for a Daughter with Autism
By Pat Linkhorn
I wrote this poem for an overhead I used for a presentation several years
ago. I happened to come across this overhead one day last week. As I read
it, I realized that my dream for Kim to attend a school dance with friends
had occurred not once, but twice since school started in September.
Now when she went to her first dance, I was a bit skeptical. But we've
been working on building a circle of friends for her for the past several
years Camp Fire, Brownies, 4-H, etc. She has some pretty neat friends
and a lot of kids who speak to her whenever were out in public. So Id
asked one of them to kind of watch her at the dance and help her with
her money. Kim was a little timid about going into the dance, but when
she saw her friends, she decided shed stay. Her dad came home after dropping
her off and we both acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world;
neither of us voicing our concerns. We went to pick her up and all the
kids and teachers told us what a good time shed had and how well shed
behaved. It was a pretty big landmark for us.
Even though we realized wed accomplished something here, we didn't place
too much importance to it. When I read what Id written though, it brought
back all the memories of how shed been when Id written it. At that time
I really thought it would be one of those events that would never occur,
but Id still had a vision of it happening. I'm sure many of her former
teachers never thought it would happen either.
Kim is autistic. She used to run out into the road chasing butterflies,
eat glass, bang her head on the wall, and hide under tables when things
got too hectic. I used to have to use the mixer and vacuum when she was
asleep. Fire drills would send her up the wall literally, and she never
used to play with kids, just beside them. She had some pretty severe behaviors.
The thought of her actually being away from me with other kids, at a place
like a dance, for any period of time was unthinkable. But I did have that
vision, although it seemed pretty unrealistic when I wrote it.
Kim is twelve years old now and I've been talking about what she might
be able to do as an adult. I want her to be independent, have a job and
live a full life. To be honest though, I have these horrible visions of
where she may end up living and what she may end up having to do when
I'm gone. I talk about her future, but do I think shell be able to have
a good one? Well, now that I've seen my dream about the dance come true,
I can finally move on to my next dream and be able to really believe that
it will come true.
If I hadn't written my dream down, I still wouldn't be able to fully believe
in my next dream. We tend to forget how far our children have come because
its such a slow process and perhaps its sometimes too painful to remember
the past and all its painful memories. I don't usually like going back
there and remembering all those things. This time was different though.
I was able to see how far she's come and believe me, that was a good feeling.
Remember to celebrate your children's successes and dream some impossible
dreams. Write them down somewhere and read them every so often. And aim
high, because it's not impossible.
A dream is not necessarily
a "full-blown" vision of what a parent wants for a child.
It may only be a tiny slice of their future life.
"A moment in time"
Krystal crossing the street
in a big city with her seeing eye dog. (alone)
Krystal listening to an
audio tape of a book I've read.
Kim at a school dance with
It is the professionals
job to see beyond the 9 month commitment they may have with a particular
child and help the parent see how what they're doing at this point
in time will help to make that dream a reality.
Pat Linkhorn is an advocate/trainer/information
specialist with the Ohio Coalition for the
Education of Children with Disabilities.. She is also an experienced parent
and has two girls with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity.