Since the day my son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, assuming the role of advocate has been nothing short of exhausting. While the professionals (most of them) "get it", attempting to help others understand can be stressful and frustrating. Recently, after 3+ years, I have found someone involved in my son's life who not only understands but is willing to educate herself in areas of autism about which she is not familiar. A teacher. A fabulous, caring, compassionate, remarkable woman who is my son's 1st grade teacher.
Too often people who live outside the world of autism struggle to understand what is like to live in our world. Living with a child on the spectrum is exactly that...a different world. Most of the time people who have not lived the reality of our situation really don't "get it". The issue is simple (and complex at the same time)....a lack of awareness and education!
So many people are quick to make assumptions and judge ASD families especially out in public. Without awareness about autism, of course it seems as though the child rolling on the floor through the aisles at the grocery store is just a "bad" kid. Others may not be aware of the painful stimuli (ie. bright lights, noises, etc.) that have become too overwhelming for our child in that moment. As an ASD Mom I have learned to brush off this harsh reality and continue to raise awareness to those who are willing to listen.
While people in public can sometimes get under my skin, it is those who are involved in my son's daily life who truly matter to me. Playing advocate is my #1 role aside from loving my boy unconditionally. I have and always will do whatever it takes to help people understand. I don't expect everyone to understand. I am simply doing whatever I can to make my son's life a little bit easier.
Collaborating with professionals can be VERY tedious. Always trying to keep everyone on the same page (in a world that is constantly changing) is draining. There are so many little things to make people aware of. I have found that a lot of my free time is spent making phone calls, sending emails, preparing documents, etc. to be sure that I haven't missed anything. When a person spends so much time working with people, it is only natural to want this time to at least be somewhat enjoyable, right?
My son's 1st grade teacher has done just that! She has made this "free" time enjoyable for me. You see, professionals are SUPPPOSED to communicate and work with the parents to help the child. Teachers (general education teachers) while professionals of their own are certainly not autism experts no more than you or I. They don't HAVE to look outside the realm of general education. There are plenty of teacher's who are rigid and aren't willing to think outside the box. When a person (teacher, family member, neighbor, etc.) goes that extra mile to understand my son, it makes my job as advocate that much easier. That in itself is enjoyable!
What is more, my son LOVES his teacher! When a child comes home from school and talks about his/her teacher nonstop, it is safe to say that the teacher is making a difference. To me, making a difference is what life is all about! Not everyone is capable of truly touching the life of another.
My son's teacher has shown me that there are people in this world who are willing to listen. People outside the world of autism CAN take a step back and just simply watch. Judgememts, unwanted advice, etc. are NOT all there is to people who are uneducated about the outside world. For that I am forever grateful!
With that said, I would like to thank my son's teacher. To let her know that I appreciate her making my job as advocate effortless. For reaching out, for educating herself, for her willingness to LISTEN, and for going that extra mile. Most importantly, I want to thank her for touching my heart and the heart of my boy!
Thank you for "getting" it!
What a blessing this journey has been!