After reading Step Ahead of Autism by Anne Moore Burnett, I felt that the stories and tools provided were so thorough and practical that I had to break up my review into two segments.
This is Part II of my review.
Steps Six through Eight
In each step Anne shares a part of her story and then turns her experience into practical tips and exercises for us to practice immediately.
Step six is ADVOCATE. Here is where we journey with Anne into her first IEP meeting experience, which wasn’t smooth by any means. She openly and courageously shared how she was caught off guard, how she took her power back, and how she successfully created the right support system for her son.
This chapter also offers a complete IEP Checklist, so we can learn from her experiences and show up to our own IEP meetings armed with the right resources and tools. Bravo!
Step seven is ASSESS YOUR ATTITUDE. Don’t let this short chapter fool you – it’s just as packed with nuggets of wisdom as the more lengthy ones. The biggest takeaway here is best said in the “Exercises” section:
A positive attitude enables you to look at what appears to be an impossible situation and find alternative ways to make it work.
She also explains how neurotypical children fuss when their basic needs (like structure and routine) aren’t met, but children with Autism actually suffer pain and discomfort. This is yet another simple key into the lives and minds of our little angels. She also reminds us to steer clear of pessimists and negative thinkers (a great outlook for all of us, not just special needs parents!). As the Law of Attraction guru Andy Dooley recently shared in his Atlanta workshop, “Don’t let people coerce you onto the Bi**h Train, do what it takes to stay on the Bliss Train!”
Step eight is ASSERT YOUR AUTHORITY. Boy did I relate to this chapter, as my own son is currently going through puberty as well. I learned some more about what is going on inside his body and how to truly listen to my intuition, despite what the naysayers in my life may proclaim.
Anne again graciously shares some of her less-than-stellar decisions and reactions, which helped me feel a lot better for being human. (I AM human, right?)
The doctor described how puberty is like a fire alarm going off inside your body, and how in children with Autism it amplifies sounds, smells, and crowded spaces, which can and DO reignite old behaviors. When our children endure these magnified senses all day they must have an outlet at the end of the day to release the stress.
To make your child most comfortable in their environment will help them flourish. This may mean looking at different options for school, homeschooling, or other major changes. Follow your heart, and don’t let complacency, fear, and lack of motivation squash your authority. I am currently in complacency with my own situation, and because of this chapter I was able to recognize it and start making calls about some new supports for Justin.
Step nine is DELEGATE. In this chapter, the author comes to the realization that she hadn’t been very active in ministering to her own needs because she was so focused on her child. Her tales of isolation due to public experiences with her child as well as judgment and questioning from others hit a very sore spot with me. I’ve been a single mom for eight years, so I very much related to not trusting others, feeling judged frequently, and doing everything myself. Chapter nine inspired me to merely consider opening my world (scary!) to others, including other caretakers and other parents.
Step ten is ASPIRE. Programs like drama, art and music helped tap into the right brain of Anne’s son, which slowly softened the rigid edges associated with Autism. He also became part of a swim team, which grew him to be a part of a group, yet it still met his needs for a manageable world of synchronized order.
The biggest message in this chapter is to find the balance between not hiding your child’s diagnosis but not letting it stand in the way of their progress. If we focus on the positive gifts our children possess, benchmarks will be reached and celebrated. Even independence may not be out of reach.
Anne wraps up this masterpiece with real life examples of how she put the steps into practice, letting us see that these tools are practical and tangible. She helps us determine our own milestones and gauges for success, and gives us permission to continually reassess along the way. That’s really what it’s all about – the journey.
Anne has a website that offers much more in the way of resources, connections, and coaching. She also lays out the steps on how to start your own Step Ahead of Autism support group to help find strength, joy and encouragement with others on this path.
I’d love for you to share what you thought of this book by commenting below or posting on the SOA Facebook page!