By Kodey Toney
Tip of the Iceberg
I often include a disclaimer with my articles stating that I’m not an expert, just a father trying to learn as much as I can about autism so that I can help my child. That has been the case for the past five years, and, as I stated last week, we all need to try everything we can to help our families and others. Some may say, “I’m not an expert. I don’t know much about autism.” Here are some tips I would give to help others coping with a child on the spectrum.
1. Research: You can’t help if you don’t know what to help with. If you have a child on the spectrum you understand the day-to-day issues involved with raising a child who has meltdowns, social issues, behavior problems, and a lack of communications skills. What you don’t know often times is what causes that, what you can do to help, and what you need to look for to head off the problems in the future. You have to do the research to help. If you have a questions ask someone, or look it up. Google is a wonderful tool for families.
2. Network: You have to make contact with others. You’re not the only one dealing with these issues, and you’re certainly not the first. You have to go to conferences and support groups. The more people you meet the more resources you will find. You will find things out there that you never knew existed. Continue to add to your contact list, and you will continue to gain a wealth of knowledge.
3. Know your resources: You have lots of resources out there including therapists and professionals who can help if you ask. Don’t think you know everything and they can’t help you. I once heard someone say, “I can learn something from anyone, even if it’s what not to do.” That’s such a true statement. Don’t forget that the people who know best though are the families who have already been through it and have used the trial and error method of parenting.
4. Know where to look: Help can be found anywhere. I had a mentor tell me once not to just limit myself to the autism world. You can learn a lot from people in any disability realm. You would be surprised that they are going through many of the same problems that we are despite their diagnosis.
5. Never give up: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like what you are doing is not helping that many people, or that nobody is listening. Don’t get discouraged. If you help one person that’s one other person you have helped. They may go out and help two, and they may help two more. It’s the pay-it-forward thought of advocating.
6. You’re unique, just like everyone else: Don’t feel like you’re alone, but don’t feel like what works for you is going to work for everyone. Many people are going through some of the same things in their lives. You’re not much different. However when giving advice to someone keep in mind that what works for you doesn’t work for everyone.
7. Take a break: Don’t get burned out. It’s really easy to do. You have to take a step back and recharge.
8. Don’t forget why you’re doing it: The overall goal is to help others. If that’s not why you’re doing it then you need to reevaluate the situation. Self-gratification is not a good reason, but I’ve seen many people who have that as their main objective. This is never a good idea.
9. Don’t forget to practice what you preach: You can tell someone to do things and help spread the word. You can tell them to spend more time with their children and do more research. However, if you’re not doing that yourself then it’s just phony.
10. Don’t forget your own child: You have to focus on the family and your child first. That’s the main reason you got into this line in the first place. You wanted to do what was best for you child. You wanted to make a good life for them. If you are working too hard to help others that you’ve neglected your child you’re probably not focused in the right direction.
If you are interested in helping other you can contact me. I’ll let you know who to contact. If I don’t know the answer to something I will find someone who knows. The most important thing is to try.