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Letting Go and Holding On

A Parent’s Perspective on Transition and Transformation

by Denise Cameron

2015-05-10 18.13.07Frequently I find myself reflecting on Autism and how it has formed me into the person I am today. I didn’t choose to walk this journey; but I was indeed selected to raise this beautiful boy of mine. I can see the transformations in myself that are all positive changes.

Each transition of Chris’s life always produced an enormous amount of stress for me. At times, that’s all that would occupy my mind. I often would get very attached to his teachers, to the extent that I would be fearful for him to move on to the next grade level. I never thought the new teacher would understand him or care for him. Always to my amazement, they seemed to be even more exceptional.

Now what?

When Chris was a junior in high school, I began to worry once again because Chris was ready to make a major transition! What would he do after high school? What was the next step for this last adjustment? It was crucial that I start planning for his next transition.

I met with Chris’ teacher and case manager, presenting all my concerns for Chris’s future. During our discussion, the teacher reached in her desk drawer and pulled out a brochure for College Living Experience! That same day I was on the telephone querying about this program. I knew deep in my heart this was the answer to Chris’s next step following high school. He would have a unique chance to create an independent life that he could one day call his own.

How do you spell RELIEF?

Chris at CLE DenverComprehending that Chris would soon have that opportunity to begin building his independence was a sense of comfort for me. I am no longer worrying about preparing for his future. Over time I was able to adapt and hand the responsibility over to Chris and CLE. They would teach the skills needed for his success.

Chris has successfully survived living on his own for over a year. He has grown in so many ways. He has begun to build a community of friends and he is exploring different areas of job development. I believe Chris has the desire and ability to continue this throughout his life.

With the assistance of CLE I now have a feeling of relief! I have been able to relieve the everyday pressure in regards to Chris’s needs. I can experience my days with few worries.

Getting back to MY life

I now have the opportunity to take responsibility concerning my health and whole being. Some of my days I do spontaneous activities, such as taking a long walk with my husband, free of worrying about Chris’s needs at home. I might enjoy different activities with my other adult children, or possibly even going out to a movie with a close friend. That has always been my preferred way of enjoying life, but it is not the typical day when you have a child in the Autism Spectrum.

Soon I’ll be ready to volunteer and commit more of my available time in new areas of interest such as theater and forming new friendships.

Where he belongs

Chris and I have worked together to find his correct path. With his perseverance and my faith, he is accomplishing this goal of independence. Our family will forever be grateful that CLE was there to support us on this last transition.

At the finish of every day, I feel peace knowing that Chris is where he belongs.

Newsletter Articles – April 2016

Paula Moraine, M.Ed.

CLE recently had an opportunity to sit down with Paula Moraine, M.Ed. Paula is an educational consultant, as well as a tutor, coach, mentor and author. Her first book, Helping Students Take Control of Everyday Executive Function, was recently followed by her new book, Autism and Everyday Executive Function.

Social skills training at CLE Austin

The common features among individuals with autism-spectrum disorders (ASD) are deficits in communication skills, behavior, and social functioning. With instruction and intervention, many individuals with ASD are able to overcome their barriers in communication and behavior. However, social challenges are often harder to overcome because individuals “on the spectrum” tend to stay behind the curve. As they get older, the skills seeming to be “second nature” to neurotypical peers become more complex, vague, or abstract. In preschool, it is socially appropriate for kids to engage in parallel play and this may be the extent of friendships at that age. Parallel play is a relatively uncomplicated activity. In college, interactions with others become as complicated as dating or managing multiple layers of friendships. Try to break this down into teachable steps; it is not easy. Many experts agree that the core deficit in ASD is in Theory of Mind, or the ability to view the world through the eyes of others. Many social interventions are geared toward teaching this skill, often innate in others, by helping students “read” the verbal and visual cues in others.

Meggie at CLE Monterey

My life with autism has been an interesting and challenging life, but I never imagined that I would be advocating for people and kids in the autism community.

It first started when I was in 8th grade. I was not properly diagnosed until I was 14 years old, and I felt like I needed to tell my classmates about why I acted and learned differently than they did. So I wrote a letter explaining my autism and I decided to read it out loud in front of my class, along with my teacher and school principal. When I first went up, I was a little nervous because I don’t always like talking in front of people, but I got over it fast. All I needed to do was read from my letter, and I did. When I was done, I got an applause. That was my first time telling my personal story of autism, and I thought as I got into high school, I could tell more about the autism community.

Nico at CLE Fort Lauderdale

There’s a common assumption that people with autism are considered introverts, meaning that they aren’t very socially active. I, however, am somewhat of a unicorn, meaning a rare example. I am a highly extroversive young man despite my autism. I am most at ease when I am surrounded by other people who care about me, and vice versa. Unfortunately, this preference has caused more than enough problems for me. It has been brought to my attention that when it comes to making friends, I tend to appear somewhat desperate when I approach people. This usually results in me pushing them away, rather than bringing them closer. As for those who stick around, I realize that some are most likely just being polite and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

The Reason I Jump

Here at the College Living Experience Denver, we have ample experience interacting with students on the autistic spectrum who regularly display non-traditional social behaviors. However, understanding the reasons behind these actions has always been a conundrum.

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.