When I decided to focus a few posts this month on autism awareness, I was excited to have the opportunity to share someone who works in the field’s perspective. I’m lucky to have Nicole from the Lovely Poppy guest posting today. With teacher appreciation happening at schools all over, I thought this one was perfectly timed to wrap up my autism awareness series.
As mentioned throughout my A word series, J’s therapists, teachers, aides, etc have been *vital* throughout our journey. There is really no other way to put it. They have become like family. I can’t express enough the gratitude I have for the people who have surrounded him over the years.
Take it away Nicole……
I often wonder if I could leave my full time job. Yes, I’d love to stay home and try to run a successful business like many of you- but I’d miss it. I’d miss getting a phone call from a mother who is coming home from the doctor’s office after her child is diagnosed with autism. I’d miss hearing the tremble in her voice and knowing there was something I could do to help. I’d miss hanging up the phone and start thinking of ways to program for her child.
I certainly won’t sugarcoat it, having a child with autism is HARD, HARD work. Many of the families that we work with are forced to have one parent stop working and stay at home full time, helping the therapy team implement programs, balance medications and wear the teacher-therapist-counselor-
I started working with children with autism five years. Within the first few months I noticed changes in the children we were working with. We taught the first child I worked with how to ride a bike, use the bathroom, and eventually hold a conversation. I would leave work at night feeling like I made a difference, and I would wake up in the morning excited about the opportunities ahead. Words cannot describe that feeling that I would get after the parents recognized and participated in the progress of their child.
During a typical day of therapy we follow the child’s motivation and set up situations to target attainable goals and skills to enhance the lives of not just the children, but their families, too. Over the past five years I have seen monumental changes with the children I’ve worked with. It is a passion of mine to support therapists so that families can learn strategies that will help children obtain goals that no one thought possible. Over the past year, I’ve implemented some new services that involve inclusion.
The word inclusion has quickly become one of my favorite “work” words.
“Inclusion is a philosophy that urges schools, neighborhoods, and communities to welcome and value everyone, regardless of differences. Central to the philosophy of inclusion are the beliefs that everyone belongs, diversity is valued, and we can all learn from each other” (Renzaglia, Karvonen, Drasgow & Stoxen, 2003).
Inclusion is one of the many great things our autism services team recognizes as a cornerstone in the lives of those who participate in our program. Ultimately, we want the children and adults that we serve to function in a typical environment. Whether it’s sitting at a baseball game with friends or going to the grocery store with Mom on Sunday morning.
Our program recently had a child who’s programming was focused around social skills and relationships. Our team took him to the playground everyday after school and worked on having him create and maintain friendships. By the end of the school year, the child who used to sit by himself in the lunchroom was now sitting at a table with a group of his friends who routinely came over for play dates and sleepovers. Another example is that of a child with autism who successfully integrated into a Boy Scouts troop. He is now capable of attending sessions without additional support and as a result, he has been able to build very strong relationships and gained real life experiences.
On a larger scale, we’ve recently launched our free sports clinics. These clinics are available not just to children with autism, but to their siblings as well. Our first clinic was done in collaboration with the football team at a local school featuring roughly 60 children. Brothers and sisters were able to participate with their siblings with autism and other young sports enthusiasts alike. Parents were able to see all of their kids participate and play in a group setting that has never been available previously. It was a great opportunity for the families to feel safe and have an activity that was focused around their unique needs. One of my favorite memories of the clinic was seeing the interaction between siblings and how much they enjoyed the day together. Looking over at the sideline, I saw a crowd full of parents smiling and taking pictures. I can only imagine how proud they were to see their child out on the football field, running and jumping with high school athletes.
Our social skills groups are yet another opportunity we offer that are run in inclusive environments. The social skills groups see participants paired up with a typically developing peer. Not only is this educational for the child with autism, but it’s an amazing experience for a typically developing child to learn techniques to communicate with a child on the spectrum. After graduation, we often hear stories about how the peers help out at school when a child is having a meltdown or how they lead a child with autism through relaxation techniques after participating in the group.
I once heard the saying “find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Working with children with autism is a job that I loved. I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to make a career out of it. I went to graduate school and got a Master’s degree, focusing on autism spectrum disorder. I’m so honored and pleased to have the chance to share with you some of the amazing things going on in the autism field and hope my post gives you a little insight into how hard children and families work to obtain a goal someone else didn’t think was possible.
Thank you so much Nicole for sharing your thoughts with us! In honor of Teacher Appreciation, I created a little tag to add to gifts for your kids teachers. I’ll be posting some more teacher ideas soon too.
Just print and attach to whatever gift you get for your kids teacher.
Download your set of four Teacher Appreciation cards.
For 30days subscribers and personal use only. Thanks!