I am not an autism mom, but I’d like to think I’m the next closest thing. I’m a teacher that works with students with autism. I observe, interact with, communicate with, and most importantly, deeply respect autism moms.
I teach in a school district that is undergoing major changes in special education, and specifically in our ASD programs. It is very controversial and the parents, especially the moms, are in full “parent-advocate mode.” They are fighting for their kid’s educational rights like it’s their JOB. They are amazing!
To honor them, and any ASD moms that may read this, I made a list of characteristics I admire about autism moms.
- They fill in the gaps.
They want their kids to be accepted and understood, and for a child with a communication disability, that often means filling in the gaps. They meet with teachers, other parents, sometimes even the whole general education class to help everyone understand their kids. They are creating the dialogue about autism in the schools and they have such a huge influence.
- They fight… I mean, they educate. I mean, they advocate.
Well, at times it may seem like they want to literally fight. Throw some punches. But seriously, even the most mild-mannered autism mom will stand up to high-powered district officials if it may help their kid. As a kindergarten teacher, I have interacted with hundreds of moms, but there is something so strong in autism moms. So bold. So ready to do anything for their kids. It is a force to be reckoned with!
- They didn’t sign up for this.
I have sat in tiny kindergarten chairs with moms who related their child’s diagnosis experience through teary eyes. I have sat at conferences with parents who didn’t even know what an IEP was. I have been in the room when the “a” word was first spoken to nervous parents. They are thrown into this world of special education without any parent class or “Autism 101.” I feel their confusion and stress because I felt my own version of it as a general education teacher with students with autism thrown in my class without any training offered. They didn’t choose this (except for the exceptional ones who adopted, which is another story!). However, that doesn’t stop them from diving in head first. Which brings me to the next, related thing I admire:
- They are self-taught autism experts.
Want to know the latest autism strategy? Want to know the special ed law? Want to know the details of their child’s IEP goals? Want to know the current research on causes of autism? They are experts. I truly wonder how these moms find time to learn so much about the topic, but they are truly a wealth of information. I love asking autism moms what strategies they are trying or what is working at home, because they not only know their child best, but they understand the diagnosis and the spectrum in such a deep, meaningful way.
- They worry, but are deeply and unwaveringly optimistic.
Worry is a built-in emotion for any mom, but especially for an autism mom. What will the other kids think of my kid? Will the teacher know how to handle an outburst? Will he be independent eventually? These are the things I imagine must keep them up at night. But in the end, I have heard nothing but optimism. They say things like “He will meet his goals.” “She will make progress.” “He has come so far.” Autism moms see the glass half-full and hold onto that hope!
- They do not give up.
Just as any mom would not give up on their child, autism moms do not give up on helping their child succeed, academically, socially, behaviorally. They have amazing energy and drive. A therapy didn’t work? Well, we will try another! Insurance didn’t approve that expense? Well, I’ll make a call! Nothing stops them!
If you are an autism mom, take this as a big hug, or as a high-five, or as a word of encouragement. I am in your fan club! You are an amazing mom! Keep doing what you’re doing!