Psychology. Education. Advocacy. Research.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Homeschooling A Child On The Autism Spectrum

Homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum, is not for the faint-at-heart, nor is it for the strong-at-heart.  The ability to homeschool children on the autism spectrum is for the one that is willing to envision themselves as "a student of another person's mind". In other words, one must be willing to "look inside" and learn the mind of the ones they teach, as they teach. Taking the time to get to know how a student thinks, relates, processes, and perceives the world around them is very important in the beginning stages of homeschooling.  Furthermore, during every lesson one must keep in mind the student on the spectrum may not see, hear, feel, or understand concepts, ideas, and language in the same way they do. 
I have been homeschooling our little girl for a total of six years now.  She is on the autism spectrum with a moderate-to-severe delay in language and communication skills. My husband and I placed her in a public school setting for a short while. Then we placed her in a private, homeschool setting for a year while I completed some college degree requirements. The main reasons we chose to homeschool was a desire to see her thrive in our society and because of her problematic behavioral expressions. 

The Power of High Expectations

Our daughter is eight-years old now, and I still find it humorous when someone says to me, "While she was with me, she did not behave inappropriately". I always smile politely and say, "I am very happy to hear that" and I really am. However, when low expectations are all that are required, my little girl will be the most pleasant child you will ever see. Arguably this is the case even for children not on the autism spectrum. High expectations will many times invoke a charged environment. The charge of high expectations may increase problematic behaviors within an academic setting (e.g., avoidance, aversion, anxiety, or frustration). Additionally, if a child also has a learning disability such as dyslexia, then a teacher with high expectations may experience an increase in behaviors that are not conducive for learning. This is why it is very important to know and continuously learn the child's mind.  Specifically, it is important to know the deficits and strengths within the child's mind as they relate to each lesson concept and idea. If one begins homeschooling a child on the spectrum without going through the process of learning their mind, one will experience an increase in the student's problematic behaviors and an increase in irritation within themselves. This irritation will further complicate this already complex process.
When I first began homeschooling, I clearly understood (and research had thoroughly revealed) the numerous symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be very stressful for parent's during day-to-day tasks, especially aggressive behavioral expressions. There were times when I did not believe I would be able to effectively teach my little girl.  This is because I did not know how to teach someone that exhibited low concentration and high distractibility.  I did not know how to draw her attention away from her world. Moreover, I did not know how to teach her how to communicate her needs to me in a way that did not include high-pitched, screaming tantrums. I had numerous behavior therapists continuously share with me wonderful ideas and programs that could potentially decrease inappropriate behaviors.  However, at that time it was not possible for me to realistically set-up these behavioral programs, while at the same time playing the role of her physical therapist, speech therapist, physical education teacher, music teacher, academic teacher, and mother.  I began to feel I was fighting a losing battle, because her aggressive behaviors, poor concentration, and high distractibility began to wear me out.
Always Keep This In Mind
So what did I do?  I decided to take the time to build up her school lessons in a way that gradually required more and more of her attention and concentration (much like a behavior therapist would do, accept in ways that flowed into our normal, day-to-day routines). For every lesson objective, I consciously factored in the possibility of slow processing issues, receptive language & expressive communication delays, working memory deficits, and mild dyslexia. Many children on the spectrum are known to have great abilities in some academic areas while there are large gaps in other areas. Using short cuts, skipping basic fundamental skills, and using worksheets to introduce concepts and ideas may cause confusion in the long-term. It is very important to start with the most fundamental component of your lesson objective and slowly build on that. This foundation will prove to be very beneficial if or when your child experiences regression, as mine does.

Many children on the spectrum are concrete thinkers (opposite of myself) and need visual, hands-on activities when learning, especially when first learning a concept or idea. Furthermore, hand-over-hand demonstrations and modeling are two of the most effective ways to teach.  For example, my daughter is currently learning how to write on advanced writing paper. Whenever I introduce new sentences, I place my hand on top of her hand and guide her writing.  Actually, if I see she is having difficulty with anything, this is always my go-to method. Another example is when we are learning new words, I sound out each word as I write it, (super slow, as if I am learning it myself), repeatedly. It is amazing how much she learns and retains from these two simple instructional methods. One more example is in math. It really helps her complete math problems when we take turns doing the math problems. It is like a game. "You do one, then I do one". This method allows me to see where she is having difficulties and it helps to keep her focused on completing the problems. After a few times of this, I then say, "Ok, now you do two and I do one". I am continuously thinking up new methods on how to break down and build up concepts and subjects in ways my daughter understands. 
To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool?

