heart you know better. Speak up for your child. You know him best!
Share with me a situation where you needed to step in and advocate for your child. Help us help one another. Every voice in this discussion matters!