Someone recently asked me what would be my one piece of advice for raising a child with autism (or autistic child).
Would it be teaching coping skills?
Would it be advocating to others?
Would it be research into causes?
Yes, those are all important ideas. Those aren’t it though. After much thinking I’ve decided on one thing . Challenging the status quo. I’ve often commented on the fact that Tucker is my match for a child…and this is no different.
In my lifetime – I have always been one to question, ‘the way it’s always been done.’ Yes, that’s fine – but is it the best way? Is there a better way? Can we do better, be better?
I’m a big fan of tradition AND transformation. Understanding and acknowledging where we have been is a necessity in human progress. We must know our history so we continue to get better and transform our lives.
- to change in composition or structure
- to change the outward form or appearance of
- to change in character or condition
Einstein is a perfect example. It has been hypothesized that Einstein had autism. He had difficulty with social interaction and was (obviously) very intelligent – yet had difficulty with language and learning. He struggled in school. He also had incredible difficulties with relationships and it has been reported had tactile difficulties (didn’t like to be touched).
Einstein transformed thinking about physics. He once said, “All of science is nothing more than refinement of everyday thinking.” He simply took everyday ideas and transformed them – he challenged status quo.
Now, I’m not comparing Tucker to Einstein. Several years ago, early in my collegiate career I read a story about Einstein learning to play the violin. He taught himself to play and was quoted as saying, “love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.” That quote stuck with me and I reread that story just a few months ago. As usual…the quote meant something very different than the initial reading.
Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.
A sense of duty is the status quo – it is what we are supposed to do, what we are conditioned to do, what we have learned to do. He was supposed to learn the violin through lessons – but instead, taught himself and was reported to play with a certain insight that could only be brought forth by a great love of the music and instrument.
A sense of duty is the status quo – it is what we are supposed to do, what we are conditioned to do, what we have learned to do. …but autism is a game changer.
Autism is the epitome of ‘love is a better teacher.’ Learning to be better and be different to assist in paving the path for someone different. Someone who is not the ‘status quo’ – someone who may invent the next best idea or revolutionize…like Einstein.
So, my advice? Challenge the status quo.
- If the IEP says you have to do it ‘this way.’ Ask why. Why shouldn’t the system work for the child instead of the child having to work within the system?
- If Confirmation says we have to do it ‘this way.’ Ask why. Why shouldn’t we work to develop faith instead of rote memorization?
- If a teacher says we have to do it ‘this way.’ Ask why. Why shouldn’t we try to reach every student in every/any way possible?
Challenge the status quo.
Challenge to transform.
The trick (at least for me) here is to not challenge just to challenge…but to challenge with a purpose. Once you figure out reason why you should challenge, consider your purpose, and then allow the transformation to work.
Then, allow love to serve as the teacher.