A-Team Introduction

There is a very old adage that says: “it takes a village to raise a child.” Accurate, but it’s a little more focused when it comes to raising autistic children. For them, it takes an A-Team, and I’m not talking about the movie or the old TV show. I’m talking about an Autism Team.

I plan for this to be a series of Saturday posts – the members that make up an A-Team, each member’s purpose on the team, methods of communication, problem solving, mediation, how to get each member as involved with the child as possible, and I’m sure there will be other topics of interest that come up as I write this series.

For this first post, I want to discuss who makes up an A-Team. Not every A-Team is going to be made up of the same types of people, but at the core of the team is you, the parent or primary care giver. And the focus of an A-Team is always the same: the child on the autism spectrum.

There are 4 branches of a complete A-Team. Family, School, Medical, and Special.

1. Family

  • Parents/Primary care givers (including step-parents where applicable.)
  • Siblings/Stepsiblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts/Uncles/Cousins

2. School

  • Special Education Teacher
  • Mainstream Teacher (if/when applicable)
  • Any therapists brought in by the school
  • Principal
  • Counselor

3. Medical

  • Pediatrician
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech therapist
  • Physical therapist (where applicable)
  • Nutritionist (where applicable)
  • Any specialists

4. Special

  • Case workers
  • Advocates
  • Friends
  • Support groups
  • Respite care providers
  • Day care providers

No matter whether or not you keep your A-Team’s contact information in your phone or computer, make sure you have an up-to-date copy in the non-digital world as well, just in case. If they have email addresses and are willing to be contacted that way, make sure you have them. Us Keep a second up-to-date copy in your ‘Just In Case’ file (a separate post coming soon).

When writing out the contact information, include any special notations – directions to the facility, any special topics that individual is helping with, any special schedules that are involved with that member, and anything else you think you need to remember about them.

When meeting with these individuals, remember that their time is as hard to come by and as important as your own. Be prepared. Come to meetings having written down any pressing questions, observations, suggestions, or topics of interest. In time, you will come to rely a great deal on their expertise and experience, but that does not mean you should allow them to shoulder all the responsibility for their particular area. While they are experts in their fields, none of them are experts on your child. That title belongs only to you and it is your duty to share that expertise as needed.

As the core of your A-Team, the leader, it is up to you to keep all the information in one place, to be the voice of all the other members when they are not there. For example, something your child is working on in occupational therapy should be passed along to day care or respite care or to the school. That is your job. Keeping everyone on the same page, focused on the same tasks. It is your job to make certain that everyone is working with your child toward the same goals.

Be a strong but amenable leader. Don’t let your own emotions get in the way of being able to work well with your team. It can be difficult but don’t take your frustrations out on other members of the team. Find a different outlet for that, something constructive. Make a list of your goals for your child, both long term and short term goals.  What do you want most for your child’s future? Don’t lose sight of that. Each step made toward that ultimate goal will likely be small. The small victories build upon one another, moving forward. Share these goals with your A-Team. Be open to ideas on how to reach your small goals and your big goals.

A goal progression example: End-result Goal: for your child to be able to dress themselves. Small goals: learn to zip and unzip, learn to button and unbutton, learn to tie a knot, learn to tie a bow, learn to tie a shoe, learn to pull on and pull off a shirt, learn to pull on and pull off pants. Each small goal is a part of the larger goal and keeping the steps small will reduce the frustration for you, for the team, and most importantly, for the child.

Depending on the age of your autistic child, they should have a voice on the Team as well. Their hopes, dreams, aspirations should be a big part, if not the biggest part, of what you do. You are the coordinator, the central records keeper, the voice for your child if your child is too young or nonvocal.

Next Saturday, I will be talking about the Family branch of the A-Team. How to get them involved and keep them up-to-date, what you need from them and what they need from you. If you have questions or suggestions for future A-Team topics, post it in the comments.

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