Whenever I read or hear of a tragic incident that has happened to a child or adult who has autism and special needs, it truly breaks my heart. I feel we are all connected as one big family. When something good happens to a child or adult who has autism, I celebrate. I do not need to know the individual personally. I know that positive stories can bring hope to the autism community. Hope is a much-needed ingredient when we are raising special needs children.
Independence is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
My autistic son, Brandon, is thirty-eight years old. He loves his independence although he has experienced many negative incidents over the past fourteen years while living on his own. Unfortunately, most people who have autism are easy prey. They are usually naive and trusting and people know who they can take advantage of. In the world today we have to be more careful than ever with all of our children, but especially our children who have autism and special needs.
I understand firsthand, even though my son is a grown man, at age thirty-eight he still continues to be bullied and taken advantage of by other adults, which truly shocks me. One would hope that people would grow out of this immature, obnoxious behavior. However, as you know if we live out in the “real” world things happen and none of us are guaranteed a safety net.
I often spend time on helping Brandon to recognize that he has choices and options and I share stories about staying safe. I find with my son that if I don’t lecture him, but engage him by telling short stories as examples he is able to digest and understand them much better. I use positive reinforcement rather than scare tactics.
Just last week, Brandon sold his newly purchased cell phone to a so called, “friend”. The “friend” told him that he would pay him $200 later (much less than Brandon had originally paid) and he would add him to his plan for only $20 a month. Brandon believed and trusted this man until he found out that the man left town in a hurry and disconnected his cell phone. Brandon had no way to get in touch with him to collect his $200. In addition, Brandon had to pay extra money and work very hard to try to recapture his old phone number and open a new account.
That was when Brandon finally realized and sadly admitted the man was not really his friend. Yes, my son lost $200, but I believe he learned an invaluable lesson. However, only time will tell. Something similar to this happened to Brandon but that was more than ten years ago. So I do believe he is able to learn these lessons.
“How will our children ever learn if they don’t have the opportunity to experience and live life?”
Of course I am not happy that Brandon lost $200, and who would be? However, I am grateful that he was not physically harmed. I feel I need to bring up this important point… while Brandon was growing up we moved him in and out of different schools both private and public and he was often beaten up badly. This happened even when there was supervision. You don’t have to live independently to have negative things happen to you.
Today more than ever it has become a necessity for us to learn and understand how to keep our special needs children safe.
I have been asked to teach a workshop on safety for parents who have children with special needs. I believe we can make a difference by educating the parents not to live in fear so they are more willing to allow their children to experience life. To find that happy middle ground where their children can grow into their full potential and be as safe as possible while they develop and find their way.
My motto when it comes to safety is: Be courageous, trust, continue to educate yourself and your children, and think positive.