The decision to homeschool is one that requires a lot of thought.  I was not a very organized or structured person at the start of this. It has taken a lot of effort, late nights, and mental focus to be where we are now.

Patience is something else I did not possess at the beginning of this process. Without the acquisition of patience, I would not be qualified to teach my daughter because she sometimes requires a long duration of time to respond correctly to a task. Moreover, I found out that breaking down lesson objectives, repetition of specific lesson components, and her working memory deficits required a lot of pure and quiet patience. Patience is actually one of the key attributes to have when homeschooling individuals on the spectrum.  I believe the acquisition of this attribute is the main reason we work so well together.  It took me a while to get there, but I understand her so much more now.

Learning how to decrease problematic behaviors effectively is another key component in homeschooling successfully. Without learning how to effectively do this, instructional methods such as hand-over-hand and modeling are very difficult to carry out. I use many different ways to bring my daughter's mind and behavior into learning mode. In subsequent posts, I will share some of the most effective approaches I have used to increase her attention and concentration and decrease her aggressive behaviors.

I have had many people tell me they do not understand how I am doing it. I tell them all the same thing, "I am doing it because I can now". At the start of this progressive process, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and currently I still fail and learn something new every week. Failures and successes are absolute constants in the progressive process of homeschooling.  Take your time!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary: The Face of Autism?

The manipulative strategies imposed by those that are aware of the fleeting faculties of the human mind are very seasoned at what they do. There will never be a time when drama isn't king within our media. "The people want something, so we give it to them". That's the power behind the various faces of reality presented by some media sources.

Currently, the face of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is being implicated as a potential reason for the unthinkable acts of nightmare-type violence that occurred on December 14, 2012. These acts of violence stole the lives of 20 innocent children and seven school staff members. These acts were so well planned out that the most experienced experts in our nation are having difficulties finding evidence to answer the loudest & most resounding question bouncing off the minds of the people. WHY did this happen?

The coward that committed these epic acts of pure evil had an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) called Asperger's Syndrome. Interestingly, the limited amount of information we have on this cancerous individual creates a very narrow picture of his life. However, out of that limited information, ASD seems like the best answer to the resounding question of why. This is understandable knowing and feeling the heart-stabbing pain of the parents and family members that lost their loved ones. The anger that furiously screams for justice over top of the yellow-bellied body of the killer. WHY?

Individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have social impairments, communication & speech delays, and atypical behavioral expressions. These impairments, deficits, and expressions are due to neuro-developmental components of their brain cortex that function differently than the typical person. A neuro-developmental disorder is not a mental illness, although some individuals with ASD may suffer from comorbid mental conditions (e.g., depression & obsessive-compulsive disorder). Aggression is also an area of concern for many parents and caregivers of individuals with an ASD. However, aggression is typically reactionary to an inability to effectively communicate, heightened environmental stimulation, or being abused. Understanding the feelings of others is another criterion used to diagnose a child with ASD. This is typically an issue during the infant years, although there are some individuals that keep this as they age. However, it is no more prevalent than the typical individual that lacks empathy. The most effective evidence-based treatment for ASD is applied behavioral analysis (ABA) beginning at an early age. This intervention is used to increase useful behaviors and decrease problematic behaviors. Many individuals with ASD also receive speech therapy and occupational therapy. Mental health medications are not typically used to treat ASD symptoms. I would like to highlight the fact that neuro-developmental disorders are not the same as mental illnesses.

The day after 14 December 2012, my husband asked me to watch a documentary on the 1997 North Hollywood Bank Robbery - Shooting Rampage. As I watched, I literally felt as if I were watching a movie. I could not believe these men were using illegally modified fully automatic guns, with high capacity drum magazines and ammunition capable of penetrating police body armor, as if they were playing a video game. I was so thankful no one was killed (except the shooters). Later we did a Wikipedia search on this shooting rampage only to find out that these men had been picked up four years earlier with a trunk load of guns, ammo, and everything one needs to kill a mass of people. Interestingly, these men were released from jail after 100 days and given back most of their property. Now we, the readers, were privy to a short & limited background on these two individuals, but there was clearly a lot of "history" missing. This history may have given us a reason as to why these men "went out" as they did.

What history do we have on this current mass murderer? Was he on medications? Was he also diagnosed with mental or medical conditions?

