Dear Friends,

family at Six FlagsThis year has seen some changes in our journey with autism. Joseph’s RDI Consultant stepped down due to a disability and, because we live in a small town, we had no other local options. Our state funding agency will not fund a long-distance consultant, so we have had to forge new ways of helping Joseph to continue to grow and manage his disability. Fortunately, RDI’s focus is on training parents, so Blue Eyes and I feel qualified (at least so far) to deal with the issues that have arisen.

One new strategy that we’ve added to our tool belt this year is Love and Logic, an amazing parenting approach. It has helped Joseph to see that there are logical consequences to his behavior, whether positive or negative. The screaming in our house (not just his!) has lessened considerably due to the Love and Logic principles.

Joseph is also in a social skills group with two other boys. It’s run by a speech therapist who really has a heart for special needs kids. She has helped Joseph to get the idea of what it means to be in a group, which has been very helpful. These kids don’t get the group thing by osmosis, the way most kids do, so the therapist breaks it down into little pieces and spotlights various concepts, such as keeping your body in the group.

This year Joseph has taken some big leaps: riding his bike by himself (and, at 9yo, we thought maybe it would never happen), making some friends (mostly younger, but who’s complaining?) and generally being more confident in his world.

Autism parents have a unique niche in the world of kids with disorders. No one tries to get parents to cure their Downs Syndrome kids or kids with Cystic Fibrosis, but not a month goes by without someone sending me a link, or stopping me in person, to tell me they’d heard about someone who cured their child of autism by eliminating MSG from their diet or giving them 4-hour saunas every day, or whatever. I know these people are well-meaning, but it is hard for me not to 1) feel resentful and 2) feel guilty that I haven’t cured my child. I have no doubt that the stories are true, but not every kid who takes daily 4-hour saunas achieves recovery! We have tried so many interventions that feel we should just relax around it…if only we could…

I’ll end with a description of last night’s school holiday concert. Four years ago, in Kindergarten, Joseph spent his time on stage either flapping excitedly or turning his back to the audience. Three years ago he wore sunglasses on stage because he was sensitive to the lights, and mostly just stood around looking out at everyone while the rest of his class sang. Two years ago he sang pretty well — they gave him a shaker to keep the beat and to keep him busy.

This year takes the cake. Not only did Joseph sing with his class, he stepped up to the microphone with two other Christmas concertboys and sang a trio. He forgot some of the words and I could see him paying close attention to where the other boys were so that he could catch up with them. Co-regulation, in RDI verbiage, and a very nice thing it is.

As Joseph’s parents we were, of course, happy and relieved. But what blew me away is all the parents who stopped me last night and this morning, telling me how they cried when Joseph sang in the mic, how it was the highlight of the concert for them, how proud they were of him. Once again I realized that we are not alone in this. Joseph’s autism is the whole village’s project, and they take a personal investment in it.

I am grateful, and awed, about the way God works through autism to touch and change us all. Our troubles are also our joys if we can hold them up and put them where they belong — in God’s hands.

Wishing you a most blessed holiday.

Yoga Mother, Blue Eyes and Joseph

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