Happy New Year! Many people approach the new year as a time to focus on bettering themselves. In fact, making New Year’s resolutions has history in both Western and Eastern cultures and dates back many centuries – a fun tidbit I learned in preparing for this blog. Our friends at Wikipedia define resolutions as a tradition in which a “person resolves to continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life at the start of a new year.” For many, resolutions involve goals like losing weight, getting more exercise, adopting healthier lifestyles, doing a better job with saving money, and planning for retirement. Having goals is important as it helps us grow and function better as our lives evolve. Attaining goals has a positive impact on our well-being.
The resolutions listed above have been typical for me at various times in my life. Autism has added some other resolutions to the mix as well. When my son was first diagnosed, my resolution was to learn all I could about autism and how it impacted my child so that I could be a better advocate. As the saying goes, “If you know one child with autism, you know one child.” Over the years, I have shared his uniqueness with family, friends, neighbors, and educators while explaining “why he did what he did.” Learning to see the world through his eyes helped me structure our home and his life. Today, we are in the process of teaching him how to create that structure for himself. So, the goal is still there, just in a different form.
Another early resolution was to learn everything I could about services and supports available to my son. As a former Special Education teacher, I knew all about Exceptional Children’s Services, IEPs, and 504 plans, but I was not aware of community and governmental supports. With the help of parents I met through the local ASNC chapter, I learned about community programs through our local parks and recreation program, private speech practices, the local YMCA, therapeutic riding farms, church groups, and the Autism Society of NC. I also learned about the Innovations Medicaid Waiver, North Carolina’s Waiver Program for children and adults diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Accessing these supports provided short-term and long-term support for our family. Meeting other people gave us a stronger social network and a better sense of what I needed to focus on as a mom of a unique child. Even now with an adult son on the spectrum, I find myself reaching out to those I met years ago through those connections to learn about new programs, gain opinions about provider agencies, and to find new workers.
Another resolution at the forefront since we started our journey with autism is finding peace with autism. It is a resolution I constantly work on each year. Like many, I do well with this until I see my son struggling with social expectations of a society which does not know enough about how impactful autism can be. It is a delicate dance I do between helping him learn new skills, but not pushing him too hard; loving my son for who he is, but not making him feel responsible for how autism affects his abilities when he struggles. I know all parents go through these feelings with their children, especially as their children become adults, but I am not sure they bear concerns as deeply. Perhaps their joy is not as great as what we feel when we realize what our children have accomplished and how far they have come. Hopefully we can claim that joy for ourselves when we recognize our own part in their growth.
As you move through your year, working on your resolutions, I hope you will remember the Autism Society of North Carolina is here to help you. It was a promise we made to parents years ago when we started our mission to serve families and individuals on the autism spectrum. If your child has been recently diagnosed, the Autism Society of North Carolina offers monthly “After the Diagnosis” workshops virtually. We also have the workshops in a four-part series on our website’s webinar library. If your child is older than eight and newly diagnosed, we offer a webinar online at least quarterly so that you can learn more about autism and available supports for older children.
Your local Autism Resource Specialist can help you find community resources and support groups for services and networking. We are all moms of children on the spectrum, so we can give you an ear and a virtual hug as you work to find peace with autism. If you are not connected with the Autism Resource Specialist in your area, please visit this page.
Like all resolutions, some will be easy to attain, but others will be lifelong, and that’s okay. Just remember we are here to help. We promise.
Nancy Nestor, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Charlotte region, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-894-9678.Tags: ASNC, autism, autism acceptance, autism awareness, autism resources, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum