The following article is submitted by Autism Society of North Carolina Parent Advocate Tali Denton.
As parents of kids with autism, we can get worn down not only from the physical demands of parenting a child on the spectrum but by the emotional demands as well. It seems that our teen son needs and has always required reassurance. My husband and I often serve as his cheerleaders, providing kudos and feel-good words to foster the self-esteem of our special needs child. As much as we adore our kids, this can grow tiresome. What if there was something else, something they could turn to when we weren’t around or when they were feeling blue and needed a boost?
My husband and I had the idea to make a book of memories for our son as a surprise high school graduation gift this past June. We made a long list of loving teachers, professionals, family members, and friends who had touched our son’s life, beginning in first grade. We contacted them all and requested letters, pictures, cards, or any special memories they had of our son.
We were amazed at the outpouring of interest and the written treasures that were sent back to us by email and snail mail. One special ed teacher from elementary school had even saved classroom publications that included blurbs about her students and pictures our son had drawn 11 years ago!
The look on our child’s face when he received this surprise gift was better than all of the words of thanks that we got from him. It was so fulfilling to see him flipping through the pages and smiling at the names he saw at the bottom of each personal note.
As our son prepares for college in the fall, he often comments about the book and what it means to him. It seems that he needs us less as cheerleaders now that he has this to read whenever he feels he needs a pick-me-up.
We are immensely grateful to everyone who took the time to share their connection to our son. If your child is young, you may want to start a master list of teachers and other contacts, because one day you might find yourself calling on them to share their memories of your child. It really is a gift that lasts a lifetime!
For more parenting tips, contact the Parent Advocate in your area today. (link to map)
Tali Denton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.