Helicopter Mom, Dad, or Grandparent- Def.: Caregiver who constantly hovers over their child and those who come near …and far.
I’m breaking my anonymity: I am a Recovering Helicopter Mom. Really. I mean it. This time. Sure, I’ve had a few slips, but you would too, if you were me. I mean, if you won’t call autism an epidemic, you can call it one in my family. Denial isn’t just a river in Africa, you know.
There are two aspects of being a Helicopter Caregiver: hovering over your child, and hovering over the rest of the world that comes into contact with your child. I’m currently undergoing renovations with the first; I’m exploring my current habit with the second. Since it really does take a village to raise a child with autism, this piece is about how I handle that village.
It may seem like I have a sort of bad reputation, but my potential for hovering is so ripe for the taking! Even if you have just one child with autism, think of the myriad of agencies, organizations, and institutions that you will interface with (interface, not in-yer-face) over his or her lifetime. Take education, for instance. If you’re anything like me, you will come in contact with tons of teachers, school secretaries, therapists, principals, special education administrators, superintendents, cafeteria ladies, board of education members, and the president of the PTA.
Look at this data from the U.S. Department of Education. Your child is no Lone Ranger on Line 12. Now, multiply all possible education contacts by the total number of kids with autism in public schools. That’s a lot of collective hovering. We’re an impressive bunch, at least in numbers.
Are my propellers effective? Maybe and maybe not. I’m effective if I’m confident in my son’s FAPE in an LRE where he can keep learning. But, maybe I’m not so hot if I make those on the ground grow weary of my constant grind of machinations. If I go on about every missed detail, it becomes white noise. People who can make a difference for my son might stop listening. I could also run out of gas up there with no backup.
One professional suggests synthesizing concerns to focus on what will affect my child at least one year from now. I recently attended a training for parents impacting health care policy. We were given an impromptu assignment of pretending to meet with a lawmaker. We had 2 minutes to convince our legislator to support our chosen health care issue. That was an eye-opener.
I’m also told we should learn to talk the talk as we walk the walk. Using education again as an example, instead of saying:
YOU JUST LET HIM LINE UP BLOCKS ALL DAY LONG!!!
I’d love it if our student could receive more direct instruction and facilitated peer interaction during Center Time. How can we make this happen?
If you need help with your child’s education in North Carolina, check out an ASNC or ECAC workshop. Years ago, I figured I could advocate well by swiping on lipstick, jumping into my public-speaking skirt, and slipping on high heels with the full intent to seriously kick some hiney. I thought my love for the children would conquer all. This was fine, but I had no goods to back up my posturing.
There is a flip side to this Helicopter issue, however…
Let’s look at it!!!
If it weren’t for Helicopter Caregivers, there would be no landmark legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, and numerous others, including the Combating Autism Act, still being played out in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. It’s not the helicoptering that’s bad; it’s how we fly that makes all the difference for your child and mine. What’s especially important in lean times is how to fly together.
I’ll leave with you some Helicopter Moms I admire “from across the pond”, first featured in the Autism File. One of them lovingly muscled her way in to see the Prime Minister. These women created an international stir with their campaign of donning the LBD. That’s not a special needs acronym. That’s the Little Black Dress, and the ladies have all The Right Stuff to back it up.
Tags: Alison Davis, autism, autism advocacy, autism file, Autism Society of North Carolina, exceptional children's assistance center, helicopter mom, momof3au, Polly Tommey, special education advocacy