Autism For Parents

28 May 06

“I can’t ever die….” (or, Fear of the Future)

Filed under: Action,Autism,Confusion,Planning — Brett @ 1516

Not long after a child is diagnosed with autism, and the realization that the child will quite likely require lifelong care/support, many parents go through a phase of fear about what will happen once the parent dies.  Because of the incredible amount of effort and involvement required of parents as children grow, it is common for parents to believe that they are the only ones that can provide their child what they need to grow and thrive.  The comment, “I can’t ever die, what would happen to my child?” is all too common among parents of autistic children.  This unknown future adds an extra level of stress to parents who are already at the breaking point of trying to figure out what is happening and what they can do for their child.  (more…)

8 May 06

Autism and military service

Filed under: Autism,Planning — Brett @ 2126

Special thanks to Wade Rankin at Injecting Sense for the original pointer the Oregonian article.

If your autistic child is in an inclusion setting in high school, attending as a “regular” student, you will eventually encounter military recruiters. As part of No Child Left Behind, public schools are obligated to provide student information to the local recruiters. A recent story in the Oregonian (excerpted below) shows the problems that can occur. (more…)

Autism and interaction with law enforcement

Filed under: Autism,Planning — Brett @ 2051

As part of planning for growing up and transition to adulthood, here are two key things to consider related to your autistic child and potential future interactions with law enforcement:

  • Include education about the purpose and appropriate behaviors towards law enforcement personnel and agencies as part of IEP and other planning documents
  • Check with your local first responders (police, fire, emergency medical, etc) about their level of awareness of autism and appropriate training in handling autistic citizens. Help these agencies improve their awareness and training, if needed.

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Charles Fox, on his Special Education Law Blog, has a link to and discussion of the report Avoiding Unfortunate Situations. From the report's introduction:

Law enforcement agencies in the 21st Century are embracing community policing and better education for their increasingly diverse workforce. There is also a growing interest in the global autism community to bring public awareness of autism and the people it affects to law enforcement professionals. As a parent of a young man with autism and reporter/researcher on this topic since 1991, I hope to bring you useful information about autism and the law enforcement community. Sharing critical autism recognition and response information with our law enforcement, first response, criminal justice and educational communities is my mission. The goal? Better community experiences for everyone.

A couple of key discussion points that Charles raises:

One of the truly remarkable statistics referenced in this report is that"[p]ersons with autism and other developmental disabilities are estimated to have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement agencies during their lifetimes (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News In Print, Winter, 1993)." In view of the likelihood of contact between law enforcement and persons with disabilities, these guidelines should be considered in developing IEP goals, BIPs and transition plan goals.

The level of candor of this report is refreshing. It openly states in the training section for police that "[a]utism issues remain un-addressed in standard police officer training programs." … Moreover, one area of inquiry should be to your local police, fire and paramedics as to their level of autism training and awareness.

The main part of the report includes sections on What Families Can Do To Reduce Police Interactions and Information for Persons with Autism. The site also includes a Law Enforcement Handout.

The five stages of autism

Filed under: Action,Autism,Confusion,Diagnosis,Planning,Understanding — Brett @ 1929

For many families, a diagnosis of autism in a child brings about a profound sense of loss. Since most people don't actively educate themselves about autism before the diagnosis – let's face it, no one thinks it can happen to them – most of what they know comes from what they may see, hear, or read in the media. Unfortunately, the vast majority of stories about autism in the media are about the 'devastation' of autism, of how kids are 'lost' in a strange and terrible world away from society.

As a result, I think that many people who find themselves facing an unexpected diagnosis slip into the 5 stages of grief. The link provides some details on the 5 stages, including some discussion of why some think they are not valid, but here are the 5 stages themselves:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These are the stages, as I understand it, that a person will go through if left on their own, if they don't receive any support or gain any understanding beyond the feeling of loss. One of my goals with Autism for Parents is to present an alternative to these 'default' stages that treat an autism diagnosis as a devastating loss with a series of steps that parents can take to fully understand their situation and go beyond mere acceptance.

Here are the steps I've come up with.

  • Diagnosis – the first step on the journey
  • Confusion – unavoidable for most parents new to the world of autism
  • Understanding – the process parents undertake to understand the situation
  • Plan – based on understanding gained in previous step, make a plan for life ahead (which is, in fact, something parents do with all kids)
  • Act – live life to the fullest, adjusting the plan as your understanding grows

In many cases, posts will overlap between steps, especially the Confusion/Understanding and Plan/Act pairs. With these steps, I hope to share actual stories from parents who have gone through these steps as well as simple (and some not so simple) checklists of things you can do.

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