The ‘Kit’ We Created to Help Children With Autism Cultivate Friendships
When it comes to parenting a child on the autism spectrum, I always wished that there was a book with all the answers — a roadmap to help my son grow and thrive. But each child with autism is unique, so there are no “one size fits all” solutions to make sure I am meeting his needs.
I may not know what to do at any given time, but I must trust I have the strength within me to figure it out and, sometimes, fight for his services and support team.
And if the right “thing” doesn’t exist? I must find the courage to create the solutions myself because if I don’t do it, who will? I must step way beyond my comfort zone and take action.
Thankfully, all of us have the opportunity to connect with resourceful moms and dads, siblings and grandparents who have also dove right in.
I have tremendous respect for one such mom: Lisa Smith of “Quirks and Chaos.” She has been cultivating and building friendships for her son, Tate, for years. For many children on the autism spectrum like Tate, developing friendships can be a challenge. Through education, coaching and teamwork, Lisa has created a community of teachers, parents, therapists and peers who eagerly participate to help Tate thrive.
Tate’s peers consider him a valued member of their class and treat him as an equal. It was so successful that People magazine got wind of the “Lunch Buddy Program” and featured Tate and his friends.
Lisa blogged about how she did it. Too important to be buried in the blogosphere, she and I collaborated to create “The Friendship Kit,” a compilation of her blog posts along with the class story, flyers, permission slips and disclosures she used.
Personally, my son is out of school now, but this kit is something I wish I had when he was younger. Both Lisa and I hope it will help other parents by giving them inspiration and a framework to help create their own “building friendships” program for their children.
And when do you talk to your child’s class about starting a buddy program? One of the best ways to introduce autism to your child’s classroom peers is through the Bluebee TeeVee Autism Information Station. It’s a friendly, fun and approachable way to engage children in a discussion about your child. “The Friendship Game” episode is a perfect fit for introducing a buddy program.
Lisa Smith is a parent we can all model ourselves after. She proactively works to build a strong support team and welcoming community for her son. What’s important to note is that Lisa is an introvert at heart, but she’ll do whatever she has to do to keep her children safe and happy.
Let Lisa be a reminder that we can be resourceful! We can come up with creative solutions! We all have the power within to make whatever needs to happen for our children, happen.