The scenes of the DC Sniper, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech and another recent senseless shooting rampage will always be fresh in the minds of the reigning generation. What do all of these mass murderers have in common besides their preferred choice in weaponry? Perhaps we need to press the experts to assist us in answering that question instead of using the face of autism as the answer. Especially knowing these other mass murderers were not diagnosed with ASD.

Related article:
What Drives Suicide Mass Killers

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary: Birth from Death

At the core of our existential being is not a need for gifts, medical miracles, friends, or more money. At our core lies a numbing need for answers. Not answers to questions relating to LIFE, no, no, no. The answers we seek mostly relate to DEATH, and all that is "birth" from it.

Friday, December 14, 2012 created a reviving shock in the frozen hearts & minds of individuals around the world.  The minds of people began to seek information, knowing from the spirit that binds us all together, another expression of imbalance has once again brought us back to a familiar place...reality. That place we run from everyday, knowing one day we will return.

As a result of what occured on this day, there is a collective shiver in the spirit of man. Whether it is because the children & staff were taken away too soon or because of the families they left behind, the pain attached to this collective event worked to bind us all spiritually & emotionally. The normal "distractions" of politics in the form of gun control, our attempt to profile what a murderer looks like, and the heartless individuals who financially capitalize from this, WILL NOT take away how this horrific happening has emotionally charged the hearts of people. We all have questions. We all want answers.

The anger & pain we feel is normal. The emotions disallowing us to think are for a reason. The feelings of helplessness are real. There is nothing in the world that allows us to completely escape these. They are apart of the DNA of existence.

It was two years ago when I first experienced real understanding of the concept "birth from death". Admittedly, I have been conditioned by the religious cultures of our time. So my knowledge of this concept had no real foundation outside of what I had been told. It was not until I began to see the LIFE of all mankind as one LIFE, that I began to realize when something happens to one, it happens to us all. The deaths that occurred on December 14, 2012 have invoked LIFE into the spirit of man. It is a LIFE buried deeper than the life brought forth by the so-called Christmas spirit. Nothing binds us more than death.

As we all fight within to grab some type of control over our emotions and our questions, please take some time to recognize yourself within the spirit of man as one that continues to live for those that have died.

NOTE: If you are having a difficult time coping with what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, please seek assistance. Find someone that will listen, and talk to them about how you feel. If you need some assistance finding a mental health professional, I would recommend asking a friend who may suggest one, asking your primary medical doctor, or doing an internet search within your local area. If you choose to seek after a mental health professional, please use the first meeting to get to know the individual before sharing any personal information.

Here are a few links that may assist you:
Finding a Psychologist
Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Special Education Student Abuse, Not MY Problem

The comment sections under news articles reporting on abuse against special education students reveal how people in our society honestly feel about this issue.  Some people adamantly reject the idea of placing video cameras in special education classrooms as an additional safety measure.  People are concerned about the privacy rights of teachers and students.  People feel there is already too much money given to special education programs.  And some people believe no assistance should be given to individuals that will never be productive citizens in society.

This Has Nothing To Do With ME
This issue is not about privacy, nor is it about more money being spent, nor is it about "some" special education students that will never be productive citizens.  This issue is about how we as a society treat those that are unable to protect themselves.  That is what is at the heart of this issue.  Moreover, where one stands on this issue, is exactly why our society is as it is and will continue to be this way.

These issues may not be “your” problem at this time, but parents of special education students are productive citizens in society that have all the same concerns as other parents.  Parents want the best for their children.  Parents do their best to juggle family, work, and life the best way they can.  Parents desire to see their children as an extension of their hard-working efforts in years to come.  Parents of children with special needs rely on educational support as much as parents of children without special needs.  Parents of children with special needs contribute as much to the community and government as parents of children without special needs.  In addition, just like other parents, these parents want their children protected. 

Breeding Ground for Abuse
Special education classrooms are a breeding ground for abuse.  Many children in special education classrooms have developmental disorders that disable their cognitive abilities to effectively express themselves verbally.  Many children in these classrooms are unable to communicate, meaning they are unable to answer questions such as, "How was school today?"  One parent described it like this:

"Unlike typical children, autistic children don't realize they are being abused. They may think "this is what school is supposed to be like". Also, many special needs kids are nonverbal. So even if they knew things were not right, they may be unable to tell parents or authorities that they are being abused. This empowers those very few hateful teachers who are isolated from responsibility and accountability by their protective administration system". - Joe Lippeatt (Houston, Texas)

Special education teachers and the students they teach are the most vulnerable populations on every public school campus.  Yet there is very little accountability and oversight within the special education classroom in regards to safety and prevention.  Many parents are not called until days later about incidents involving their child. School administrators are more concerned with ensuring their special education teachers "trust" them, than they are for the safety and protection of the special education students in the classrooms. An administrator in Aldine ISD, Texas put it like this, "It is hard to find special education teachers and putting video cameras in the classroom will make the teacher feel as if we don't trust them".  It is because of attitudes like this that some teachers accused of abusing a child are not fired, but simply transferred to another school.  Some teachers accused of using aversive disciplinary methods are allowed to keep their jobs. Hot Sauce On Crayons?

One reason abuse may occur in a special education setting is because of a perceived lack of oversight. This lack of oversight lends to the mind-frame "I will not be caught in the act".  What other reason would allow the mind of someone to think it is "ok" to soak cotton balls in vinegar and shove them in a student's mouth as a form of discipline? Would any parent stand for this?  Not a parent that cares for the safety and well-being of their children.  And that is why parents across the United States are requesting video cameras in public school special education classrooms: A Grassroots Movement Is Stirring!

This is a matter of the heart

Imagine the hearts of parents that have - noticed bruises on their child’s body - found out that their child's hair was ripped out and then the child was closed in a filing cabinet - made to eat hot sauce covered crayons - had water sprayed into their face at point blank range - slapped, pushed, & beaten - made to sit in a closet/store room for extended periods of time without food or water. Here Is A Recent & Related News Report.

These children are innocent and their parents are functioning members of this society.  These children deserve protection just as much as any child in our society.  As a society, are we really arguing over whether or not to implement better safety measures that will protect innocent children from aversive disciplinary methods?  

The Petition!
Video Cameras Speak For Special Education Students

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Most Important When Teaching a Child With Autism...

The number one thing you will need to teach your child or someone else's child that has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a willingness to learn how he or she learns.  I set forth on this adventurous journey four years ago and believe me when I say I did not have "the willingness to learn how" my non-verbal daughter learned.  I did not have a clue where to begin or how her mind operated.  Furthermore, I would soon figure out that the way I learned many things up to that point, would more than likely be quite different than the way she would learn the same things.

These realities along with my daughter's monumental melt-downs, deficits in receptive understanding, learning disabilities, and short-attention span made me wonder (more than twice) if I would be able to handle all the challenges that were promised to present themselves.  In the process of figuring that out, I realized I would have to go places in my own mind that I never knew existed. To me, it seemed as if I was being required to walk down long tunnels and zig-zag pathways in order to understand how my daughter perceived the world.  During the process of "learning how she learns", I learned a lot about myself.

The Backwards E Turned Forward
I have always pondered how we learn, what we learn, and why we learn the things we learn.  We are raised in a world, a society, and in a family that "passes" down useful methods on how to learn, live, and survive.  However, what I found out was that many of those methods flew out of the window when it came time to teach my little girl phonics, math concepts, telling time, counting money, "how old are you", about the sky, sun, and the planets, and why lower case a's and t's sometimes look different.  I couldn't understand why she continuously forgot what I believed to be the simplest of concepts, such as "more or less".  Why did she write her upper case E's, S's, 2's, D's, and B's backwards?  Why did it seem as if she couldn't understand the easiest questions like "Show me Nemo's dad?"  Even after we had seen Finding Nemo too many times.
Marlin from Finding Nemo

After one solid month of homeschooling, frustration quickly set in.  It got so bad that I couldn't think things through.  I couldn't focus on what lesson to move onto or which lesson to stay with.  My creativity began to wane and I began to wonder, "Am I capable of homeschooling my little girl?"  I started to believe I wasn't.  But one day I stopped everything and watched her play.  I had done this thousands of times, but this time was different.  I began to understand I did not have any idea how the inner workings of my daughter's mind operated.  I made a decision to find out how her mind operates.   This one decision changed our entire homeschooling experience.  

No, it did not get any easier.  I just realized that my own mind had to slow down in order to understand hers (I will add that it seemed like her mind was going a hundred miles per hour, at times).  I decided to stop making her "come out" of her world and I took the time to "go into" her world with her and play games or make-believe.  

Our Home School

Many children diagnosed with an ASD love water, bright lights, and sensory-stimulating games and activities.  I watched my little girl and learned what made her happy and what she liked to do while she was in her world.  I then made the step forward to enter her world.  After a while, my daughter began to see I was genuinely interested in what was going on in her world.  She then became more and more interested in the tasks that I requested her to complete.  This was especially apparent when I brought activities from her world out and used them in our lessons.  In education, this is a form of "motivating through restricted interests".  I found that many times her interests were restricted because she had problems understanding what was going on around her, so she chose to focus on something she could understand.  

The visual mind of a child diagnosed with an ASD is usually quite vivid, bright, and full of sensory-like animations.  Pictures, videos (YouTube), and my own created performances and lessons (real-life & video) is how I was able to teach my daughter about our solar system, the human body, and various other concepts.  Technology also proved to be a great help.  My little girl's father (my husband) created wonderfully, animated PowerPoint presentations that explained the concepts of addition and subtraction.  Worksheets were built using online software, Microsoft Word, and educational websites.  There are many online educational resources that are very user-friendly.  We currently use IXL.com for math and Starfall.com for reading. 

Some of the methods and strategies I used while homeschooling were:

Discrete Trial Teaching (Training) - This website provides you with the all the information you will need to implement this teaching approach.  You will find step-by-step instructions as well as an implementation checklist.

Time Delay Instruction - Here you will find step-by-step instructions, an implementation checklist, and data collection sheets.

Restricted Interests as Motivators - This is a wonderful journal article on how effective this instructional approach can be.  Pixar Animations worked well for my daughter.  She learned to write by writing stories directly from the "beginning reader" books.  She also learned to count, picture name, and read from all of these books.  As she grew older, I used whatever she was interested in to move her from one concept to the next.  Buzz Lightyear did wonders in explaining the "space" concept to her. 
Pixar Animations Worked Wonders! 

Visually appealing instructional environment - word walls, wall areas that are papered up for drawing, painting, and/or writing, age-appropriate songs & poems hanging up, animals, picture concepts, colors, shapes, etc.  

Repetition - The practice of taking a task and repeating it over and over and over.  Sometimes it may take as many as one hundred times before the concept comes to life.  I will admit this "technique" just about drove me mad until right after I realized my little girl was pronouncing words better, her vocabulary began to steadily increase, her writing became more legible, and she began to understand that certain behavior was inappropriate.  The practice of repetition can be very monotonous but once you see the first hurdle the child jumps because of it, it will become apart of how you teach.

"The world" as one big learning environment -  There are great and wonderful things to be learned at the park, at the zoo, at the pool, and everywhere else around the Earth.  The first time my daughter learned how to write her numbers was in the sand at a playground.  FUN!

Four years ago, if someone had told me that my daughter would one day be reading, writing, and doing math, I would never in a million years have believed it would have been because I taught her   We still have a long way to go, but I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to teach my child for as long as I did.  And more than anything, I am thankful I got to see my daughter's face light up every time she learned something new.  

If you have any concerns or questions or would like to share your experiences, find me on the youAUT2know Facebook page.  Or you could simply leave a comment here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Video cameras "speak" for children with disabilities!

Our little girl was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was 3-years old.  From the time of her diagnosis to the present, I have turned down paid employment to homeschool her.  In November 2011, I began writing my dissertation, so we decided to place her in a public school setting.  As many parents have stated, I also thought things were going well and there was nothing to be concerned about.  Even with that being the case, I still chose to begin a petition asking the Texas State legislature to introduce legislation that would require the installation of video cameras in all public school special education classrooms.  Why?  One word: Insanity.

In all honesty, I try to keep sanity as the supreme mental faculty in my mind by staying far away from the horrible expressions of mankind.  Expressions of torture, violence, beating, verbal abuse, involuntary restraint, and the like.  However, recently I felt a tug on my heart to "step a little harder into the throes of reality".  I decided to read the many comments responding to varying news articles on the fervent and merciless abuse of children with special needs.  The comments ran along a very depressing spectrum filled with pain, anger, and distrust in a system that is suppose to serve, teach, and protect our children.  As I read through the comments patterns of helplessness prevailed.  Parents and caregivers feel there is nothing they can do to stop abuse.  Many parents and caregivers feel cheated and outright disrespected because many of the individuals that abused their children are still in the same system (but strategically placed at another school).  Parents and caregivers are battling with mounting anxieties directly related to being "in the dark" about what is going on in their child's classroom.  Things must change! Petition: Give Autistic Children A "Voice".

Sadly, it is not a new revelation that individuals with mental health and developmental disorders are being abused.  Actually, the deeply carved patterns within the annals of history boldly state, "Abuse will occur among this population!"  Thankfully, social change directives like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA of 1990) have put forward laws and guidelines relating to abuse and mishandling individuals with special needs.  (I would like to stop here and personally thank Senator Tom Harkin the author of the IDEA and the ADA of 1990.  He is also the author of the newly introduced  Keep All Students Safe Act.)

Yesterday, May 7, 2012, a special education attorney informed me that there are no laws against putting cameras in special education classrooms.  Actually, in the state of Texas, this decision is up to the school districts.  So why must parents continue to battle through mounting anxieties related to not knowing what is going on in the classrooms of their special needs children?  The reigning response has been confidentiality and privacy issues.  I was a little confused the first time I heard this response because I know in most public schools there are closed-circuit camera systems.  Not only that, but there are also cameras on most public school buses.  So why is it such an issue to install one more video camera in a special education classroom?

Cameras in special education classrooms allow parents and professionals to observe children's behaviors.  Cameras in special education classrooms protect the teachers and the children.  Cameras in special education classrooms give a "voice" to children that are not able to verbally express themselves.  One extra camera will give documented proof of daily activities which will decrease the chance of future allegations.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

Join us in the fight to have cameras installed in ALL special education classrooms by signing this petition.  United we will stand.  Petition: Give Autistic Children A "Voice"! 

Find youAUT2know on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Audacious Caregiving Demands of Autism

There is no amount of money in the world that can buy us more time.  Nor is there a holier than thou prayer that can make more time miraculously appear.  Twenty-four hours is all we get.  Parents are doing their best to balance, juggle, and manage their time demands in a way that is healthy and productive for their family.  Research reveals that parents of individuals diagnosed with autism spend an average of 6 hours a day caring for their school-aged children. That is 13 hours more, in a week, than parents of school-aged children with no disabilities.  As a mother of a school-aged child with autism, I agree with these research findings. My friends, who have children with no disabilities, are amazed at how much mothers of children with disabilities do in 24 hours (one of them told me she believed parents of children with disabilities somehow get more time in a day).
Prior to diagnosis, parental care giving demands were typical for my husband and I.  We participated in all social gatherings that were appropriate for an infant or a toddler.  We rejoiced in our daughter's numerous developmental leaps and bounds, such as her first smile, rolling over on her back, laughing, grabbing, crawling, walking...  However, our time demands during this period of our life did not center only around our daughter.  I decided to go back to school to pursue another degree while I cared for her at home.  My husband worked full-time and went to college full-time.  We were concerned about many of the same things as other families after having a baby.  And just like many other families, we kept ourselves motivated by continually looking ahead and seeing only success.  We had long, drawn out discussions on the condition of the world, our daughter's education, our business ventures, where we would eventually live, and when we would have another child.  Then came the diagnosis...

I went one way and my husband stayed steady.  From that point forward all time demands centered around our daughter.  We did not spend one more second discussing anything in relation to "the future".  Our perception of reality scrolled quickly in from the wide world of known and attainable possibilities to a vast world of inconceivable unknowns.  Our very beings became obsessively focused on our little girl.  We lost all sense of time, all sense of community, all sense of culture, and all sense of what society deemed as important.

We quickly began to understand that everything we had been taught on "how to survive in this world's system" was slowly fading away.  We were not prepared to dive into a whole other reality in relation to the world's system.  We then had to educate ourselves on a level of reality that most people in the world knew absolutely nothing about.  A reality that we knew absolutely nothing about.

There have been numerous studies conducted to gain a better understanding of the workplace demands and personal demands of an employee.  Many of those studies have focused solely on parents of children with no disabilities and their ability to create and maintain a healthy work-family balance.  The results of those studies brought about employee assistance programs (EAPs), onsite childcare, flextime work schedules, and family-centered benefits packages.  What I find interesting is the scarcity of research on these specific concerns in parents of children diagnosed with autism.  As the prevalence of autism continues to rise in our society and around the world, I believe it is imperative for us to gain more of an understanding on the effects of this particular disorder on time demands and stress levels in these particular parents.  Furthermore, we need to learn the workplace demands and personal demands of these parents and then we need to find more ways to assist them.

I hypothesize the lack of appropriate childcare as an overarching issue.  I will discuss this more in my next post.

Sawyer, M., La Greca, A., Bittman, M., Crettenden, A., Harchak, T., & Martin, J. (2010). Time demands of caring for children with autism: What are the implications for maternal mental health? Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 40, 620-628.