You may be a parent whose child has just been diagnosed with ASD or you may have been on this journey for quite some time. You may even be a teacher or a tutor thinking about a child that you work with and wondering how you can support him/her to have a bright future ahead of them.
Now let’s get some thoughts out of the way – in some countries, autism is not that well known yet and therefore support is limited. This often leads to children being diagnosed and parents hearing the message that it would be best to put their child in an institution where carers can look after him/her to take the “burden” off the family. Of course we would love to say that this does not happen anymore, but unfortunately it does. And, the thing is, it paints a very negative picture of the future for a child diagnosed with ASD and often, parents have mentioned that those grim thoughts often seem to pop up in their minds again.
Okay, enough of the negativity, but we’re going to be realistic too. People are all individuals and children are individuals too. This means that we all have different interests, different strengths and definitely different challenges too. Children diagnosed with ASD are also individuals, each with their own interests and challenges, but also with their own strengths.
Now, the picture that always comes to mind when I think about this, is the following. If you think about a neurotypical child and his parents, teachers and even the entire school setting and support environment, what do you usually see? A child is encouraged to go after his strengths, that which he is really good at, the thing that he loves…it may be a child who is very good at playing soccer and he could be playing for the school’s first team with a strong possibility of University offering him a scholarship. For this child, the main focus will be on soccer – improving his skills, keeping fit and doing everything to excel in the sport. His energy and focus will be on soccer and his parents will be proud to stand next to the field, cheering him on and watching him grow. As far as academics are concerned, the chances are good that his parents and teachers will offer him the needed support to overcome any challenges, and find ways to make learning more convenient for him – he is afterall an upcoming sportstar!
Just to put this scenario into perspective – you have an individual who has a certain strength. He is encouraged to grow and improve his strength even more and any challenges he may face will be addressed in a way to “optimize” his situation and to make sure he is well supported.
Why should it be any different for a child diagnosed with ASD? Why is it that with these kids, we feel we need to limit the amount of access that they have to specific interests; why is it often such a big deal to give them the right support? Shouldn’t we also be focusing on their strengths and interests to provide a safe, comfortable environment for them to learn and to then support them with the challenges they may be facing?
That is exactly what AIMS does. We want our kids to grow and learn in a way that makes sense to them.
All these things are quite easy to listen to, but parents have goals in mind for their child too and how do we bring all of this together.