Achieving the Best Possible Future: Tried and True Tips
Best Possible Future
As my son prepares to graduate from college, I reflect back on the arduous and gratifying journey of raising a child with autism. I think about trying to help my son develop the skills and tolerance he needed to succeed, especially when faced with barriers imposed by well-meaning professionals, intransigent systems, and advice-pushers in our lives (e.g., “Don’t you think it would be better to…”). I also think about the champions – the teachers, coaches, employers, and friends – who supported us, creating opportunities for my son to be included and accepted in typical, meaningful routines and experiences. As I take this journey back in time, it becomes clear to me that there were certain key ingredients to our success:
Use Social Stories
A child who does not attend to details (or understand social nuances) can often get confused about upcoming events, which is anxiety-producing. Telling a “story” at the end of the day about everything that happened that day, and the expectations for tomorrow’s schedule can be a big help.
Teach About Family
Living far away from close family members or having limited exposure to them is challenging. Create a picture “board book” of people in the child’s life and look through it regularly. Provide short bits of information on each person, such as, “Here’s Uncle Peter. He is married to Aunt Carolyn and he gave you a teddy bear when you were born.”
Always Plan Ahead
Before any new endeavor, take some time to visit the facility and orient your child to the surroundings. For example, we always dropped off our school supplies a few days before school began so that we could see the classroom and where my son would be seated, lessening his anxiety about the new school year.
Prepare Other People
Talk to people who will be working or interacting with your child to make sure they understand his strengths and needs. Do not assume that information has been shared between professionals or that people will understand without explanation. Review educational goals with teachers and expectations and skills with others supporting your child.
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