*Picture here is courtesy of James Vaughan of himself, his wife and his two children Kian and Defaney*
As a mom and dad of a child with autism, there are so many things that we want for our kids as they grow up. Some of those dreams are things every parent wants, a bright future and a happy life. For parents of a child with autism, we want them to be able to realize their dreams, we want them to be independent as much as possible and we want them o be able to find happiness in their life despite their diagnosis. Often times, following the autism diagnosis we tend to change our hopes for our kids, not because our kids are not capable of great things, but simply because we need to focus more on what they need today, in the current moment. What this has meant to us is to see our son being included by peers, by teachers, by family and by friends.
Let me explain a bit so you can understand why this is important to us. I look at my loving and intelligent 11 year old son Kian and see that he is capable of almost anything. With the proper coaching and assistance, Kian can accomplish any goal eh sets for himself. He is a gifted artist who loves tod raw, and he can probably tell you more about Pokemon than you'll ever want to know. With time, proper instruction and the necessary tools, he can gain the understanding of his academic concepts. His biggest challenge, not unlike others with an autism diagnosis, he has difficulty with social interaction, making friends and there for inclusion. Watching him at recess, he would rather walk the lines on the playground than play with his peers. His "quirkiness" leaves some of his peers uncomfortable around him, annoyed at times with the repetitive behavior, and struggling to gain an understanding of who he is and why he is different from them. The fact is though, this is just what makes him Kian, a unique and great kid, and we wouldn't change him at all.
With all of Kian's struggles, his challenge making friends is the one thing we find the most heartbreaking. Often times, this is not just with his peers, but with us as well. Kian's comfort level is within him. His idea of a good time is being alone, drawing in his room, building Lego's and even playing games. He would certainly rather do these things on his own before having his sister or either of us play along with him. To us, even with our urging to be involved, he finds comfort in being alone, in being by himself. To include him is to be fully immersed in what he wants, what he is interested in and what he can handle at the moment.
That said, our hope is that Kian finds the inclusion he needs. Although we understand a portion of Kian finding inclusion is having a desire to be included but I think we can do a great deal to assist along the way. Finding activities for him to participate in, Lego clubs, scouts, etc. are a great way to help "push" him towards gaining a comfort level with those whoa re his peers. In addition as his parents having the opportunity to talk about Kian's needs with those groups, helping them understand what autism is, and helping them understand what they an do to help Kian "come out of his shell" goes a long way to breaking down that barrier. As our child's advocate, we must be willing to do just that, to talk openly about our kids needs and to share how others can help in the inclusion of our kids.
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