I have found that by standing in my truth, and by creating positive relationships with my children’s educators, they have a wonderful schooling experience.
This won’t be everyone’s experience though.
We are so fortunate and I am feeling so grateful for the openness of our local kindergarten.
Our kinder educators for Miss 4 ask questions, aren’t afraid to tell me when they aren’t sure how to handle a situation, they always keep the lines of communication open with us and they are open minded and open hearted.
They stand by and quietly observe how I work with my daughter, how I speak to her, the language I use, and the way I interact.
They’ve told me this.
And it moves me.
There is never any talk of fixing and changing, only discussion around how to support my girl in her routine, her relationships, her sense of self and her feelings of comfort and security.
On my first meeting with our kinder teacher, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I’ve had four daughters go through the education system now and it hasn’t always been pleasant and/or easy.
But there’s a difference with Miss four.
I knew before she was here that she would more than likely be autistic, like the rest of us.
She was born at a time where we embraced autism as our family’s identity and culture and had worked very hard to remove the doom and gloom narrative from our family life.
That doesn’t mean life doesn’t get very difficult.
It means we’ve changed our thinking around our challenges when we do have difficult days, weeks and months.
As a parent, and as a person on the spectrum, I have no confusion about who I am, who my children are and what they need.
I won’t always get it right with them, I make a lot of mistakes.
But when I meet with educators now, I am confident and I am firm in knowing how I want my children to be considered;
Not as disordered, but as having a disability that means they will have good moments and difficult moments.
That rather than giving their educators and peers a hard time,
They are having a hard time themselves.
In the past, I’ve had experiences with educators who have not understood masking and to be honest, at that time, neither did I.
I wasn’t aware of autism then.
We had no idea.
But now I am, and now we do.
We teach others how to regard and treat our children by what we expect and what we accept.
I know how hard this is.
It tears people apart.
If you are feeling isolated, alone, defeated or intimidated in your education journey with your autistic child,
You might like to consider finding an advocate to stand beside you, to work with you, to enable your child to reach their potential and to be happy.
But we mustn’t overlook support needs in pursuit of potential.
Autistic people do differently.
We learn differently, think differently, prioritise differently.
We need regular rest.
We need to be heard and believed.
And, we will need our rights to be advocated for when our educators have a hard time hearing and believing us.
I want to extend the warmest, most sincere thank you, gratitude, appreciation for those educators who aren’t afraid of changing their minds,
admitting when they aren’t sure what to do,
And learning from us.
You may not realise this,
But you are making our lives at home easier, happier, more manageable.
You support us and help us to grow as parents.
You leave space for us to open up and to be authentic.
You help us build on our advocacy skills and prepare us for a lifetime of fighting for the rights of our children.
You demonstrate examples of safe people to our children.
You help them to form positive identities.
You help us to remember the good in the world.
And sometimes we need this, more than anything.