Knowledge is Power!

You know the old saying that goes something like “God never gives you more than you can handle.” If you’re like me, I’ll bet you’ve disputed that a few times. When my son was born, I was already 42. By the time we learned he had autism, I was premenopausal. I knew then that God must have a sense of humor!

It was pretty tough going there for a while. I knew virtually nothing about what to expect from a young child, especially one on the spectrum, and there were days when we were both sitting on the kitchen floor crying! It felt like I was losing control over my life and my body at the same time. To this day, I can’t tell you what turned me around. I suspect it was a series of events and opportunities.

I’ve always loved reading, so I started reading books about autism. After I got done absorbing, highlighting, and dog-earring one book, I’d pass it along to my husband and start looking for another. As mentioned in a previous blog, I found other parents who were going through the same things that we were (well, maybe not the menopause!) and we eventually formed a support group. We searched for anyone we knew who might have the least little bit of knowledge about autism and picked their brains clean. There weren’t a whole lot of conferences and seminars nearby, but we went to every one we could find and took copious notes. Little by little, we became knowledgeable, and with that knowledge came a growing sense of empowerment.

By the time I got to our first IEP meeting (back then it was called an “M Team” meeting…”M” for Multidisciplinary, I believe), I was ready with my list of goals I wanted to incorporate into the IEP, had my STEP manual out on the table and felt like I had a fairly good handle on the proceedings. And then all the school personnel on their side of the table started talking to me in what seemed like code! Some of the terms I remembered from my reading, but a lot of it went right over my head. One thing they kept saying that completely flummoxed me was constantly referring to some guy named Ellery. I thought perhaps he was some administrator or something, but it didn’t seem to fit into the context of what they were saying, so I finally got up the courage to ask, “Who is this Ellery person you keep talking about?” If you haven’t guessed yet, it wasn’t Ellery but L.R.E. (Least Restricted Environment)! Well, we all had a good laugh (at my expense), but it really broke the ice, and from then on the meeting went smoothly. For the first time, I really felt a part of the “team!”

Many times parents or grandparents will call and apologize that they know so little about autism. No one does…until they learn. Don’t ever feel embarrassed to admit you don’t know something or to ask for clarification. If you are proactive, you can find many ways to increase your knowledge; books, DVD’s, orientations, workshops, support groups, or the internet (although do be careful you are reading from legitimate sites…there’s also a lot of garbage out there!). Whatever knowledge I have gleaned over the years, I am happy to share, so please don’t ever hesitate to pick up the phone and give me a call.

Knowledge is Power!

Peace,

Carolyn Shindler
Parent Rep
Autism TN

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