The title of this blog series is “A Conversation With My Younger Self”. We wondered what parents and providers would say to their younger selves having the wisdom of hindsight and if there might be any words of wisdom our younger selves might have for us today. We begin with providers. 

Anita Wright, Speech Pathologist

As a young professional, there was a lot I didn’t know or understand about autism.  I should have taken more time to describe to parents the strengths their child exhibited, not just the deficits, not just the worrisome behaviors.  I would have helped parents recognize and emphasize the positive aspects of their child and point out how we can build on those strengths to broaden the child’s skills in other areas.  

As a parent, I’d remind myself not to be too quick to give up on teaching new things, even when the going seems incredibly slow.  Time and persistence on a parent’s part can sometimes bring surprising breakthroughs.  Cherish and embrace every step of progress and continue to build on it.  Speak up for what you think your child needs or would benefit from and stay open to trying new things, even when you think the likelihood of success is minimal; you won’t know if you don’t try. 

Raphe Bernier, PhD, Clinical Director

Older provider self would say: Wise up. This is more complicated than you think. 

Younger provider self would say: Keep up the naive optimism you had when you were younger.

Chuck Cowan, MD, Medical Director

I’d repeat what Ben Moore said during the Autism 200 panel discussion. His advice was, “Assume competence”. 

Gary Stobbe, MD, Adult Transition Director

I would say a few things. Having worked with adults with ASD, a very important message is about progress – progress continues to occur well into adulthood, so we all need to recognize that this is a marathon. So much work goes into the school years and we have to keep the momentum going after age 21 to take advantage of all the work that went into childhood.

Also, the analogy of whitewater rafting comes to mind – you have to survive rough parts of the journey because they will happen. You can’t go around them. You have to be strong and survive and continue moving forward. 

Lastly, I’d say “Enjoy the journey”. The craziness has to be embraced – if you spend all the time trying to “fix” your child, you will miss the beautiful moments. Your job as a parent is the same – helping your child be the best they can be. 

We’d like to thank our providers for sharing their thoughts with us. Stay tuned for more conversations with parents!

Read Part 2