Browsing Facebook, I recently came across the following post by an autistic girl in her early 20s:
I am tired of people knowing its Autism Awareness Month and not giving a care about autistic people and autistic people (also me included) as a puzzle piece. People need to stop talking over autistic people! I’d prefer it to be #AutismAcceptanceMonth so autistic people will be accepted as they are, even if it’s to follow their dreams.
It set me thinking. Are we dealing with Autism in the correct way? I am myself the father of an autistic daughter, so the matter is very close to my heart. It is for that reason that I would like to share some thoughts on the subject.
How is Autism treated in schools?
Autistic children are usually given a Learning Support Educator (LSE), shared or otherwise, to help them advance in their studies and in their school life. Obviously, LSEs cannot toil on the top of their heads but need a guiding programme to work on with their charges. For this reason, a school should organise a Mapping Session to map out the needs and strengths of the given children BEFORE the start of the scholastic year, as well as an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) AT THE START of the scholastic year. It is with regret that I notice, however, that a good number of schools neglect the importance of these two sessions.
Mapping sessions are almost never held in public schools, whereas IEPs are sometimes held as late as May! An IEP is a plan or programme developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialised instruction and related services. It is a programme intended to help the educators of a child to cater for the various special needs the child might have.
Special needs, in this case, might also prove to be special strengths. For example, if a child is proficient in a given subject, then that child should be given an education to cater for his need as a star pupil in that subject. Needless to say, an IEP cannot be held at the end of a scholastic year. It loses its reason for being held. Such schools look upon this meeting and process as a chore rather than a service to their pupils.
Special needs, in this case, might also prove to be special strengths.
How do parents react to their children’s Autism?
Some parents are shell shocked when they learn that their child has special needs. They combat this by becoming overprotective. They insist that the special need, especially when it is Autism, will not hamper the life of the child and argue that it will simply mean that the child goes about life in a different way.
Being there very little publicity for the support out there for autistic kids, many other parents see Autism as a curse. The main worry of these parents becomes not knowing what will happen to the child after they pass away.
The main worry of these parents becomes not knowing what will happen to the child after they pass away.
I can only offer advice from what I have learnt from my own life as a parent of an autistic child. I have lived my life in fear not knowing what will become of my daughter when I die. In fact, where I to express a wish to Aladdin’s genie, it would be that I outlive my daughter, however much pain that will cause me, but at least I would be able to take care of her. It was only later that I learned that through APPOĠĠ, there are schemes that cater for autistic people, no matter how severe their condition.
I will not enter in the specifics here as APPOĠĠ are better at explaining them. However, if I could give one suggestion to such parents it would be not to let the child think that their autism is a handicap. That could lead to the children hating themselves for their autism and later lead to much worse problems. Always seek the best out of the child – they are all good at something.
Encourage them to discover their strengths and to deal with their needs. Sometimes it means eating humble pie and asking for help, but I am sure that the child’s happiness and wellbeing is worth it.