Is it ever possible to thank all of the autism people who have been involved in your child’s life?
We had a party on the day of our child’s first birthday. A friend mentioned something to us on that very day. Imagine your child’s very first birthday party, your only child. You’re so excited for that day. You’ve planned and worked hard so everything will be perfect. And, the day ends with you and your spouse pouring over autism-related websites wondering, “Is this my child?”
That friend was the first in a long line of friends we’ve had to thank. But, how?
Even more important than that birthday party day, we also had to thank that friend’s spouse. It was the spouse who helped us enormously through those first few treacherous years. The spouse was an ABA therapist in the special needs community. It was that spouse that held our hands early on when we needed it most.
We also had another friend who just happened to be a pediatrician, one of the pediatricians who care about developmental delays. Sadly, many still don’t. Many still believe they are physical doctors and not “developmental” doctors. They feel it is not their responsibility.
My list already has three people. After those three, the list really takes off.
With typical kids, you have relatives who help with babysitting, pre-school teachers and pre-school administrators, and other baby or toddler classes your child may attend. Then, when your child reaches elementary school, there are even more teachers and administrators. Eventually, your child has a full slate of extracurricular activities that include athletic coaches, other activities your child partakes in (my child has chess class), and other parents.
The list for a typical child can get pretty long. Now, let’s add the “thank yous” necessary for a child with special needs, a child that began services at age fourteen months.
A child with autism, who began services that early, had a behavioral therapist, a DTT supervisor, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a physical therapist, an aide or two, a respite person, and a special education teacher. Plus, there were teachers and specialists at two pre-schools.
At our IEP’s, the IEP Team had no less than ten people, all in attendance for one child. It still amazes me how many people are involved in the welfare of one child.
Throughout the years, those people were not always constant in our child’s life. People changed jobs or returned to school and new ones showed up.
If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, how do you thank all of those people?
First, I feel I can never really, properly, thank all of these people. Not really. So many of them have been so amazing. For their caring, their talent, their honesty, and their commitment. I have often been blown away by how many of these fantastic people I’ve known.
In many situations, a simple “thank you” is appropriate. For example, a thank you works perfectly well when a substitute therapist works with your child while your regular therapist is out of town. Therapists often cover for each other. It’s a part of their job to fill in for each other. They do their best with a “borrowed” client but they’re only temporary.
Over the years, with the “regulars” in our child’s life, we have gone much farther than a thank you. We always felt the holidays were a perfect time to do something special for some of the people involved in our child’s life. For the therapist that puts in 12 to 14 hours per week, the DTT supervisor, and the two or three aides that ended up with our child for more than a year, we gave them gift cards as well as one of our family holiday cards.
For a few birthdays, we have had our child make a special hand drawn birthday card. One year, he even wanted to pick flowers from my garden for his respite person’s birthday. It was more of a personal touch.
Of course, a monetary commitment is something you should weigh according to your own beliefs and economic situation. I believe a “thank you” and/or a small token works fine in most situations. That choice is yours.
I would encourage you, however, to think about all of the people who put in hour after hour of hard work with your child. Our special needs children need services and activities well above their typical counterparts. And those services and activities are staffed by very dedicated and knowledgeable people. They should be thanked for their efforts.