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Caring goes a long way - Autism Chapter 11

Tuesday, 27 September 2016  | 

Caring Goes A Long Way

This year Being on maternity leave I will miss our year six transition evening; I love everything about my job, but for me as a parent and as a teacher that night is always special. Itís a chance for us to get to know the parents of the students that will join us in September and for them to get to know us. More than anything else itís a chance for us to reassure parents that we care.

On those nights I sit there with seven sets of eyes looking at me, waffling (as I tend to do) about the way things work in the unit. And yes, it is important that they understand what food is available and how our reward system works and a hundred other things. But all I really want to do is reassure them that I care about their child and will do everything I can to understand them.

It isnít hard for me to imagine what those parents are thinking and feeling tonight. For me my job will always be a little too personal, it is both my greatest strength and my biggest weakness. I will always give my all, but my decisions will never be 100% objective. I will always fight a little too hard for the rights of my students, and Iíll never be able to switch off when I walk out of the door. You see, I have walked in the shoes of those parents. Sat where they have, in front of teachers and tried to work out whether this one will understand my daughter, or whether instead they will inflict on us sleepless nights, meltdowns and endless stress.

The greatest gift you can give any parent of a child with special needs is to understand, to be patient, to care. Sometimes our children will drive you crazy, they may shout at your children, they might railroad their lessons, hide under desks, or scream at birthday parties, you might hear them shouting in the supermarket or telling their parent they hate them. We understand that sometimes they can be challenging, sometimes they drive us crazy too! But please, understand that they are not (most of the time at least) doing things to annoy you or your children, they are doing them because they havenít figured a way of handling this yet. They need you; we need you (and your children); to be patient, to give us time to get them there. They need to go on play dates (even we leave with a hurried apology 10 minutes after we arrive), people to sit next to in class (even if sometimes they would rather be alone) and invitations to birthday parties (even if they sit in the corner and wonít join in). In short our children need all the same opportunities that your children have.

In our life we have been lucky to find two lots of people who both understand and care. The first, were staff aboard the Disney Magic Cruise Ship. I remember walking into the kidsí club and being told not to worry all the staff were trained in Autism. And they had, but it was more than that, somehow on that ship my daughter found affinity with so many people. They changed our lives Ė both hers and mine. They showed us both that there are people who care. They gave us hope. The second are the staff at her current school. She rushes in the door at night now, desperate to tell us about her day. Her teachers will never know the difference they have made to our family, they canít, because they didnít see what life was like before they were in it.
I can never repay those people for the gift they have given my family, but I can pay it forward. And every day, that is what I try to do. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those I teach, in the way that others have for us. I ask myself one question: if this were my child what would I want for them?