I have often said that the educators and therapists who worked with PJ were not able to accomplish much in helping him recover from autism. This is true, but they accomplished a great deal with me. I want to say thank you to all the professionals who helped me to grow. I’d thought I was “grown” before PJ came along, but I sure had a lot to learn. I am still growing. They were not able t0 “cure” PJ, but they helped to “cure” me. I hope that educators and therapists working with children with autism realize what an impact they can have, not only on the child, but on the parents.
There was his first teacher. He was in a classroom for children with emotional impairments. The teacher never raised her voice and always seemed to be calm. I asked her how she could always be so calm and she told me that the more calm she was, the more calm her students would be. She said that she would only raise her voice if there was danger and her students would know the difference. This made a lot of sense to me, so I quit raising my voice at home with PJ. We both became more calm.
A social worker from Detroit Public Schools made a home visit to see how PJ and I were doing when he was about six years old. I told her that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and wanted to quit crying about autism and to do something. She recommended me to Dr. Ingrid Draper, the director of Special Education, to be a member of her Parents Advisory Committee. Dr. Draper really wanted to know what parents wanted to see done. She actually listened to us and took our advice. I was amazed that we were being responded to. It was a revelation!
Another time, one of PJ’s teachers and a social worker made a home visit on their own time. Some teachers even bought him gifts. I was learning that people really cared and that he was worth our time and effort. Even the cab drivers who picked up our children seemed to care about them. How could I do any less than the people who were working with him?
I was appointed to the board of directors of the Michigan Society for Autistic Citizens (MSAC), now Autism Society of Michigan (ASM). Our executive director at the time, Bill Walsh, started sending me out to speak about autism awareness. I was very intimidated because I was speaking to doctors, executive directors and other professionals. Bill’s only advice was , “Tell them about your experiences with your son and what you would like to see done”. Even though I was intimidated, I knew that I needed to speak for my son and others like him. There were things that I wanted said, so I had to get out and say them myself.
I became a member of the United Foundation Speakers Bureau, the agency that supported MSAC, along with many other charities. I wanted to be able to thank the people who gave and to help explain why their support was so necessary. I was learning that there were so many people who needed help, but there were also many people who wanted to help.
I was appointed by both Governors, Blanchard and Engler to their advisory council, the Michigan State Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, (DD Council). The council was composed of people with disabilities, parents of people with disabilities and agencies that provided services to people with disabilities. We were to advise the governor on matters concerning people with disabilities in the state of Michigan. I was still intimidated, but was pushed along by autism. I was honored to be part of such an important advisory council.
I kept meeting professionals who seemed to care about people with disabilities. They each had a part in helping to shape me. I wanted to help them to help us. I hope that this high level of professionalism and caring is still going on.
Until next time; May you have Peace, Love and Prosperity in your life.