I have two kids on the Autism spectrum. Does that make me some sort of an expert on the subject?
Yeah, I believe it does. I am an expert on Autism. I don’t have the fancy titles gained from years of
schooling and thousands of student loan debt. The knowledge I have acquired over the years is the
result of having two kids on the spectrum. I’ve purchased the books, took the courses, attended the
seminars and meetings, etc., all valuable tools in my kit, but none more valuable than my two beautiful
boys. No matter the disability, whether it’s Autism, Down Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy, there’s no
greater expert than that of a parent. I get the bulk of my most precious information about my boys and
Autism from other parents of children with Autism and other special needs. I have learned so much
from them and I like to think that they learned a thing or two from me. I was asked recently at a
meeting what was the best advice that I could give other parents of children with special needs and
honestly, I couldn’t narrow it down. But these are the ones that I pretty much tell to almost every
parent of a child with special needs.
Reach out to other parents. This is a definite must. You need that connection, and you need that
support. Seriously, join a support group if you haven’t already done so. If you’re in an area where they
don’t have any local ones, join one online. You have a special bond with each other and believe me,
when it gets tough, this bond will help pull you through. The support group serves many purposes,
support (of course), but also for adult interaction, one of my groups meets together at restaurants and
bowling alleys, just to hang out without the kids and have some fun. Support groups are like resource
soup, everyone gets together and just puts all of what they know into the pot to serve with the rest of
the group. Anything from where is the best dentist for those with special needs to a special needs
Make time for yourself. You are the caregiver to a child who will more than likely depend on you long
after they finish school. You will burn yourself out if you do not get some time to yourself. Look into
respite services for your kiddo(s), or ask the grandparents to takeover for a night or two while you go
shake your tail feather out on the town. Go see a movie, get your nails or hair done. Do something, but
do something for you (or your spouse together) in your free time away from the kiddos. They will be
alright, and you will come back to them more rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to take on the world.
Make sure you know the laws, both federally and in your state in regards to your child’s education
and services provided by your state. You will not be a very effective advocate if you are not well versed
in the laws. There are a lot of resources out there that can help you get acquainted with issues such as
the 504 and the IDEA, what should and should not happen at an IEP meeting, etc. Wright’s Law has
some great information online, most of which is free to get you started.
Play more. We as special needs parents get so caught up in our busy schedules of therapy,
appointments, school, and more therapies that we can sometimes forget that our kids are just that, kids.
They need to play. They love to play. So make some room in your (and their) schedule for play. Run
around the yard, throw the ball, blow bubbles, build a fort in the living room, go to the park, anything.
Just have fun, and they will too.
If you are the parent of a child with special needs, perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of advice
that I could give to you is to tell your story. Help guide another parent. Let them know that they are not
alone. I recently heard that if you were to combine the entire population of those in the US that were
disabled, the result would be that the disabled community makes largest minority. We are in this
together, so let’s help each other out.