Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tackle It Tuesday: Alongside, Awareness, Action

I read this interesting article in a feed from MyAutismTeam.com and it brought up an good topic. The article is titled "What Typically Developing Children Learn Alongside Their Differently Abled Peers" and reminds us that programs like full-inclusion in classrooms and elsewhere in society can result in more typically abled people learning from those with special needs.

To me, this can bring anything from awareness to a desire to become more involved and help others. Also importantly, it begins a change in perception for next generations to be more open to the idea that there is more than one way or pace to live a life. And yes, I've seen it around me. My family's become more aware of what it means to be autistic. People in our community see James on a regular basis and start to see past the stims to his personality. Two of our respite care givers have learned more about special needs and run with it, helping James practice his letter writing, reading, and math.

At the CATS Party; he won a tool set!
There are ordinary people whose lives were touched by special needs and turned what they learned into programs to help others. Lorna Catford's daughter was born with many special needs. What she learned by trusting her observations turned into parental advocacy and a wonderful institution called the CATS (Collaborative Autism training & Support) Program. This program not only helps and support families of kids on the autism spectrum, it also helps train students to work with our kids and prepare them for a variety of new opportunities related to special needs. We've participated in this program 3 times; the support, information, and warmth it provides is truly a gift.

George Lawson saw a baseball program for special needs kids and was so inspired by what he saw that he started a program of his own here in Sonoma County, the Wonder League of Healdsburg. We appreciate it, because I don't know that James would enjoy that Challenger games as much as the Wonder League, let alone a regular Little League team. This will be our 3rd year of hitting baseballs, practicing our throwing, and running bases. James' big sister is an enthusiastic participant. Our guy adores his baseball shirt and cap. George told me of one game where a wheelchair-bound player was celebrating a solid base hit with a thumbs-up, and our son ran to him and gave him a high five. That's a greatest game moment right there.

Just this year we changed class rooms for James. He went from one where he was included, yet not connected to one that had students who swooped him up in class activities and saw him as part of their whole the first week he was there. As a parent, the feedback I got went from "problems and issues" to "doing good and these things need work." Might sound slight, but it's a huge change for the better in our lives.  To me, it's the best about the possibilities of full inclusion in a class that's a mutual good fit.

 So how will our world change, with children being exposed to differently abled peers, and learning alongside us about autism? I hope it's for the better, with less us/them attitudes and more of a we concept. I hope it results in more open minds, sparks of curiosity, and ability to work, live, and love together.

I know this is a rather abstract Tackle project, but I'm driven to advocate for acceptance and programs that will help my guy every day. Especially when I see his beautiful happy smile, and feel his joy at being in the world.

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

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