The Many Challenges of an #Autism Parent Returning to College

For those of you that don’t know anything about me or my family, let me introduce myself. I am the mom of four wonderful children, one of which has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and “Nana” to two very energetic grandchildren. I have had many jobs during my adult life but, it is the one I have held onto for the last twenty four years that I love the most…being a mother! Having all of the fast food, warehouse, and office positions on my resume doesn’t come anywhere close to the experience of being a parent, especially one of a special needs child. My youngest son was diagnosed with Autism six years ago when he was almost five years old. Our family gained a new perspective of what it is like to be wandering aimlessly without direction. It was then that I started the largest and longest research project that would inevitably bring me to where I am today.

Outside of my extensive internet search of how to help my son, I was also making myself available to the teachers at his elementary school during the time he was in class. I would be shadowing him one day to make sure that he was not disturbing the class during their instruction, or volunteering the next day in the classroom or the office at his elementary school. When I wasn’t spending as much time in his classroom, I became a substitute teacher for the school district. I was almost immediately given a long-term assignment in the Special Education Department at the middle school nearby. And then another, until eventually, I was working most of my substitute assignments at my son’s elementary school in regular classrooms. I enjoyed working as a substitute teacher for three years before getting my Paraprofessional certification to apply for one of five Pre-K Assistant positions available at my son’s elementary.

Things didn’t quite work out like I expected they would with the elementary school. I applied online for a part-time position at the middle school which turned into a full-time position in just a matter of days. This completely caught me off guard because I was still trying to find my footing as the new leader for my local AutismOKC support group. The full-time position in the ED classroom was unexpectedly taken out of the picture and exchanged for one in the self-contained Autism classroom before the first month was over. I was assigned the prestigious position as the personal assistant to a student in the classroom. I have learned so much about the varying levels of the Autism Spectrum Disorder since this last transition.

Autism Parent Returning to CollegeMy son is in the fifth grade this year, and he has been doing extremely well. His sixth grade brother is at the middle school where I am currently working. Over the last four years, I have been told several times that I should go back to college to get my teaching degree in Special Education. I am halfway through my first semester back in college, and I am carrying an “A” for the one class I enrolled in! There’s nothing like working all day, feeding the family dinner and then working alternately on discussion posts, journal entries, peer reviews, essay and quizzes on assigned reading material until around midnight throughout the class week. My “me” time is almost non existent with my schedule. I am also glad that I have a week off from college during my second week of Spring Break from the middle school. I look forward to spending some quality time with my family because they have been so supportive of my returning to college, and I love them so much!

My spring semester is almost over for me and I plan to do what I can to bring in the best grade for my English Comp II class. With April being Autism Awareness Month, I had the distinct privilege of speaking, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in support of World Autism Awareness Day, at the community college that I attend. I represented my family team, “Nathan’s Voice” as the team captain and a volunteer in the Autism community. Six months ago, I partnered with Student Life Services within my college so that I am authorized to sign off on the advocacy hours of college students who volunteer in childcare during the local AutismOKC support group meetings. Join me, and families across the nation, in celebrating April as Autism Awareness Month. Please remember that it isn’t just the month of April that these families experience Autism…It’s during the rest of the year, as well!

Lorrie.

Lorrie Servati
Lorrie is married, has four children and three grandchildren. Her youngest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders seven years ago. She became his advocate, created their Family Autism Team "Nathan's Voice" and started volunteering at his elementary school. Lorrie integrated herself into his daily school environment by becoming a substitute teacher, getting to know the teachers and the students at his school and bringing awareness to anyone who would listen! She started her autism blog, Nathan's Voice, four years ago in an effort to document her son's progress and share her family's experiences with others. Lorrie is the AutismOKC.org support group leader, a new member of the Covington Registry for Who's Who to represent the state of Oklahoma in Autism Advocacy, currently works as a full-time assistant, in the self-contained autism classroom, at her local middle school and has recently returned back to college to acquire her teacher certificate in Special Education. You can visit Lorrie’s Autism blog, Nathan's Voice , follow her on Twitter , Facebook , LinkedIn , Pinterest and Google+ . You may also contact her by email at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org
Lorrie Servati
Lorrie Servati

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