Earlier this month, I wrote about my two wonderful nieces who happen to have Autism Spectrum Disorders. As I have noted, April is Autism Awareness Month. April also happens to mark both of their birthdays. These incredible young ladies are on my mind quite a bit, and I wanted to share something that I think it is not only important for parents and family of kids with autism, but for all parents in general.
When my older niece was diagnosed with autism, my sister and brother-in-law were able to enter her into an early childhood preschool program to help her develop social skills. There were still struggles, but as the time to send her to kindergarten drew closer, it became evident that she would be able to enter a “normal” elementary school. Going to mainstream school seems to have helped her flourish. Maybe it was the extra interaction with kids, maybe it was the structure, maybe she was just ready. In any case, like I have stated before she now looks and acts pretty much like a typical tween.
My younger niece would follow the same footsteps. She attended the early childhood program preschool. Although she wasn’t as advanced as her older sister when it came time for kindergarten, program administrators along with my sister and husband agreed that she would be able to attend an elementary school in a normal classroom setting. The one difference is that she has always had an individual aide assigned to her.
Flash forward to a couple of months ago. She is now in third grade. The principal requested to meet with my sister. The school had made the decision to transfer my niece to a special education classroom at a different school. This was quite distressing for my sister. Like many kids with autism, changes in routine can be traumatic for my niece. It turns out that being in a smaller classroom has had an incredibly positive effect on her. She genuinely enjoys going to school now. She won an award for citizenship at her school. She has even been able to go off of one of her behavioural medicines, which has had the added benefit of letting her slim down considerably. The other day she had a swimming party for her birthday where she invited kids from her old class. It was so great to hear the kids tell her how much they missed her. Although I am sure that she misses them too, I can’t help but think she is happier now.
As parents, how many times to we try to fit a square peg into a round hole? My nieces have taught me that each child is unique, valuable, and respond differently, whether they have a “disability” or not. We worry that Baby Girl doesn’t talk as much as Little Guy did at the same age, but we neglect to remember how incredibly verbose he was for his age. Yet, she seems to have motor skills that are far ahead of what his were at her age. It seems that we will never stop learning from our children.
As a reminder, please visit Autism Speaks for more information on children with autism spectrum disorders.
UPDATE: Please visit this awesome site. Autism Love Hope. She makes awesome jewelry that you can use for gifts or to help spread awareness.
WEDNESDAY FUN: My first artistic endeavour
Earlier this month I spoke about my sudden desire to create some art, and I wanted to share my first painting:
I was actually pleasantly surprised. While I obviously have amature level skills, I went about it without much of a plan. The sailboat is going away from stormy waters towards calmer seas and the sunrise, an obvious metaphor for overcoming depression. What I didn’t plan was that the side representing the future is much more blurred, and the brush strokes follow no pattern. An added, but not purposeful metaphor.