What do I always say over and over on this blog? Education is the best form of being an advocate; and myself and my fellow ASD momma bear Darla were given that chance again today by our friend and now teacher at Niagara College, Karen.
I have known Darla for 3 years now, we met in our Support Group for parents with children with Classic Autism on Thursday evenings. I remember the first time I went to the group, I was 3 years less wiser about Autism, I was scared for my son, my family; myself. Thank God for the Internet, all my yearn for constant education on ASD and my son that I had to try. I met another mom friend of mine at the, "Welcome to Autism" series named Kelli - and with her in hand, we went to our first meeting together and haven't looked back.
I cannot tell you the vibe you get as a new parent in this world, expressing your inner most fears and questions - listening to other moms who years before you, have been there. It was refreshing. I got addicted.
And in time, these women became my friends; friends I can tell anything too, regardless of how much shit or nakedness was involved - I thank God for these women. legit.
Darla and I met Karen at the front of NC Merritt's wing in Welland, and we headed into the class. On first glance, all the students were diverse. Mostly female - except for a male student who volunteers with Autism Ontario and was just in the paper himself for living with Aspergers - and he is an Owen as well. Read his article here.
I started the presentation. Normally, I only speak alone. This was the first time I was able to speak with a partner; and could no have asked for a better person. It worked out perfectly. The students were able to hear my journey with my boys from a fairly newly diagnosed family; and then they got to hear Darla's story with Spencer, who now is 20 years old. How much has changed, what services are available and what were not even around when Spencer was going through the motions.
We each spoke about therapies, the cost of private, clothing and how it effects our sons, food issues, obsessions, toileting, school, EAs, teachers, my job as a Developmental Support Worker for the past 8 years, our pregnancies - everything.
What was supposed to be an hour, turned into 2 hours. The class had a ton of questions; they were engaged. We shared tears; laughs - they were connected. Darla and I spoke about what worker really stuck out in our lives, and as soon as I started to speak about Heather and how she would film Owen progressing for me, and when I heard, "ma-ma" for the first time - I could feel it. I cried. Like the ugly cry. But, I looked up, and I wasn't alone.
A student asked, "what would we recommend for them to be a better worker". Besides all the obvious answers, all I could think was to continue to be grounded. Never forget all your experiences, good or bad - they will make you the worker and person you become better. Yes, text books and definitions can be great, but real experiences will make you the better. I loved every part of it, I couldn't shut up. Of course I went in dressed to the 9's in our Owen and Ben Keep Calm shirts, and of course I wanted the class to see who I was talking about - so I brought a poster of the boys from the fundraiser. My boys would be people to them in our presentation - it makes it more real. and they got it.
At the end of our presentation, I asked the class for their permission to take a picture (for my FB and for here of course) and Karen gave me a beautiful bottle of College Red wine, and a gas card with a beautiful thank you note, with an agreement Darla and I would be back next year to speak to her class, which we both said an immediate yes too.
Class if you are reading this; thank you. We were able to spread our story more through you, never forget the choices you make effect a life; several lives. Never forget why you got into this field, always be yourself, be honest, compassionate, and a hard worker for the cause, and always make a sure line of open communication. You guys rocked; and I will keep you posted when the shirts go back for sale for the run this coming June. Good luck to all of you; you were a pleasure to speak too.