Saturday, September 14, 2013

A opportunity to teach!

I enjoy my role as an early childhood educator. I have spent a lot of time educating myself and attending as many trainings as I can to stay up to date on what I need to know. When I am skilled enough I enjoy teaching and sharing with others my knowledge. I want others to have the same info as myself so they can in turn help those around them. Its how we as educators operate. 
In January of this year I went to my fellow ASD moms, the ones I knew were wanting to spread more awareness, educate and share their knowledge. After some talking I said I wanted to put together a group a special support group to help other families, to help others and to create awareness. We created a page shared our stories, tips, therapies, helpful info and other news stories relating to topics we had discussed. I have been so proud and excited to be apart of this. Every time we came across another family we would guide them to our page so they could meet other local families in the same boat. Since most of us are military affiliated this has been a big thing. 
About six weeks ago a lady was on our FB page and emailed us about speaking at her church preschool. I wanted to write back at first and respond that we couldn't do that, that we are not qualified to help these preschool teachers. As I was typing it out I was thinking to myself " Dummy! Who better than us to talk to these teachers and help them better understand!" I wrote back that I would like the opportunity and asked what would she like to have discussed. I began mapping out and asking the other parents if they wanted to help. Unfortunately due to scheduling issues etc no one but myself and another mom were able to help. I was still thrilled at the chance to really finally get to share my knowledge of everything I had learned thus far. 
This morning I ended up flying solo for this event due to last minute glitches with my friend Stephanie who was going to help me with this project. Luckily I was prepared to do this so I got up early organized my material and headed out to my destination. I was excited and nervous. This was my chance to make an impact with these teachers and really tell them all I knew and all I could do to help them! This was my chance to make the difference to be the difference. Now to make sure I could do this for the next two hours and I would be good to go!
I stoop up briefly shared about the spectrum connection and how we came about, I also mentioned about being with Reach for a Difference and how we go out into the community and really do what we can to be the difference. I also shared about our journey and how this has been a huge learning experience but that hopefully the information I have brought them will help them see what exactly it is these teachers need to be doing. 
We covered so much stuff and unfortunately due to the lack of internet the videos I had set up were unable to be seen. However I did my best to tell about what we would have watched. I could tell that I was throwing out a ton of information to them and hopefully they were able to retain most of it. I talked about room arrangements, least restrictive environments, tantrums vs meltdowns, ECI, developmentally appropriate stages, warning signs, inclusion and difficult behaviors especially with children who are non verbal. They seemed shocked at the things I was throwing out there but I was getting some good feedback at the same time. 
Standing up there really made me feel powerful. I felt this overwhelming since of pride knowing I was sharing with these ladies my information my knowledge to help them better help the families they work with. It really was a rush! If I was asked again to speak I would do it in a heartbeat. Having that ability to share with others and teach them its a powerful and amazing thing. I only hope to get more opportunities like this in the future!

When is fun not fun anymore?

The last few days we have been excited about the event we were going to take H to. Mutton Bustin was supposed to be just a laid back, lets give it a shot, have a little fun. I still believe in my mind that out of the 13 riders there was about 9 of those who felt the same way. Each parent eager and excited to give their child an opportunity to try something different and fun. Most of the kids were boys two of them however were little girls. H was not the youngest either there was a 2 year old and he was about as thrilled to do this as H was. 
They packed us down in the small area each child given a hockey helmet and a giant zip up vest. I actually didn't think the vest would phase him as he wears a weighted vest, however he was not a huge fan. The helmet was not an issue until he just started becoming overwhelmed. 12 kids all standing around waiting their turn. You might ask what happened to child number 13 no my child didn't back out we wouldn't let him! the 13th child came down with a bag as big as he was, flashy blue metallic chaps and of course a freshly pressed fancy bright blue Wrangler button down shirt. The kid was 6 and apparently had sponsors. You could see it in the parents eyes their kids didn't stand a chance!  Did we tell our kids that? No we kept encouraging them and telling them how awesome they were going to do. 
After a long wait we were escorted out to the arena. I know for me it was a blur. I was standing back near another mom camera in hand waiting for my boy to exit the chute. His name was announced and over all the talking I could hear my boy screaming. At this point his boots had been kicked off and about 4 mean along with Chris and another man all around him. We both agreed no matter what he was doing this. Our friend Richard was standing there holding H by his sides. The chute opens and out he goes. I was blocked by so many I was unable to see a thing. I did see Richard however, with H in hand guiding him through the air. I guess his sheep took a giant leap out of the gate and rather than having H take a big fall he held him to prevent the fall. That is about what we had expected. 
Around that time one of the officials looked at me and said he did good, he was young and that next year he would probably last longer. I told him this might be a one time only deal, that our son was on the Autism spectrum and that this might be to much of an anxiety deal. I made mention though of how many kids on the spectrum actually come out here and participate in this though right?! He cocked his head to the side and said "Well your right not many if any kids on the spectrum come out here and do this." He went on to tell me he was on the Chair Committee for North Texas Autism Speaks! Really what are the odds? He was thrilled to see us and him doing this. 
Out of the 13 riders at least 2 didn't ride at all 8 held on but didn't make it but a foot or two outside the gate. The two year old had about as much fun as H did however he hit the ground right out and was very unhappy. The two boys we saw wearing chaps did well they made it a few feet outside the gate. The last rider was the 6 year old boy with the whole fancy get up. Suddenly this went from fun to heavy hitting competition. The parents exchanged glances we all knew what was about to happen. I felt bad for the parents of the older kids because they would realize right off what was about to happen. 
Of course being the good sports we adults are we cheered for the little boy. He rode down to the end of the arena and as he rode back he did something that bordered the line of talent and showboating unsportsmanlike conduct. That is about the time you could hear the older kids muttering the words show off and how they knew he would win. That boy sat up on the sheep and acted if he was riding a horse. He looked cocky and proud. His dad was cheering and the announcer was dropping subtle hints that he was done riding and could get off. 
The kids were told to await their prize but most of the parents begun to walk off they all knew their kid was not in the top 3. Though at that moment they mentioned a check to the first place winner. REALLY?! These kids are 7 and under! A CHECK?! What ever happened to a little friendly competition a trophy, a medal or in this case a belt buckle?? I know H does not grasp that concept like we do but I sure do know that most of those other kids there did. I could see their frustration and disappointment in their faces as they realize they never stood a chance and that this was not a friendly competition. 
There was one other family that seemed to be taking this very seriously also. Suddenly I felt on a the reality show where those crazy stage moms drag their daughters and sometimes their sons to these pageants doll them up and demand they win the big cash prize. Instead of being on Toddlers and Tiaras I was now on the show Toddlers and Rodeo Dad's! It was sad. 
I am all about some good healthy competition just like the next family. Heck my girls figure skated competitively for years at the recreational level and won trophies and medals.It was considered the professional level if you were paid for your performance. So are we out of our minds in being in utter disbelief when I saw the dad harassing one of the workers about the check his son earned? Am I out of my mind in thinking that maybe this is a first and a last for us? We want things to be fun for our son. We don't care about the place he gets but just the experience that he is getting from it. 
What happened to letting kids be kids and letting them have fun? Why does it have to be such an emphasis on winning and losing? I guess I might be the only one in this but I seriously am disturbed by what happened last night!

