The Denver Autism Wheel

Reasons for gratitude

Posted on: January 7, 2011

I’ve told a couple of people that I cry at Chris and Luke’s school almost too often, and I got another reason lately, and I didn’t want to let this joyous season go by without explaining. We moved last year to get into our current school district. You can read about some of the research I did to find our current school back in an intuitively-titled previous post, but the clincher was interviewing with the principal, bringing along my slew of reading material and justification (including my books from Wright’s Law and several of the “what they wish you knew about autism” books—on the Recommended page) and having the principal point out that she had the same books in her own library right next to the table we sat at. After the meeting, I had a good sob in my car for a couple of minutes and then called Karl to let him know we’d found a good fit.

Since then, we’ve experienced kind of a SpEd Nirvana. People in Littleton School District’s elementary ed are absolutely gifted at figuring out Chris, how to engage him, and how to help him (and us) thrive in their environment. He’s doing more of his own work independently than we’ve ever seen. We have also enlisted the help of a tutor who comes twice a week. She’s trained in ABA, working toward her master’s, and she’s helped Chris find his voice to start to ask for help, compose original paragraphs, remember times tables and monitor his own progress in assignments.

What are they doing that’s so marvelous? They’re making him accountable for his output. This includes turning in homework on time, finishing classwork, asking questions when he doesn’t understand, behaving himself like the young man he’s becoming before my eyes. They expect it of him. And he delivers.

So what made me cry lately? A mom. I work with her in the PTO. She is raising a couple of NT kids and asked me about autism the other day. Her daughter has an autie (not Chris) in her class and wants to know how to be his friend but doesn’t know how. This mom wants to raise her kids to be compassionate and understanding, so that autism is just another thing people have sometimes. She asked if she could come to me with “stupid questions” about autism and how to help her kids be friends to their autistic classmates. After another good sob, I insisted 🙂

If I could impress one thing on any person who cares about a person with autism, it would be this: expect excellence in every interaction, every process, every product of that relationship. Demand it. Demand respect, dignity and thoroughness, and impress upon them that they should expect the same fromyou. Help them realize that what they do is visible and leaves a permanent impression. Reward good behavior proportionately, and be willing to admit to it when you make mistakes. Believe in them, and give them reasons to believe in you. They will meet your expectations, so give the best and expect the best.

I have many, many reasons to be grateful as 2011 gets underway. I am grateful to my children’s teachers, administrators and staff for paving the way for them to thrive. I’m grateful to our neighbors and friends for their compassion and willingness to stay engaged and curious around my kids. I’m grateful to the voters of Arapahoe County for approving school funding. I’m grateful to Littleton Public Schools for achieving top rankings in Colorado for academic success and the Littleton School Board for their leadership.

I’m grateful for my family, for my dear Karl, whose generosity of spirit is matched only by his determination to create a fulfilling and interesting environment for our kids. He never gives up and always keeps hope in his heart. And I’m grateful for Chris and Luke. I see their optimism as a signal that we’re doing OK. They look forward to the new day as a mountain to be climbed and then shouted from the top of (pardon the dangling participle in my maternal enthusiasm). And all those people behind them—us; the school; the district; the Autism Society; fellow Autie Moms Julie, Betty, Carol and Audra; the football team; the gym; Club 4 Kids; my coworkers (who I also consider my friends)—helped make their optimism (and mine) possible. I thank you all deeply and profoundly.

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