A Season for Appreciation

May 14, 2013
Chelsea Budde

While April is a great month for awareness (and acceptance), May is the perfect month for appreciation ... of teachers and mothers.

Last week, we celebrated teachers.  If you're the parent of a student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you probably particularly appreciate your child's teacherS.  Since I'm raising two students with special education needs, our family celebrates quite a host of educators.  We appreciate classroom teachers who strive to make their lessons inclusive of all learners, keeping individual needs in mind.  We appreciate special education teachers who meet with their colleagues in professional learning communities to adapt curriculum ahead of time.  We appreciate speech language pathologists who encourage other members of our students' teams to generalize newly-acquired skills.  We appreciate specially-designed phy ed teachers who travel from school to school in our district, often working with students in a wide range of age and ability, supporting them in their physical well-being.  We appreciate art and music teachers who are flexible, sometimes without much support from special educators.  We appreciate school nurses who dispense medication, and secretaries who smile while handing our kids a hall pass, and principals who show up to IEP meetings.  They're all teachers, too -- they teach our kiddos how to be the best them they can be.

On Sunday, we celebrated moms.  I celebrated my kids' grandmas, who've had to learn how to interact in a whole new way with their daughter's children.  In my own private reflection, I celebrated the moms who've gone before me on this journey of raising children with ASD; she who listened to her heart instead of her head (or an "expert") along the way, to her child's benefit; she who strapped on the figurative combat boots in case someone needed some *ahem* encouragement to see her perspective; she who collaborated and compromised to make sure her child would get the supports he or she needed.  Those moms inspire me to continue on our journey with diligence and excellence.  I also celebrated the moms of typically-developing children who are flexible enough to encourage their kids to befriend and support my kids, on school grounds and off.

Good Friend co-founder Denise did another kind of celebrating on Friday and Saturday.  She and another Good Friend autism mom were demonstrating and learning about the siblings of students with special needs through a training program by The Sibling Support Project.  Sibshops seek to increase the peer support and information opportunities for brothers and sisters of people with special needs, and to increase parents' and providers' understanding of sibling issues.  The programs appreciate these brothers and sisters, who will likely be in the lives of family members with special needs LONGER than anyone else.  They may be there after parents are gone and special education services are a distant memory.  Throughout their lives, siblings share many of the concerns that parents of children with special needs experience, including isolation, a need for information, guilt, concerns about the future and caregiving demands.  Siblings also face issues that are uniquely theirs including resentment, peer issues, embarrassment and pressure to achieve.

So here's to you, teachers, moms, and siblings.  We hope those around you continue to celebrate your awesomeness!

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