Empowering my Autistic Child: A Mother's Perspective
Empowerment means building self-efficacy. K. is a parent to an autistic child, her story is about advocacy.
"As a mum of an autistic child, I have found it crucial to learn better ways of communicating with him. My son is almost completely nonverbal, making it difficult for me to know what he needs. This was especially hard when he was a toddler. He is 8-years old now and I am able to communicate with him in a way which works for the both of us.
I put my son's needs first.
When thinking of the best way to proceed, I put my son's needs first. He needed a way of telling me when he was hungry, thirsty, when he wanted attention and affection, and when he wished to be alone. His normal way of doing these things was to simply push me away, slam doors, or elope. As his mum, it broke my heart not being able to communicate with him, so I had to do something.
After numerous hours of research, I came up with an idea. I purchased a binder, printed out flash cards with things he might want: milk, juice, water, pretzels, chicken nuggets, etc. I then attached velcro to the binder as well as the flash cards.
I explained to my son that when he wanted something, he could pick out what he wanted and attach it to the velcro and then bring it to me. After a few days, my son was able to communicate with me using the binder. It was wonderful!
At this point, I decided to print out more flash cards. Ones I could use when I wanted to ask him to do something, things such as: get dressed or clean your room. He understood me when I spoke to him, but it worked much better when he had the visual of the flash cards.
My son wasn't used to checking his binder, so I made sure to bring the binder to him a few times a day so he could remember to check the binder. Routines are incredibly helpful for him, as it lets him know what is to be expected and he isn't surprised by anything during a typical day.
After a year or so of using this system, he began learning to read and decided to try speaking a bit more than he had previously been able to do. Instead of simply bringing me the binder, he stopped using the binder altogether and told me in one words sentences he wanted “juice” or “chicken nuggets”. I can remember being so proud of my son because he was doing something I wasn't sure he would ever do.
Lucas is now 8-years old and can speak using complete sentences. He only speaks when he wants to request something such as when he wants to be alone, when he's hungry, thirsty, or when he wants a hug.
The best way I can help empower him toward this future, if it is truly what he wants, is by being his advocate.
As my son grows older, I cannot help but think that someday he may be able to live on his own. If or when that day comes, I will be happy and proud of all he has been able to accomplish. The best way I can help empower him toward this future, if it is truly what he wants, is by being his advocate.
Lucas is in 2nd grade currently and I am in daily contact with his teacher. She sends a paper home daily, talking about what he did during the day and how his behavior was. I am also able to text or call her when needed, and it is crucial that I am an active participant in the education he receives. I want my son to know I am on his side and will do everything I can to make sure he receives the help he needs, both at school and at home
Had I not made the choice to figure out a way to communicate with him, he would not be as empowered as he is now. As his mother, it is my responsibility to find ways of empowering him as he grows up and I am incredibly happy I have the privilege of being his mum."
K. is a dedicated mom who dabbles in art and crafts and works in the field of customer service. She loves making the world a better place through acts of kindness.