Challenges of the "New normal"
As the mother of an autistic child, there are few moments in time that have forced me to face the stark contrast between my son and his neurotypical peers like this pandemic has. While all parents are undeniably struggling to adjust to the “new normal”, the challenge presented for autism parents has been monumental, especially for those parents with children who are profoundly impacted. My son, Connor, was diagnosed with autism at 22 months old. He is now nine years old and for the past seven years our lives have been a series of PPT’s and too many therapies to list to get him to where he is now. When Covid swept the nation and mandatory quarantines were put into place, this meant that for the first time in his life, we no longer had tangible access to his education or therapies that we rely on every single day to maintain and increase his skill set. I felt very fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids and Connor is very lucky to have a father who is a teacher and mother who was an ABA therapist and special education para, but even with our skill sets, the transition has been challenging to say the least. Our days now consist of Zoom meetings and teletherapies where we have to re-direct, prompt and help to facilitate ALL instruction. In between these demands, we search, print, laminate and create as many materials as possible to keep instruction going at home while also trying to meet sensory needs and instill life skills training. While I feel that this method has been so helpful for carryover between home and outside providers, many of us parents are more exhausted than we have ever been. We are now assuming the roles of caretakers, educators, speech language pathologists, occupational therapist, physical therapists, etc. with no break in sight. Respite for parents of children with special needs was already hard to come by, but with Covid it is nearly impossible and the burn out is real. I know that all educators are missing their students and craving the return to normal just as much as we parents are, and I am not sharing this to evoke pity. I am sharing to create empathy and understanding, two things that I feel are often missing in our society today. When you are struggling to get your child to log into Zoom and adjust to virtual learning, please think of how difficult it must be when you have a child with a 30+ page IEP and a social disorder who desperately needs to be back in a school setting. Nowadays it is so easy to be completely consumed by our own version of hard that we forget that others are struggling. My heart goes out to every single family/ person negatively impacted by Covid-19 because I know that their are populations disproportionately struggling with the fall out. My hope is that the silver lining in all of this will be the return of humility. If you know a family with an autistic or disabled child during this time, please reach out to them. Offer support, offer words of encouragement and assistance however you can because we are strong, but my goodness we are tired.
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