Taking ASA meetings to the Ring
When we moved to Baltimore, I went to my first ASA(Autism Society of America) meeting. I met a group of people who lived the life I did. The people in this group were a very dedicated, strong, educated group, and for the first time, I met parents like myself. Every month at meetings, we would get to know the faces of our Autism community. We would talk about our "golden nuggets" which are happy moments or crowning achievements. It's a nice place to share, get information, cry and get sugared up with the sodas and cookies. However, you can tell some people wanted to vent all their anger and frustrations, but they couldn't; it is not what the meetings were for. If everyone threw up all their problems and issues at the meetings, we'd all leave more agitated than when we arrived.
My ideal ASA meeting would be at boxing gym. We could have time to talk about the good stuff but then we'd get gloves and beat the shit out of stuff. Let's face it, living this life with Autism is really draining and there are many reasons to be angry. I would love the opportunity to vent all my frustrations and hostilities with a pair of boxing gloves on. In fact, I think most of us need that.
We could all line up, two to a bag and take turns in one minute rounds. Just before the whistle blows, an issue of contention is announced and then everything you feel about it gets put on the bag. I have a few punch worthy topics:
Schools. Every parent with Autistic children spends many hours stressing this one. We have all had our share of bad teachers, bad administrators, bad OT, bad speech and bad, bad school people. We have plenty of anger towards them because they suck. They make us question the integrity of schools and make us worry about the system failing our kids. When we lived in NJ, we fought with the schools more than we worked with them. We learned how frustrating it can be to have schools that don't understand and are unwilling to do what is required. So, you send your child to school and you don't trust. You're not sure they are even following the IEP and if there is no one to hold them accountable they can have a "don't ask don't tell approach" to IEP violations. You spend your time hoping, sending emails and trying to find reasons and opportunities to be in the school.
When we moved to Baltimore, there was a system in place for children with Autism. Albeit flawed, they had a system in place within the county to keep the schools accountable. The parents often have to be the whistle blower and get the county Autism advocate involved, but she is there to keep the schools honest. When she shows up to a meeting, the administrators get nervous because it means there is a problem and they may have their asses handed to them. I still have issues with the Office of Special Education (OSE) overcrowding classrooms without adding supports. I have watched my #1's ALS(Additional Learning Support)class double in size in six months. The teacher is getting burned out and no one cares until something bad happens. I CAN'T STAND PEOPLE WHO CHOOSE TO BE REACTIVE INSTEAD OF PROACTIVE. When the Assistant Principal, who is our IEP chair, tells me to contact the OSE instead of fighting the fight with us and for us, there is a problem. We wrote a letter to the OSE director and she sent someone to observe, but we haven't heard anything yet. Our NJ history of fighting comes in handy here, because now I have to organize all the classroom parents to protest the OSE. (I think I need a few rounds on the bag for this alone.)
Other parents piss me off. The way they are quick to judge how you deal with your Autistic kids based on how they deal with their neuro-typical kids. News flash: your life is a freaking box of chocolates compared to the shit we deal with. Do some research, ask some questions, have some compassion and back off. Keep your judging eyes and comments to your self.
Clueless, idiotic, judgmental, critical, non-sympathizers. These people are the first ones to eyeball you when your kid throws them-self down in the doorway of a store because they have never been there before. The first ones to say cruel and stupid things to you because your kid is wearing his Autism. The same a-holes who believe that kids with disabilities should be put away. I would prefer to hit them directly, but you can raise kids from jail, so the bag will have to do.
People who brings their kids to an ASA meeting. These meeting are for adults seeking support. It means that every person in that room has found someone else to watch their kids to be there. When I leave my house, I don't want to be around my kids or anyone elses'. Period. If you can't find a sitter, don't come. It is disrespectful to everyone in the room.
Bad dog owners. People who own dogs, let them poop wherever and don't pick it up. Nothing to do with Autism but pisses me off anyway.
I can see boxing/ASA meetings as a wave of the future. Share the good, work through the bad, and get a workout. The only thing missing would be a box of wine, but that's a simple fix.