How much of a presence should I be at my child’s school?
I am a big believer of being a “presence” at my child’s school. I do it for some typical reasons…and for one very specific reason.
What are my typical reasons?
I believe in volunteering. I have logged many hours volunteering for Aids organizations and, more recently, with autism organizations. It’s just something I enjoy doing.
When it comes to my autistic child, it is therefore natural for me to volunteer. I volunteer with Autism Speaks, at conferences, and at my child’s school.
Like I do with all of my volunteering opportunities, I choose things that interest me and I make sure to monitor the number of things I sign up for. I prefer to monitor the time I spend volunteering because I have experienced burn-out in the past. As long as I keep everything at a healthy balance, then everyone – including myself – is happy.
Why do I do this?
These days, I’m dedicated to making sure I don’t stretch myself too thin. This is because I have a family and a writing career as well as other obligations that eat up plenty of my time. I feel I have to be careful to not go overboard.
For example, I usually do not take on too many “committee” positions. I have found that committee positions are double or sometimes triple the amount of time invested in a volunteer job. I prefer to do “day of” volunteering verses being on too many committees. That is simply what makes me most comfortable.
What about volunteering at your child’s school?
Besides wanting to contribute to my child’s school, I also volunteer there for a specific reason…and that is to maximize the number of people who get to know me.
My reason has to do with my child. I am often called “______’s mom” at my child’s school by kids who know my son but also recognize me.
Why does that matter to you?
Many times my child will struggle to talk with his school peers. He’ll turn away from them or only say something quickly to appease me or a prompt from his aide. His behavior sometimes gets frustrating for his peers. My child may have trouble talking to them and they don’t understand why.
Therefore, I often end up talking for him.
I have no problem with this approach. Our child is in his fifth year at his school and I believe I’ve had some success.
This approach makes me the “middle man” and I’ve gladly accepted the role. This is my son, after all. I want to be involved in helping him overcome his weaknesses. Sometimes my approach is done for a very specific reason…as a representative for my child.
And this time I’m not his advocate, but rather his representative. I am “______’’s mom” at his school and I think this is a good thing.
All I’ve ever wanted for my son – within a school environment – is for the kids who know him to accept him for who he is. When my son runs and makes his strange noises on the play yard, I want those kids to shrug and say, “Ah, well, that’s just ______.” in a non-threatening, accepting sort of way. A way that communicates that they know he’s okay, he doing “his thing,” and he can be social later on, just not now.
I believe my school involvement is helping that along. “Oh, that’s ______’s mom” is something I am used to hearing, and I think it should help down the road.
I am creating a consistent presence at my child’s school. I am doing this because I believe in volunteering and helping out, plus I will often talk to other parents as well as other kids. I’m generally open about my child’s autism (even though we don’t pin a sign on him saying, “I have autism”). But, I will talk to people about it.
I feel I’ve become a broker for my son’s school comfort level. I want my child to be comfortable at his school. I don’t want it to be a scary place for him.
And, if I can help him with that, then I’m going to it.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”