I recently received an email from a reader of David’s Gift.
Now I receive emails all the time, but this particular email was very sad.
The reader described to me the experiences of her 15 year old son at his school. It could have been a chapter straight out of David’s Gift. She was describing things today that were the same as my story of the way things were – 10 years ago!
So why haven’t things changed for children diagnosed with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?
There is more awareness…. Yes!
There is more early intervention … Yes!
There are far more options … Yes!
There are far more people who understand what Autism and Asperger’s is …. well yes … sort of .. actually not really!!
Whilst there maybe more understanding and more options and more awareness of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome… there is still an enormous amount of judgment about this complex and often misunderstood diagnosis.
I was recently talking at a teacher in-service and one of the teachers said right at the beginning “Oh yes, I have had many ASD children through my class, they are all the same really”.
I couldn’t believe I what I was hearing.
All children are unique and all those diagnosed with ASD are unique. They may have similarities, but they are also unique in character, in personality and in intelligence. To put all people with ASD into one group and say “they are all the same really’ is exactly why things haven’t changed.
So how do we combat it?
The only way to change it is to tell the story; to keep talking; and in doing so keep working towards making things better.
1. Develop Partnerships with teachers at school. Use the free ‘school report‘ to create a detailed history of your child every year, or every term if you have to. By doing this, teachers begin to get a far more rounded view of children on the spectrum and it will help them adapt their teaching styles to different children.
2. Become an advocate for your child, not a complainer. Set up regular meetings with your child’s teacher and support teacher. Go to the meeting with a short agenda and be willing to discuss ‘without blame’ issues that are arising for your child. Sometimes it is difficult to put emotion aside, especially if the issue is about bullying or exclusion. But if you can get into the habit of creating ‘win/win’ situations and ensure that teachers can understand life from your perspective, and you understand life from theirs, it is far more powerful that creating enemies or a stand off. The outcome has to be beneficial for all – how can you make it so?
3.Seek opportunities to tell your story. Many groups are always seeking guest speakers. Perhaps Parents and Friends meetings, Rotary, Lions clubs etc. Speak honestly and from your heart; you will find that people will understand when you tell your story truthfully.
4. Seek out those who are compassionate to become allies. If your child tells you that someone in their class is ‘kind to them’, introduce yourself to that child’s parents. Apples don’t fall far from the tree and you will often find that the children who are naturally kind and understanding, will have a parent who is also kind and understanding. They may become a great ally for you in spreading the word in situations where you may find it difficult to do so.
5. Buy books about Asperger’s syndrome and share them amongst your friends and your child’s teachers. Or suggest that they see movies such as Adam or the Temple Grandin Story. Sometimes it is easier to tell your story – when somebody else tells it for you.
In order to create awareness, we need to use ways to tell the story. The more we share the story with others, the more others will understand that Asperger’s and Autism are not disabilities, but merely different ways of thinking. The more we focus on sharing the good news stories, the more we change people’s perceptions.And perhaps one day the world will actually be a better place for all children on the Autistic spectrum.