Six years ago when my son was diagnosed with autism I was devastated, overwhelmed, and lost. I didn't know what to expect from him and didn't know what lay ahead in his future. All the literature I was finding was showing extremely challenging behaviors and tough times ahead. There were also some health care professionals who, not knowing themselves, told me not to hope. This angered me, and I made up my mind from that moment on that I would NEVER give up hope on my son.
However, I also found medical and other professionals who told me that they didn't have all the answers, and that they didn't know where my son would end up, but that I should not draw conclusions now or put any of my worries on him. At that time, I was only hoping he would be verbal and eventually be able to be independent in dressing and eating and learning. But I did promise myself one thing, and I prayed for it too. I prayed to God that to lead me to the right people who would "get" my son and help me figure him out and encourage him to reach his full potential.
In those early days of his diagnosis, I had completely lost my parental instinct in "getting" my son. And then I did find those wonderful therapists and first teachers at my son's adapted preschool. The school showed me the way to getting my son the help he needed. When he started at his adapted preschool, the first thing his teachers taught me was how to enjoy playing with my son, not to "make him" talk, but to "engage him," to bring him into the world where he could see how much fun we could both have when he played with me. Simple games like peekaboo became a way into his world and for him into mine.
His first teacher gave me "homework" to do with Michael. The homework were things like swinging him in a blanket saying "Up, Up, Down, Down," He would have to indicate that he wanted to go up or down non-verbally, then when he could, say the words. These wonderful ladies had him playing turn taking games, doing arts and crafts, and requesting for opening doors, help with his snack or dressing or going to the bathroom at school. As he became increasingly more verbal, he began to do these same things with me. They were so patient, and Michael bloomed under their care, as did I.
This got me thinking that teaching is truly a calling, and something that one has to have an affinity for and be ready to do. Kids sense it and flourish and so do their parents under the apprenticeship of a great teacher or teachers. It's important for all children, and especially those in the special needs community to have wonderful educators out there helping our children. There are lots of great resources out there, such as Teacherinformation.org, to help young people see if teaching is truly their calling. Remember, your community of children need you, and your community of parents need you too. I still consider my son's first teachers our family, because they helped our son emerge into the incredible little boy he is today. As the saying goes, teachers touch the future.
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