It’s February and cold outside! Come on in and warm up and relax as we introduce Brook Pittman mother of three autistic children. Brook is going to take us on her journey of how she copes with her children.
1. What is it that you would like the world to understand about raising children with autistic diagnosis? I would love for the world to understand that raising kids who have Autism is difficult, our path is hard to navigate and you are always second guessing yourself and your choices, almost as much as the never-ending train of people closely watching you. We all feel this as mothers at some point I believe, but when things are as complex as they are in our life, those eyes seem to be waiting for something to criticize. I know many people are talking about how beautiful and eye opening it is and what a blessing it is to have a child with Autism. Truth be told, I have three children with Autism, beautiful, amazing, smart, and charming little souls, but if Autism did not grip their lives the way it does, my life would be complete. It absolutely breaks my heart to see them struggle with everyday things that people take for granted.
2. What resources have been most helpful to you? I have had so much help, thank goodness! It truly does take a village, and more so as your child gets older. I think some of the best advice I got was to bring my kids out in the community as much as possible (which is not often as it can be extremely overwhelming) but to make sure that people in the community know them from when they are young and see them as they grow. People will recognize them, and help them and treat them with respect. The more people know. The more people care. I have had some great community resources that have helped. Respite workers, therapists, Other families, behavior consultants, friends, families. Make a team for your kids. People who are invested in the well being of your child.
3. What educational choices have you made for your children? Are they homeschooled, private school, public mainstream or a specialized program? We have actually had experiences with all of the educational choices. We started with Public school for our oldest in her first year. After that we felt it was best to put her and her younger brother into a private school (which we had to drive to a neighboring town everyday to get to). they went there for two years and it was wonderful. The kids thrived and progressed. Then we had to move away. The place we moved to did not have a private school that would accept us, so we ended up in the public school. That was an absolute disaster. At best. We ended up pulling the kids out half way through the year, as it was actually making our children both greatly regress. At that point, for lack of any other options, we tried home schooling. Thankfully I was able to have some help (with funding) so we made it through (barely). I must give mad props to anyone who is able to home school their kids. The amount of work and patience that goes into that is well beyond my scope or ability! I also am physically disabled (I have a brain and spinal condition that affects me in a million different horrible ways, but i won;t get into it! lol, but it makes this journey a little more taxing. )
We have now put our girls into a new private school and our son into a specialized therapy/school (we moved to another town again to get access to these). All of the children are doing AMAZING in their new places. The progression is astounding. The change in behaviors. The reduction in aggression from our son. I could go on and on, but point is we are all VERY happy with the change.
4. For parents just starting their autism journey what do you feel are the most important first steps to take.
I think the starting of your journey with Autism it would be good to remember
1. Your child is still the person they always have been. A diagnosis will never change the wonderful little person that they are and that you love.
2. Don't feel guilty about grieving when you get the diagnosis. You have to let go of your expectations of what their life was going to look like, so you need to grieve that loss.
3. Don't ever be embarrassed by their often wacky behavior. People will stare, people will give you weird looks, and sometimes they might even say rude, jackass things. Don't let it get to you. Easier said than done, but you will learn that other people's expectations and judgement weighing on you takes your patience away from your child. and your child needs it more. Your child is the important one. If other people want to judge and be asses then so be it. It is none of your business what other people think of you, right?
4. Don't wait to get help. If you suspect that something is not quite right, don't wait to get help. So many people wait, put it off, think, oh well, they will get over it. they will outgrow this. he is just a late talker. She just really likes to spin. I know it is scary. I know you don't want your kid to have "something wrong" but don't let your ego make their journey even harder. The earlier they get help, the better they will do! :) Make sure to find a behavior consultant (they may call them something else in different places) but someone who is able to help guide you to the services that will benefit your child.
5. Have you read any books on autism that have helped you? I have read a few books that have helped. I know that there are some mixed feelings on Jenny McCarthy but I liked her books, I read them as we were just in the midst of the diagnosis process and they helped me have some hope and opened my eyes to looking at different ways to help the kids. I have also read the Un-prescription for Autism which has tons of great info. AND Nutritional Deficit Disorder super awesome.
If you would like to find out more about Brook
check out her website www.brookpittman.com/