Unsung Heroes

I just lost another family member, a half brother, who along with Pervis and my father were three men that I could always count on. My father and brother were emotional and handyman support. My father was also support with PJ. Pervis was financial and emotional support.  He was also my mentor, pushing and prodding me in my writing. He did not live to see me writing on a consistent basis, which was what he always wanted .  They were my personal unsung heroes.

One of the dictionary definitions of hero is “renowned for exceptional courage and fortitude”.  If you are the parent of a child with autism, you might not be renowned, but you do possess exceptional courage and fortitude, or you are developing it.  Parents of children with autism and other disabilities were my first heroes. From them, I learned how to be an advocate for my child.

Thanks to parent training workshops, I also learned that we need to develop coping strategies. When our children were diagnosed in the ’70s and ’80s,  we were the first group of parents whose children were not placed in institutions.  We were adrift and had to figure things out on our own because the community supports that were supposed to help were nonexistent. I hope things are better now. I do know that there are more services for people with autism now.

I was a part of PET, (Parent Education and Training). One of the most important things that I learned from PET was that  we needed short term coping strategies for crisis situations and long term coping for day to day challenges. If you have a child with autism, you understand that you need both. PET was created by a parent to help other parents and I was honored to be a part of it. It was one of a few “Parents Helping Parents” organizations that were formed during the ’80s. Let me know if  Parents Helping Parents organizations still exist or if there is a need for them.

Many professionals were also unsung heroes. I would not have made it without help, guidance and information from teachers, therapists, doctors, etc. From them, I learned that my son was worth my time and effort. I learned that though he could not be “cured”,  he could improve his behaviors and  he was capable of learning some basic functions and how to follow directions.

There was a type of professional who looked at us parents as if we were the reason our child was having difficulties. They could make us feel incompetent and useless. Especially with autism, it was thought that the parent caused the disability. I felt very guilty to have done this to my son. I hope that autism moms today don’t have to go through that.

I want to include a couple of poems from David Eastham, another unsung hero. David was a non-verbal, autistic and apraxic young man who was using a communication board until he was given a mini-computer. He then started writing poems which were published in a booklet titled “Understand”, in 1985. He lived in ottawa, Canada and was one of the first non-verbal people with severe autism to communicate his thoughts. He has since passed away, but his words taught us that even people with severe autism have thoughts that they may not be able to express.

People

I like people, interesting people / I person too, you see / I’m personable, kind and loving / I’m young, too, unusual me.

In My Mind

I try to pretend I’m / normal as humanly possible / In my mind. / I try to go to teaching / In my mind. / Try my best / In my mind. /  Go for my license / In my mind.  Get married / In my mind. /                       Hope my dreams can come true.

Until next time; May peace and love surround you.

Claudreen Jackson

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