Autism is still a mystery to me, but I’ve learned a few things over the last ten years (and no doubt there will be more of these in the next ten years). Here’s a few of my lessons-learned. What are yours?
1. I don’t trust anyone to say what my son’s abilities are, or will be. Autism is a developmental delay, not a developmental stasis. Studies are finally emerging that show most IQ tests underestimate the intelligence of kids with autism. We’ve had doctors and teachers tell us that Connor wouldn’t be able to do this or perform that, and he’s proven them wrong every time.
2. At least half of the therapies we put our son through didn’t do any good. Part of the reason was that many therapists and special educators weren’t very good, either. Another part of the reason was our son just wasn’t ready to learn what we wanted him to learn…but he got there eventually.
3. I learned to never underestimate my son’s sensory difficulties, nor disguise them as behavioral issues.
4. No one knows what our son needs more than our son. When he finally talked at age 4, I was astounded by his insight. He started attending his own IEP in 4th grade, and has been a valuable and insightful contributor. Through him, we’ve learned more about his learning styles (visual; top-down vs bottom up; no repetition or breaking things down into small tasks help unless he ‘gets’ the big picture) than any assessment.
5. Inclusion and mainstreaming are entirely different concepts. Placing a child in a mainstream classroom doesn’t mean he’ll be included. My son used to complain that he wished everyone was treated ‘the same’ …and with the proper classroom accommodations, I think he’s finally getting his wish.