This blog post was written by Liz O'Keeffe, a mom to a beguiling six year old daughter with autism, and a tornado preschooler son. They live in Birmingham, UK, with her husband, their dog and two cats. She likes sleep, sunshine and coffee, and doesn't get enough of them!
Congratulations on your successful appointment to the position of “Autism Parent.” We understand you may be confused by this appointment, as you never actually applied for the post in the first place. You may also be concerned that there are no contact details in this letter, so you cannot write, call or email us to turn the position down. Your concerns are to be expected and will lessen over time.
However, we would like to make clear right away that being an autism parent is a mandatory post with a lifetime contract. There is no option to refuse the job, negotiate terms and conditions or take a career break. It is a financially unpaid post with no paid sick leave. You may be able to job share your role with a partner or family members. You must make any such arrangements yourself.
As this is a training post, the only essential qualification required is to be parent of a child with autism.
Essential personal qualities and experience:
None. Autism parents are not special people. You may look at your fellow autism parent colleagues and think, “Wow, they are amazing.” It is important to remember that they, like you, do not have the option to suddenly stop being an autism parent. They persevere, they laugh, they cry and they celebrate. They do the job because they have to. They become “special” because of the extensive on-the-job training they receive as part of being an autism parent (see below).
Desirable personal qualities:
- Ability to manage daily functioning on less than four hours of sleep
- A taste for caffeine in all its wonderful forms
Training you will receive before taking up the post:
- Managing sleep deprivation
- Advocating for your child
- Appreciating and celebrating small steps
- Networking within a multidisciplinary team
- Arguing constructively with professionals
- Doctorate in acronyms (health and education)
- Learning who your true friends are
- Promoting awareness about autism
- Learning about sensory differences
- Extensive knowledge about how to complete various forms (e.g. benefits, schools, health packages, respite services and local authority forms)
- Cookery level 1 (fries, nuggets and associated sensory-neutral foodstuffs)
- Doctorate in communication with your child. Optional topics include scripting, vocal stimming in context and the many meanings of a hand-flap
- Ph.D. in loving and accepting your child for the wonderful individual he or she is
- Fighting like a bear to protect your child and his or her interests
- Coffee appreciation
Incentives and employee benefits:
The more work you put in, the better the life chances will be for your child. There is no greater incentive than this.
We understand there is a lot to take in, and that it would be useful to have a short introductory period in order to familiarize yourself with the role and its challenges. Unfortunately, due to the fact that you’ve been doing this job without realizing it since the day your child was born, there will be no further induction to the role.
“Autism Parent” is an amazing job. It will challenge you and help you to grow in ways you cannot imagine right now. It will make you laugh and cry. It will involve making tough decisions, taking risks and climbing mountains. It will bring you new friendships. It will give you a unique bond and special relationship with your child.
We are pleased to have you as part of our team. Supportive forums to discuss your role and your progress in it can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, various blog sites and other social media outlets.
Human Resources Manager