Being as I’m usually touting core vocabulary AAC methods and language therapy tips, it doesn’t take long to figure out that I’m the resident Speech & Language Pathologist here at AdaptEd.
But what you might not know is that I play a double role in the world of special education.
My son Atticus was diagnosed with autism just over a year ago at the age of 4.
This quickly turned me into the person who gets to raise their hand twice at the beginning of every conference I attend . . .
“Who is here as an SLP?” ME.
“Who is here as a parent?” ME.
And, without a doubt, these are two very different roles and perspectives. I didn’t realize how different they were until I had to experience it for myself.
I’ll be real- I’m no stranger to sitting on one side of the IEP table making suggestions to parents on how important it is to carryover practice and skills at home.
BUT- now I’m also no stranger to sitting on the other side of the table as a parent and thinking “Just WHEN am I supposed to fit this extra practice in?”
That “15 minutes of daily practice” didn’t used to sound so long when I was just an SLP.
But now that I’m a SpEd parent too I know better . . . sometimes that 15 minutes is near impossible.
Okay, okay, sometimes it just IS impossible.
And what’s been hardest to accept (no matter what role I’m playing) is that it’s OKAY for it to be impossible some days.
So, this blog is for the parents. (And for me, as a parent.)
It’s the place to share the awesome aspects of parenting an amazing child with special needs. It’s the place to share the challenges and emotional ups and downs too.
So what the heck? Let’s kick this thing off with a bit of both.
A little while ago my eldest daughter told me that a few of the kids at school had been picking on her brother.
See, classic to his diagnosis, my son perseverates on topics that he loves.
Currently those would consist of Lego Batman, the Incredibles and Halloween. (Yeah, Halloween. Even though it’s January.
Because no little thing like time can stand in the way of his interests.)
The kids at school had also picked up on the fact that my son is echolalic and will repeat pretty much anything they say.
Fast forward about ten seconds and you have a scenario where the kids at school have figured out that they can say a swear word and get my kindergartener to repeat it 10X in a row.
And when the kids laugh he laughs too.
Because, hey, this is fun right?
He has no idea that there is a difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them.
And, honestly? Hearing this was enough to bring me to my knees.
It may sound dramatic, but who wants to face the fact that their kid is going to stand out as a target?
I cried on the drive home that day.
That ugly type of crying where my face got all distorted and probably scared the drivers around me.
But also that mom type of crying where you can’t hold it in, but you know your kids are in the car, so you use every ounce of your power to make sure that you cry silently.
I’m sure it was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.
There was a definite feeling of mourning as I realized, quite possibly for the first time since his diagnosis, that life might be harder for my son to navigate than I had thought.
And then, amazingly, THIS happened.
And I’m going to try to let it speak for itself. (Soooo hard to do as an SLP, let me tell you!)
My daughter and her friends rallied to put this together for him.
They read it to him.
They hugged him.
And, spoiler alert, I’m not going pretend he really understood.
He liked the attention. He liked the hugs (he seeks touch, so he was totally down for it).
But after that he moved on and found some legos to play with.
It was a gesture for Atticus, but the person it really saved that week was me.
Maybe, as a parent, you’ve had one of these moments.
Maybe you are waiting for one of these moments.
Maybe you feel desperate for one of these moments.
I feel you, Mamas and Papas.
So here’s to all of the small triumphs.
Maybe it’s a letter of encouragement.
Maybe it’s touching a communication device for the first time.
Maybe it’s holding a pencil with the correct grasp.
Maybe it’s going to the bathroom independently.
Maybe it’s a smile at the end of the day.
Maybe it’s just breathing in the scent of your own beautiful child as they sleep.
Some of the hardest work we can do is to recognize the small triumphs. Who’s in?
Until next time,