Are you sure he is able to do that??

Of course I am! He is Autistic not dying! I swear if I had a dollar for every time we heard "Are you sure he to do that?" I think I would be able to quit my job! As soon as H was diagnosed Chris and I went through a phase that we didn't leave the house as much, limited what we did and altered everything. Not only did we hate it I believe that H did also. We thought that laying low and doing what we could to prevent meltdowns, eloping and just overall embarrassing head turning scenarios was the way we needed to go. However I felt I was being a bit hypocritical as I was bound to spread more awareness of what my child was diagnosed with. 
After a long talk we realized we will never be able to get him to adjust to these things if we keep him sheltered and always fear the worst. He has proved us wrong a few times and I think that is what we really needed to see to know what we are doing is actually the right thing. Then again there are situations we have been in that usually don't phase him and its been a complete nightmare.
Once we discussed and agreed that we would do our best to treat him just like a typical child his age I think we really started seeing in our hearts we were right but then we started facing more of the comments and questionings of those around us. I was reading on one of my Facebook Autism support pages about a young girl trying to get her grandparents to understand why she is so open about her son's disorder and how her grandparents say that it is no ones business and that those things should not be discussed. Most people responded with harsh comments towards the grandparents others like myself reminded these younger folks that our elders grew up in a time where being different and disabled was not ok. You were often seen as less of a person and not capable of meshing with society. Some have come around others still need more educating and understanding about what we believe to be acceptable to society now. When I say that I mean everything. I mean we are all different and that is what makes us so great. What a boring world this would be if we all hid our uniqueness and all conformed to the same standards society wanted us to be seen as. 
Just this week our son did something a lot of people felt was crazy. We let him preform a therapeutic riding demo at the West Texas Fair. We got all sorts of comments and questionings on it. My answer was the same. "How can we create awareness, educate and show others what these kids are capable of if we always keep them hidden and out of the sight of the general public?" Honestly though how would anyone really understand what we are doing for our son if I never showed him off? Is it a video that would be sufficient? A photograph or even a story? NO! First hand visual knowledge is the best and why not we are proud of H and I know he is proud of himself also. 
So now we have taken it a step further. Chris has been begging for me to let him to be a rodeo clown for Halloween  Ever since we took H to the rodeo last year he was wanting him to be something rodeo related and with his daredevil antics how fitting would this be! This whole talk was on the back burner till recently. At the parade Chris brought this up to our friend Richard and told him to get H signed up for Mutton Bustin. Yes my son will be riding on a sheep fully padded and protected. In fact I think its awesome we are doing something not therapy related and not worrying about it at all!
We want to expose H to all the things in this world we think he can do. If we limit him we might be missing something that could really have been his time to shine. We don't want everything modified for him but if it is required of course we want that for him. We want to see him succeed and do well, to find his nitch in society. If we always hold him back and keep him sheltered for fear of the what might happens, then we are really doing a disservice to not him but ourselves. 
So yes when you read/hear about us taking H somewhere, or trying something new with him just know we want to try and have as normal life as possible and we feel its best to do that by not setting limits before we see his true capabilities but using each situation as a gauge to know exactly what he is capable of and what works and what doesn't. Very much the same ways you would do this with your typical child. 
I do know I have friends who just can't do these things and I understand I just hope that one day they get to experience the things the way we do in some form or another. This journey is very unnerving and emotional so it is very important to stick together with other families on this same journey as us. Its always nice to see someone having your back and turning to. 
To those unfamiliar with what we face just know we want our kids to be just like yours. Treated the same, loved and accepted the same and the ability to do things yours do. So yes I am pretty sure he is able to do that!