I have found help for my autistic son, primarily from the school system. It does ( I completely believe) take very special individuals to become teachers. Teachers already are people of compassion and dedication. When presented with a needy parent, I have found, they become an open book of information and are extremely willing to be of assistance. An autistic child, or any child of special need, becomes in their eyes a pet project. It has, for the most part, been an excellent experience with the school system. Please talk to the schools, lay out the problems you are facing and let them help you. My son has advanced so much with the help of the school system, that they have pulled him out of the special-ed class. He still struggles and works at a slightly lower level than the other kids, but they have a helper in the class room to help keep him and few other kids on track. I am amazed at the work they have done. If you have a child that you feel is not reaching as far as he can I urge you to put him in public school and let him emulate his peers. Just like your child finds a way to fit in and be understood in your family, he will strive to do the same thing with his school friends. There are a few problems with the other kids not being mature and kind to him, but the benefits so far, far outweigh the problems. Just take those problems right to the principal and let them know that you are not happy. I have found that even the principal takes my son as a pet project. She cares deeply that he is happy. Of course we cannot prevent everything, but just taking the time to talk things over with him makes him feel like he is not alone with his problems and encourages him to keep trying to fit in. I have to say that the public school has been the best therapy my son has received.
There is also a speech therapist, who holds summer camps to work with the kids. My sons language skills have improved greatly, but he still has issues. There are many words that he says, that he does not fully understand, and there are so many social ideas connected to words that he just doesn’t get. The summer camp helps him have a place to go interact with “helpers” and try out his language skills with those who are understanding of his difficulties.
We have also attended a few seminars to educate parents from the school board. They are available in our area from time to time. I usually get a note from a teacher about an upcoming event and call and sign up. They are free. I find they are much more like a forum, a place for me to talk about what I wish I was seeing in the schools. They are educational though, I remember at one seminar the instructor talking about bathroom rules. You think you know what you are doing as a mom teaching wipe, wash, flush ect. Then someone tells you that the public bathroom for men is a place of social interactions. You think Huh? Oh yeah it’s true, you have to behave just right in there. You can’t giggle when someone passes gas. You can’t stare at the guy who is peeing like a horse no matter how impressive that is. Thank goodness I have a husband who was already on top of this issue with him, because I had never really thought about what he might be doing wrong in there. So these seminars do open your eyes a bit, but for the most part, your parental instincts have already taught you what your child really needs and is going through. Just like my husband had already been saying to him, eyes forward at the urinal, and giving my son a little nudge when he may have wanted to laugh. It was instinctive to him. The seminars just give those things a name, and formalize the strategies to help that you have already been putting in place.
For the most part that is the extent of the help I have found from the community. Thank goodness, my son has responded really well to what was available. I have heard about communities that have projects for the autistic, where they do crafts, I would love to find a play group, and a parents support group so we can help each other. I have heard of communities that have safe homes for adult autistics, and they help them get jobs, and help them do activities in the community like shopping, or visiting the zoo or a movie. I have yet to find these sort of things in my community. I did get a notice once to sign my son up with the county board of mental health, because he might need housing in the future. I really haven’t looked into what services they may offer.
There of course is also help from family and friends that I will never be ungrateful for. My sister takes him for sleepovers from time to time. They have a wonderful time together. He feels loved and is usually spoiled. He looks forward to those times very much. So while I wish there was more for him, I intend to take full advantage of the ones that are available. Right now he is thriving, advancing, and I am pleased, and if that should change, you better believe, I will be looking for more help, and not giving up till I find it. With the widespread problem of autism, I just don’t see how our communities can turn a blind eye to their needs, and as parents we just cannot let them.