Sesame Street has launched a new initiative, Sesame Street and Autism, and we are more than excited about it! “See Amazing in All Children is an initiative that offers families ways to overcome challenges and simplify daily activities”. To prepare for this week's post, we had the pleasure of exploring their site. Here are some highlights...
11 Things We Took Away from Sesame Street and Autism:
1. Every child, with or without autism, is a unique individual.
• It is easy to notice how our exceptional children are different than their typically developing peers. As a parent, it is next to impossible to ignore the moments when you see your friend’s children, nieces and nephews riding bikes, excelling in school and playing appropriately with friends. Your child’s struggles are your struggles, too. We know that. But what we also know is that even the typically developing peer has their quirks, their struggles. Remember that. Remember that every child, autism or no autism, is unique. You cannot compare, you can only love your child wholly and happily for exactly who they are.
2. It is up to all of us as the parents, educators and advocates, to be patient and look for the greatness that exists in every individual.
• Find what makes your child special and nurture it. Find what they love. Every child possesses greatness, but it is up to you to seek it out and help your child shine. Maybe it is an artistic ability or maybe they are skilled at using the computer. Find a passion within your child and help them pursue it a little bit every day.
3. “Lots of kids have autism, and that just means their brains work a little differently.”
• Again, try not to compare your child to other children. He/she is a unique and unrepeatable blessing, and that is wonderful. Individuals with autism learn differently, BUT they LEARN. Be careful not to underestimate your child. Like yours, their brain is at work every minute of every day.
4. Reward your child for their hard work at the end of every day.
• In one of the Sesame Street and Autism videos, you hear from a mother who reads to her son every night, the same story, the same way. Why does she do this? Because he worked for it. Figure out what is rewarding to your child and use that preferred item or activity to motivate them. If he/she has had a productive day staying on task, listening to directions, and meeting goals and expectations…reward, reward, reward! By rewarding your child for their hard work, you are telling them that if they continue showing good behavior they will continue getting what they want (like a bedtime story).
5. Remind your child EVERY DAY how AMAZING they are.
6. It is important to have fun as a family.
• Once a week! Find a time, set a date, and make this a priority. Families are shaken by autism. That is the reality and you are not alone in that struggle. It is so important to make time to have fun as a family often. Whether it is going to the park, the aquarium, swimming, or just playing in the front yard for the afternoon, make it happen! You will be rewarded, your child will be rewarded, and your family will be better for it.
7. Even if your child does not tell you they love you, they do. Never doubt that.
8. It is important to have good people on your team, people who believe in your child.
• From the moment you lean that you are living with autism, it is important to learn to lean on others. Maybe this isn’t your instinct, maybe you think you can shoulder it alone. You can’t. And you shouldn’t have to. LEAN ON OTHERS. Lean on a spouse, friend, parent, counselor or sibling. There will be days when you lose your patience, when you are overwhelmed and exhausted. On these days, and every day, take time to express your struggles and find comfort for yourself. This is not only good for you, it is good for your child and your entire family.
9. “Stay in your lane”
• Do not base your child’s progress on how another child with autism is doing. There will always be someone making more progress. Worry about yourself and your child. Stay in your lane. Look at your child, the child in front of you. Look at his/her goals. Start there. Take it one day, and one goal, at a time.
10. Find an outlet for yourself.
• Find something that helps you, the parent, unwind. When you are living with autism in your family 24 hours a day, it is difficult to make time for yourself. Finding some personal time is not selfish. We encourage you to find an outlet. Go to the gym, take a painting class, go for a run. This should be a place or activity that you commit to and use as a healthy means of relieving the inevitable stress that creeps in. Taking a break is NOT selfish.
11. Be there.
To check out their site, and some amazing resources for the entire family, go to www.autism.sesamestreet.org.
Stay tuned, and stay up on autism!