Autism is a word that many people are familiar with, but one many don’t fully understand. We often hear the word and aren’t sure specifically what it entails. Does it mean that something is “wrong” with a person with Autism? Do they need medication” Is it a mental or social disorder? Does someone with Autism look a certain way? Can’t a child with Autism that is in public causing a disruption be told to quiet down or stop?
These are questions I have seen people ask on social media or heard asked of parents who are raising children with Autism. As a friend of a few parents who have children with Autism, I see how overwhelming, stressful, and demanding it can be. While every one of those parents does a phenomenal job and loves their child unconditionally, it can be seriously challenging and any help is a boon.
Autism affects us all. It may have affected you directly as a parent or indirectly as someone who knows someone with Autism. If none of those are the case, it’s likely that you have seen an autistic child in public as well over 23 million people all over the world are affected with the disorder.
While Autism is the most oft used term to describe the neurodevelopmental disorder (related to the growth and development of the brain) it actually refers to a wide range of conditions on what is called the Autism Spectrum. In a nutshell it affects a child’s ability in social interactions and communication. It is often recognized by repetitive or restrictive behavior and typically the indicators are exhibited by age three.
A child with Autism doesn’t recognize many social cues. For example, they may not return smiles, respond to their name being called, recognize “social norms” like taking turns, or make eye contact. In addition, the disorder may exhibit itself physically in repetitive motions, self-injury, arranging objects in stacks or lines, not using body language as communication, have unusual eating habits, or strictly adhering to certain rituals or schedules.
They often suffer powerful feelings of loneliness and have difficulty making and maintaining friendships. Not solely because of their disorder, but often because others simply don’t understand these symptoms, or incorrectly interpret the things said or done.
While Autism appears to be inherited, researchers believe that environmental causes also play a role. While there is no known cure and one doesn’t seem in sight, for unknown reasons some children recover from it — sometimes with treatment which can consist of medication and/or behavior therapy, sometimes they recover without treatment.
Since there is no known cure, what educators, activists, and parents alike seek is tolerance and furthering understanding.
One organization that is working wonders when it comes to this is Alden Autism Consulting started in January of 2015. Owner Patricia Phillips found her inspiration through her personal and professional experience — seeing parents feel overwhelmed, guilty, stressed, sad, angry, confused, depressed and/or hopeless by the day-to-day demands of addressing the child’s individual needs.
An Occupational Therapist for 20 years with a Bachelor of Arts degree from UMASS Lowell in Psychology focused on Autism Studies, she explains her mission: “There seems to be a gap between the time of diagnosis and finding/navigating the right path to their own unique and unfamiliar new journey of autism spectrum disorder. Although each child with autism is individual, the parents’ quest are always similar: To help their child reach his or her fullest potential and help the child foster into a happy, productive adult.”
She has a sincere desire to help parents; to listen to their stories of success and despair; to hear about their strengths as well as areas of need. She wants to provide individualized guidance, support, advice and advocacy skills and assist the parent in recognizing their child’s strengths as areas to grow and thrive and provide realistic strategies for the areas that are causing frustration and concern.
One mistake that people can make is to think that Autism is in some way an indicator that a child is broken, damaged or “ruined.” That they are some sort of burden on society or the parents. This is disproved simply be mentioning some people in history that have had autism and turned out to be giants in terms of contributing to society.
“Imagine the world without the advances made by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, as well as more recent celebrities such as Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, James Durbin, Daryl Hannah, Temple Grandin and many more.” Patricia started. “It is our job as parents to teach children at an early age how to access resources and supports to thrive and live the highest quality of life. There is always progress to be made when a parent believes in a child and learns to build on the child’s strengths.”
Alden Autism Consulting specializes in assisting the overwhelmed parent who is seeking family-centered, individualized 1:1 advice, support, guidance, education and provision of strategies. Patricia’s goal is to educate parents through the use of visual supports, advocacy skills to improve communication with all those involved with the child to foster success, picture cards to assist parents in prioritizing/facilitating personal goals, executive functioning assessments, strategies and more.
The most important aspect to what Patricia does is that it comes from a passion and one that is renewed and refueled with each family she helps. One particularly rewarding and touching moment stands out for her as a “This is why I am doing this for a living.” type of moment. She shares in her own words:
“A mother hugged me so tightly and said ‘My son is doing so much better now!’
That was a statement from a mom who was struggling due to concerns at school with her child’s behavior and the school’s response to the situation. After referring the mom to a state funded liaison and assisting both mom and professional to school meetings, appropriate systems were established and as a result behavior, grades and home life improved significantly.
On our last visit together, this incredible mom who learned to advocate for her son with such great impact responded with tears in her eyes, ‘Now I have hope again.'”
Parents and educators don’t have to cope with raising or teaching a child with Autism alone. There is a world-class organization with decades of experience, a genuine passion, and a wealth of knowledge right here on the South Coast.
Best of all it begins with a no obligation, FREE consultation.