Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

I spent ten years working with troubled teens. I worked with them on the counseling side of things and on the education side of things. I spent countless hours talking to parents about their child’s behavior and mood. Some parents were always fretting that I wasn’t attending enough or cutting their child enough slack. Some parents thought I should be stricter. Some parents just wanted me to take care of things. After a while I started to see how the parent’s attitude influenced the success of the child.

Then I became a parent.

In many ways I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and experience. I learned so much more than I ever learned sitting in a classroom or lecture hall. What I learned helped me to recognize some early delays and odd behavior in my son that prompted me to have him evaluated. He now has an IEP for autism, and he’s only four, just starting preschool.

However, for all that I know, it doesn’t stop me from feeling sad.

On the continuum of autism, things tend to be relatively normal. We have our bad mad moments, but they look mostly like tired kid tantrums–he’s four remember. Most four year olds tend to be concrete thinkers and do better on schedules and hate to be told no. But when I’m standing in the lobby of the Children’s Museum with him laying on the floor, refusing to go back in because he’s ready to leave after walking around for ten minutes, and his sister is exploring and playing it’s hard not to imagine the difficulties that are still ahead.

I’m sure it will be both better and worse than I can currently imagine. I can’t predict how he will adapt or how I’ll adjust to everything. No matter what case studies I read to try to help me understand, our situation will be different because we are different. Some things will work for us that don’t always work for others. Some things that work remarkably well for others will totally fail with us.

And then there are other people to deal with, friends, family, teachers, well meaning people, and people who don’t want to be inconvenienced by us in the middle of the lobby.

Mostly I try to stay aware of my son’s needs, and how to balance that with what’s going on around us. I’m not going to stay shut up in my house all the time just because we might have a meltdown in public. I don’t expect everyone to be accommodating to us, but I hope that there will be some. I hope that my willingness to accept and deal with our reality will in the long run help my son to be successful.

I know that my attitude will play just as much of a role in his life as every intervention to help him learn and grow, but I’m human. I’m a mother. For all I know and understand intellectually, I worry. Because just as I know what will be needed from me, I also know that not everyone will understand or want to understand.