Parents of NJ children with autism: You are not alone
From the time a child is diagnosed at any point of the autism spectrum through that child's adulthood, parents face countless questions. They tackle what can seem like insurmountable challenges trying to get their children the best care possible.
During a recent New Jersey 101.5 town hall event autism, experts reminded parents facing those challenges — they're not alone.
Suzanne Buchanan, executive director of Autism New Jersey, said raising children with autism is a job for "extreme parents," or, "uber parents."
"Even when you have that uber parent, sometimes there are still things that fall through the cracks," Buchanan said.
Buchanan said one of the most important things parents can do is take care of themselves. She said something as simple as taking an extra hour of sleep can make a significant difference.
Once a child is diagnosed the challenges continue. The planning of the child's education becomes a priority. That will usually involve an Individual Education Plan, and the possibility of an aide in a class. Plans need to be made for what happens when a child reaches the age beyond available education.
But schools and other service providers don't always provide the answers parents are looking for, at least not at first.
Mark Mautone from the Hoboken Public Schools said there are questions that need to be asked and answered until the parents are completely comfortable with the decisions that are made.
"What is going to work for your child? That's what's important. If you have questions, ask them," he said. "Don't lose hope. Don't give up. You're going to go through the ups and downs like everyone does in life. But we're here to support you in any way possible."
Mautone said in some cases teachers are the only resources parents have, which is why they try to make themselves available to help at all hours of the day.
Bobbie Gallagher from the Autism Center for Educational Services in Brick is the parent of two adult children with autism. Gallagher has seen the challenges they face in their daily lives. That has included going through the courts to get her children the help and education they need.
In a lot of ways, Gallagher said, it can be a period of isolation for parents — but she said it is important to reach out and get involved for parents to help themselves and their children.
"We lose friends, we lose family, but we gain unbelievable friends on the other side of this," she said.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com