April is Autism Awareness Month. To help spread the word about Autism we are hosting a giveaway hop. As part of this giveaway I will be offering one copy of The Forgotten Child as an eBook in your Choice of Format for international, and One Print copy for US residents only. In order to enter this giveaway please leave a comment with a way for me to contact you.
Each participating blog is hosting a giveaway.
Why are Autistic Children not included in Community Programs?
Autistic children are not typical. They’re struggling to fit in. They have obstacles to overcome other children don’t. What comes easy to the typical child, school, sports, having a conversation, shopping with mom, doesn’t for an autistic child. Everything they do—they must learn to do. From having a conversation, playing sports, life skills, social skills, simply put how to play with other children. And they work ten times/a hundred times harder than you and I.
It’s only natural for parents to want their autistic child to be included.
How many community organizations have an open door policy to children with Autism? I’m talking about your local sports teams, after school programs, local swim club, 4H Club, football team, hockey team, girl guides, scouts just to name a few. Take an honest look in your community and see how many autistic children are part of these teams, and clubs.
With the staggering numbers of autism, which doesn’t begin to include all the other special needs children, how many of these children do you see enrolled in one of the local programs? Would it surprise you to hear none or very few? But let’s be generous you may find one or two where the parent has fought with the local gaming board or organization for their child’s right to be included. Or schmoozed and done everything including standing on their head to make it happen.
Most of these clubs cater only to the typical child. And it’s up to the discretion of the leader running each club whether a special needs child is allowed to participate. And the number will be capped. Even though the parent is required to pay for an aid, and supply the aid to accompany that child. This is yet another battle exhausted parents must face. So it’s with little wonder many don’t push. How much energy do you think parents have left after dealing with therapy, school politics, life skills, and everyday basic functions for their autistic child? Let’s be fair not everyone’s made the same, and who can blame a parent for saying, “I don’t have the energy to battle this local club too.” And remember these local leaders are from your community so to defend your child’s right to be included you may alienate the leader, which can close other doors in the community to you. For many parents once denied is enough.
Why would community groups not go out of their way to welcome autistic children? Quite often it’s the comfort level of the leaders. Their afraid of someone who’s different and they don’t have the skills needed to help the child. It would change the dynamics of the club and maybe how the leader envisions that sport or club has to be. What if the child has a meltdown does something different—embarrassing? They won’t be able to participate at the same level as the other children. They’ll hold the other kids back. How will the other kids react? An autistic child can make other children uncomfortable. But that starts at home, I teach my children to always include other special needs children, to find out how to work with that child, how to include them.
As many parents with a special needs child will tell you, this is just one more obstacle their child must face. Autistic children want to be included. They just don’t know how to cross the barrier. They pick up on everyone’s anxiety, discomfort. To say the other children would be uncomfortable is unfair. Because the greatest gift and greatest success an autistic child has, is learning from their peers. And what about the other children, what kind of skills do you think their learning by including an autistic child. How do you feel about the closed-door policy? Isn’t it time children are taught skills needed to work with an autistic child?