As each New Year begins, many of us engage in that time-honored practice of bettering
ourselves by making resolutions, and I am no different. As I began thinking of my own list this year (lose those holiday pounds I have gained, set up a gym schedule and actually stick to it this year, read a bit more to expand my mind, be more worldly…well okay, maybe just lose the weight), I started with my annual “year in review.”
As I reviewed the journal I keep marking the milestones of my children, I noted that there were several themes beyond the celebrations of birthday parties, the successful completion of holiday school programs, and the day-to-day routine of raising a child on the spectrum. On the way to school, I talked with our sons, one with autism who is 7 and his brother who is 4. I wanted to know what they saw as the high points of this past year. I particularly wanted to know if there were things my older son and I could work on together to make things easier for him.
The conversation was short, but quite enlightening as both kids shared their perspectives, which served as a sort of reality check for me. The first thing my older son told me was that he likes his new ID card because it makes him feel safe. The ID card, which is the size of a credit card, is an informational tool that he can show to anyone when he can’t express himself. It identifies him as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and provides our contact information. Check, score one for Daddy.
He also related that he likes to visit the “good guys,” aka, our local first responders, and has enjoyed our trips to the local fire station, EMS, and police station. He refers to these professionals as his “superheroes” and knows how to identify them for help. Check, score two for Daddy.
Finally, he shared that he really likes that everyone in school and at home likes him and knows his name and that makes him feel safe. Check, Daddy is three for three today, a rarity! Even better, I now knew that my son went off to school happy, feeling safe and loved.
Resolved: Safety Resolutions Will Be First on the List
To parents raising a child on the spectrum, safety and security are key components that we all must keep foremost in our minds. That my child is able to articulate these important pieces tells me that he knows the basic fundamentals about who to trust and how to get help.
My new resolutions were instantly formed for this year: I will stay on top of keeping first responders updated with my son’s vital and pertinent information. I will continue to set aside time to meet with them to be sure his information is updated in their systems, as well as continue to give my child the tools he needs to interact with them should the situation arise. I will continue to build those all-important social stories to train him to reduce his anxiety over situations that potentially trouble him. I will continue to communicate with him to be sure that he has internalized this information. Er, I also will not forget to work on losing those pounds…there is never more motivation than when a 7-year-old tells you his favorite pillow is your tummy.
To be sure, the process of training and educating my son about safety in all aspects of his life is always time consuming. But all it takes is time and love, and we as parents have plenty of love even if finding time is a little harder.