*SPOILER ALERT* – If you haven’t watched LAST week’s Parenthood on TV, don’t read on!
The thing that struck me the most about this episode (where Max’s wonderful behavioral aide leaves the family abruptly) was the look on Kristina’s (the mom) face when she heard the news. I’ve seen that look many times. That “deer in the headlights” look that a parent gets when there is going to be a change in the program for their child, most especially when things are going well. One of the most difficult things we have to face as parents is that there is no one right answer for our kids and for their autism. There is no one right program, one right solution, one right intervention, no “magic pill”. And most certainly, there is no one right person who alone, like Annie Sullivan, will miraculously help our child.
In the early days of living with autism, it is natural to want to hold on tight to the intervention that is working right now, to the person who seems to be able to get your unruly child to sit, to pay attention, to learn, to be “less autistic”. Oh, if it were only that easy. As any parent who has been at the “autism game” for any length of time will tell you, things change. People come and go. Time passes and you must move from the home based birth to three program to preschool, to elementary school, middle school, high school and (gulp) adulthood. Your child changes and their needs and how their autism presents itself changes. What works today may not work tomorrow. The great behavioral aide may change jobs, get married, have a child, go back to school. It is so tempting to place all of our hopes and dreams on the abilities of one person. But it takes a village. It truly does. It takes a team of people, family and professionals working together, to help a child with autism succeed in our neurotypical world. We need to teach our kids about transition and we ourselves must learn to embrace change. That para professional who is magical with your child in second grade may be reassigned and guess what? The next para professional meets your child fresh, sees them with new eyes, different expectations and may even prove to be as good (or better than) the one that you are so sad to see leave. Change is inevitable. Railing against it is useless. We must learn to embrace it, to learn from what works (and what doesn’t!) so that we can be prepared for the changes that life must bring to all of us. Whether we want them or not.