There was THE SPARK A mother’s story of nurturing, genius and autism By Kristine Barnett that was staring at me, screaming ‘GET ME! You won’t regret it!’ at the National Library recommendation shelf.
273 pages was consumed within whatever free time I had and finished in a few days with tears welling up at many junctures of the moving book.
My son has not been diagnosed as ‘autistic’. Yet throughout the book, I felt this kindred spirit with Kristine as she shared the ups and downs of raising her autistic child. I could identify many awkward behaviours that I have experienced with my child too. Through her intimate sharing, I saw how unique each child is. Each child has their own share of uniqueness and struggles to overcome. This is the way of life. She has a brave heart. Instead of losing hope to the diagnosis, and verdict of ‘professionals’, she stuck to her guts and overcame the odds of her son’s condition. The result? A blooming genius.
On another level of the ‘affinity’ I felt with her, was her ‘teacher-nurturing- of- talents’ spirit. It felt like what I would do if I had my own backyard and garage in sg. Once, she had a live Llama she borrowed from a farm to welcome the autistic children and excite their sensory play! Actually, it was what I had been doing with my kids and anyone willing to learn together with us. In sg, a live rabbit was at best I could do to have my art class hopping around drawing. Kristine ran a day care centre. I ran a homeschool when I was a Stay Home mum and some art classes when there were interested groups in the past. I also invited friends with kids to do activities together, since I have prepared materials, I just need to prepare some extras and more people to benefit and enjoy!
One insightful and practical intervention strategy she shared was with regards to the scale of emotions. I shall try with my kids.
‘ “I know you’re upset,’ I told Jake, ‘ but there’s a scale. When someone you love dies, that’s a ten on the scale. When something’s a ten, you are entitled to flip out. You’re actually entitled to do more than that. You can crawl into bed and stay there, and I’ll be right there holding the tissue box.
‘But then there’s the other end of the scale, and that’s where you’ll find that jarful of jelly beans. It’s not someone breaking a bone or losing an arm; it’s a jar filled with candy we can buy at the drugstore. That’s a two, and you respond to a code two event with a code two reaction, not a code ten.’
I use this intervention to help kids, particularly autistic ones, get some perspective. ‘Someone crashes his car/Your shoes feel scratchy. Which one’s a ten?’ I ask. ‘When it’s time to go code ten, by all means, go code ten. But you can’t waste code ten on the way the label in your shirt itches your neck.’ ‘ (you can read her book to find out why the jelly beans jar was so important to Jake)
Reading her book kindled something within me-
My mission as a mum, teacher, and spiritual mentor. I scrolled through my blog and recalled my times spent as a Stay Home Mum with my babies. I decided to compile a slide show of them.
Not to show off ‘wow what wonderful stuffs we have done’, but
WOW, it was a Wonderful Childhood Spent.
This is a reminder for me to stay focused on the beauty of life and not sweat on the pursuit of academics or status of life. We work hard, but we also pray and play hard!
May we continue to ignite that spark in each of our child and create beautiful memories for them to behold!
‘He can do anything he wants (to be).’
‘ This is how far we’ve come, from the special ed teachers who didn’t believe Jacob could ever learn to read, to a university physics professor who sees unlimited potential. That’s the kind of ceiling I want my son’s teachers to be setting for him. More important, it’s the ceiling I want teachers and parents to set for every child, and for all of us to set for ourselves.’
In the real world, it is hard to be this kind of parent, even harder to be this kind of teacher. Nontheless, for me, that hope should not be snuffed out as long as there is God. Where there is hope, there will be a spark to get a fire going.
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