Sunday, May 31, 2015


As another school year comes to a close, those of us who are teachers try to impart some final words of wisdom to our students before they leave our classes, hoping they may remember something useful from the time they spent with us. Traditionally, this time of year brings graduations and graduation speakers, who, like teachers, offer platitudes to young people going out into “the real world.” While graduation seems like the celebration of the end, these ceremonies known as commencement actually signify the beginning.

Around the country, universities invite various noted celebrities, politicians, and alumni to speak at their commencement ceremonies to give advice to the graduates. Some of these famous people seem to view themselves as experts on life, yet one might question their true expertise. Others offer wisdom notable enough to be quoted in the media. For example, the following quotes were made recently during commencement addresses:

Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey at University of Houston: “Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling like victim. You are not. Get over it and get on with it.”

Musician Jon Bon Jovi at Rutgers University: “As the night ignites the day, go make some memories along the way.”

Former President George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University: “You can be hopeful because there is a loving God.”

These comments intended to enlighten young people were similar to those I read last night in a list of one hundred tips for life supposedly created by a high school economics teacher for his students, entitled, “An Econ Teacher Gave His Senior High School Students His Personal List Of Wisest Words…And They Make a Lot of Sense.” [To read this list, please click here.]  Among these one hundred helpful suggestions, I found the following three especially useful:

#71 “If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.”

#75 “Keep your word.”

#90 “Make the little things count.”

After reading these commencement speeches and the teacher’s tips, I considered the value of the advice given. Is the purpose of the advice really intended to help others––as I truly believe most advice is given in that spirit, or is it to make oneself seem superior to others? As I read many articles written by parents of children with autism, I’m sometimes perplexed by those who assert themselves as experts, especially when their children are quite young. After being an autism mom for nearly twenty-three and a half years, I have learned from many experiences. However, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that I am still learning something new every day. Certainly, I’m no expert, but I do like to share what I have learned along the way, in hopes that our experiences may be of some help to others, just the way I like to share a good recipe for others to enjoy. With that disclaimer in mind, I would like to offer my fifteen for ’15––some things I’ve learned from being an autism mom.

Begin one new thing (supplement, therapy, method) at a time so that you know what to keep doing and what to stop immediately.

Don’t fret. This annoying phase will pass and be replaced by an equally annoying one.

Focus on your child’s strengths, for those will be needed to overcome the weaknesses.
Ignore rude comment by those who do not understand. In the words of my wise friend, “Smile and think, it sucks to be them.”

Find a doctor who listens. If your doctor doesn’t really listen, find another.

In the words of Barney the Purple Dinosaur, “Please and thank you are the magic words.” Expressing gratitude not only makes you feel good, but good manners also make people want to work with you and your child.

Trust your gut as a parent. Instincts are God’s way of telling you which way to go.

When you don’t know what to do, follow the insightful words of my son, “Wait and see!”

Placing duct tape over the speaker of noisy toys muffles them to a comfortable decibel level. Duct tape also nicely secures objects to prevent them from being thrown.

Praise proves productive. Compliments instill pride and give impetus to keep trying.

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can magically remove nearly anything a child’s fingers leave behind on a wall, door, or woodwork.

Remember the words of the Roman poet Virgil: “Omnia vincit amor”­­––“Love conquers all.”
As Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Pray hard. Have faith. Trust God. Remain hopeful.

And so, as another school year ends, I am thankful for my students who were willing to learn from me and who were willing to teach me. Most of all, I’m proud and grateful that my favorite student, Alex, maintains a love of learning and a willingness to keep improving his skills, beginning each new task with enthusiasm. No teacher could ask for more than that.

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

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