This open letter is written to parents of all children with ASD, both male and female, which is why you will find my use of alternating pronouns throughout this letter. I understand this is not the correct use of “masculine preferred” however I feel it does continue to remind parents of both males and females that they are not excluded in any way. Thank you for your understanding.
Dear Parent(s) of Children with ASD,
I want to take this time to tell you how much I appreciate your support and advocacy for your child! I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do at home. I am not here to mold you into the perfect version of a parent for your child. I KNOW you are ALREADY the perfect parent for your child as God has blessed you with this beautiful gift! I KNOW you know your child best! You understand your child’s idiosyncrasies, and have experienced his cries, meltdowns, frustrations, pains, and anxieties. You know every scrap, every fear, every breakthrough moment that happened long before I’ve been granted the wonderful opportunity to meet your amazing child. You are who your child needs you to be. This I know to be true.
I may have a few letters behind my name and I may be seated here across the table from you at this IEP/ IFSP/therapy meeting but I am not here to judge you. I am not here to make you feel like you have not done enough for your child. I am not here to make you think the strengths you see in your child are not real or believed. I KNOW your child is most comfortable at home with you. I KNOW you see moments of real connection and interaction. I KNOW your child LOVES you and NEEDS you!
So what am I doing here? What can I bring to the table? I’ve known, worked with, and LOVED many, many children with ASD during my career. I’ve trialed several techniques and researched numerous therapy models and will continue to do so. I know a “one size fits all” therapy approach does not work for every child with ASD and that we may have to work together through trial and error to determine the best way to bring your child out of her world and into ours. I know this because I’ve been seated on this side of the table for over a decade now. I know this because I’ve met you many times before. Not you personally, but other parents living and coping with the same struggle.
The problem lies in when you look to me for definitive answers, when you want me to “fix” your child, when you want him to “just be normal”. The truth is, I will do EVERYTHING in my power to support your child’s development, to assist in your child’s communication, social, self-help, and functional life skills, as well as supporting her academic needs as appropriate and within my scope of practice. But you and I will have to walk this road together and this journey is going to be a long one. We will be joining forces, celebrating big and small milestones, and grieving over periods of regression. However, I am NOT here to FIX your child. I am here to envision your child 20 years from now. I am here to look to the future, to help your child become a functional member of society. I am NOT here to change who he is at the core. I LOVE persons with autism spectrum disorder. I LOVE a world where persons with autism spectrum disorder are celebrated and cherished. Having persons with autism spectrum disorder in our world, help us to understand the wonderful differences among ourselves and teach us to be compassionate.
So I am very sorry, if you are looking over this table at me, expecting me to be a miracle worker, or to turn back time and help your child “become normal”. Your child is extraordinary! I can see her strengths and the way she sees the world. I can see how he is processing the information coming at him. I can see her wheels turning, the problem solving and reasoning skills she exhibits, that may not “look like” the processes neurtotypical children exhibit, but trust me, they are present. I can see it because I’ve seen it before and I can see where your child can go. Oh the places your child can go if you are willing to work together with me, if you are willing to take a chance on me!
Let us make a pact right here, right now, to work together for the greater good of your child, to help him become a functioning member of society. Let us rid ourselved of the idea of “fixing” your child, of making her “normal”. Let us focus on finding a way to help your child become all he can be. I’m game if you are!
With much love and hope in your child’s beautiful future,
Your Child’s Therapist!