Today's families are pressed up against the “fast-forward” button. Parents find themselves worn out from shuttling their children between soccer practice, parties and music lessons. For families with children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder fast and hectic would be a welcome relief – a vacation. These parents often find themselves pre-planning, negotiating and worrying about every single activity. They devise action plans for trips to the mall and don suites of armour to deflect the annoyed glances of unsuspecting commuters on the subway. Evenings are spent surfing the internet for new Autism research information and reading blogs written by parents going through similar experiences. And if that wasn‟t enough we have the nerve to send them out a Parent Training Calendar.
Sarah Schulman recalls the way she felt when the calendar arrived in the mail. “My husband and I were just plain old overwhelmed and angry with everything but we really wanted to know more.” The couple wanted to take a “How to Help Lily” course but instead they were re-directed to the Foundations Workshops.
“I think the Foundations are an absolute necessity. They provided us with general information that really helped us gain an understanding of the Autism spectrum.”
In addition to providing families with information we place an emphasis on relationship building as many of our families feel alone. Sarah and her husband really appreciated the opportunity to connect with other parents. “We wouldn‟t have learned nearly as much or met as many wonderful parents if we hadn‟t gone to the workshops,” says an upbeat Sarah. Sarah‟s enthusiasm and ability to remain positive is definitely one of the unwritten workshop learning outcomes. We not only provide information but we create a positive and supportive environment conducive to learning. Sarah also found a number of ways to stick with the workshops when they became really challenging.
“Self care is vital whether you are the parent of a child with Autism or not. My husband and I take time off to go dancing or attend a writing group. And when things get really rough I talk with friends, family, other parents of children with Autism and therapists. I talk until I’ve said everything I have inside. Then I can listen and keep learning.”
Again, we understand that you are busy and oftentimes overwhelmed but we believe that your commitment to learning will benefit your entire family. “With the help of Geneva staff I learn what I can do to help bridge the space between what and how my children can learn in the hopes that they will be able to do that for themselves someday,” explains Sarah. She is heartened to see her daughter Lily navigate web sites to find games that she wants to play while her son Darwin develops a curiosity for new books and toys.
Sarah's successes did not happen overnight and they were hard fought for. She jokes that she has stolen her personal motto from the show Survivor - outwit, outlast and outplay! She and her husband have survived tantrums, head-banging, face-scratching and speech loss. Through it all they stayed focused on loving their kids, each other and learning all that they could to ensure the health of their family. Sarah encourages other parents to “go take courses, meet other parents, and talk to the Geneva staff. We will always be the ones that know and love our children best but we don't have to do it alone. We have this great organization with really bright and caring people to do it with us.”