I am down to the final 2 “Survival Characteristics” for Parents today. Just to recap if you’ve not read my last 2 blog posts… I’ve been sharing my 8 Key Characteristics that I have seen, over the years, in parents who have both survived and thrived with their child with Asperger’s or ASD. So far they’ve been:
* Sense of humor
* A positive outlook
* Expressing emotions
And here’s number 7…
7. Being ruthless – Now this survival characteristic is a further extension on “determination”. What I am talking about here is the need, when necessary, to be as ruthless as the most hard-nosed business person when it comes to your child. To give you an example I have heard of parents who bake cookies and take other treats into IEP meetings to try and “win over” the teachers and other educators in the room. Now for a start this isn’t my favorite approach as I feel it can blur the boundaries of what can be a “battle ground” at times. However I know people who do it and get great results so who am I to argue? But my point is – what happens when the head teacher turns around and flatly refuses the extra social skills class that your child needs (whilst he’s sat merrily chomping on your best home made chocolate brownie)?
This is when ruthlessness needs to take over. If your son NEEDS that extra help then things may need to turn a little heated for you to achieve that. This may involve you a very stubborn attitude and continuing to question the school in terms of their legal and moral rights to deliver what your child needs.
It may also mean mentioning a third party agency with clout such as The Office of Civil Rights in the USA. They are a very powerful force and I got some great advice on this from an interview I did with a mom called Mary Romaniec several years ago, who told me…
“That’s something that a lot of people don’t realize how much power that has, even putting that into a letter. The Office of Civil Rights is the federal arm of the special education laws. And if by chance a school district is found to potentially be violating federal laws, the school district could have the federal attorneys come into their offices and be there, camp out for months as they comb through files and interview personnel, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney bills. And all a parent has to do is just mention, “I believe that you violated my child’s federal rights.” And you put that in writing and you will be surprised at just how much a school district will finally start paying attention to what you have to say…”
So whether it’s mentioning an external legal or governing body, or the ability to stare the head teacher in the eye and quite openly question their commitment to your son (with an attitude that you don’t intend to take “no” for an answer) – then there is definitely a time and a place to be ruthless.
8. A good support network – Now this is clearly not rocket science; I’m sure you know the importance of good friends and family at tricky times. However there are a few important distinctions I want to point out. Firstly in today’s world there are increasing numbers of single parents (primarily moms) who are in a position of having to raise their child/children alone. This means that the “traditional” source of support – your husband, wife or partner – may not be available to many. So this changes the situation around and means that the need to look for external support is even more important. With no “significant other” to bounce ideas off, laugh, cry and experience all of those other emotions with, it can become isolating. Pretty soon situations and problems can appear much worse than they actually are – simply because you have no-one to share your burden.
This is where your need for wider family and informal/friend networks are so important. We ALL need someone to hold us close when the tears are flowing down our cheeks, or to laugh with when situations become down right comical (e.g. in the “if I don’t laugh I’ll cry” type scenario). So the parents who survive the best have these people in their life. Friends or relatives who can swoop in when life is tough and drag you off for a coffee, a cupcake and help you laugh away life’s troubles. And this by no mean just for single parents. I know many parents who are in a marriage or relationship but when it comes to caring for their child with Asperger’s, to put it politely… they may as well be on their own!
It’s the kindness of a friend sending you a thoughtful text on the morning of your child’s IEP meeting. Or a friend who’ll drop everything at a minute’s notice, and take your other kids out to the park for an hour whilst you deal with your son having a meltdown about school. These people help you get through the day. But I must also add that there are many really strong relationships and marriages out there where both husband and wife work together each and every day, and are the number one source of support for each other.
It’s just so important to have these supports in your local neighbourhood (or in your very own house); but the internet has opened up many more possibilities too. You can connect with friends, or specialist groups related to parenting at social media websites like Facebook. You can reach out and share problems with other parents who really understand Asperger’s on specialist forums (like your forum at www.parentingaspergerscommunity.com) or by adding comments on blogs (like this one). And again the really successful parents, in my experience, will often have both local contact and friends, as well as utilize online support groups and forums. So however you do it – make sure you have a good solid and , where possible, varied network of support.
Well that’s all for today and I hope you enjoyed this mini-series over the past couple of weeks. Take care,