How did one mom create a successful buddy program and lasting friendships for her autistic son?
When it comes to parenting a child on the autism spectrum, don’t you wish that there was a book with all the answers? A roadmap to helping them grow and thrive? Each autistic child is unique and there are no “one size fits all” solutions to making sure we’re meeting our children’s needs. We may not know what to do at any given time, but we must trust that we have the strength within us to figure it out…to find and, sometimes, fight for their therapies, services, schools and programs.
And if the right ‘thing’ doesn’t exist? We must find the courage to create the solutions ourselves because if we don’t do it, who will? Throughout the blogosphere, you’ll encounter resourceful moms and dads, siblings and grandparents who had no choice but to dive right in and do just that!
I have tremendous respect for one such mom, Lisa Smith of Quirks and Chaos. She has been cultivating and building friendships for her son, Tate. For many children on the autism spectrum like Tate, developing friendships can be a challenge. Through education, coaching and teamwork, Lisa has created a community of teachers, parents, therapists and peers who eagerly participate to help Tate thrive. Tate’s peers consider him a valued member of their class and treat him as an equal. So successful, People Magazine got wind of the “Lunch Buddy Program” and featured Tate and his friends in the magazine.
So how did she do it? According to Lisa, success depends on three critical factors:
1) Parents willing to work
“No one is more important than the parent. We badgered administrators and teachers for programs we thought really mattered and were not afraid to ask for things they had never done before.”
2) Teachers vested in the program
“Without all the hard-working adults—teachers, SLPAs, paraprofessionals—we would not have gotten far.”
3) Willing peers
“We had willing peers with compassionate parents who allowed their children to be peer models for Tate.”
We created “The Friendship Kit” which provides more details about Tate’s Lunch Buddy Program. It includes the flyers, permission slips, disclosures and class story Lisa uses as a framework from which you can create your own materials based on your own unique situation. I know that you’ll be inspired and take away some strategies you can try.
One of the best ways to introduce autism to your child’s classroom peers is through our Bluebee TeeVee Autism Information Station. It’s a friendly, fun, and approachable way to engage children in a discussion about your child. “The Friendship Game” episode is a perfect fit for introducing a buddy program:
Lisa Smith is a parent we can all model ourselves after. She proactively works to build a strong support team and welcoming community for her autistic son, Tate. What’s important to note is that Lisa is an introvert at heart but she’ll do whatever she has to do to keep her children safe and happy.
Be resourceful! Be creative! Be scrappy! You have the power within to make whatever needs to happen for your child, happen.