[This post comes from Joanna, a parent, who attended the IN Symposium in San Jose on April 4. She raises some great questions that everyone who works with children with disabilities should consider]
Friday's symposium has been heavy on my mind and had a thought that I wanted to float before you to see what your thoughts were. While I realize that the social capital discussion was for all developmentally disabled folks, I can't help but think individuals with autism who are aging out of the educational umbrella and how important social connections are and how difficult it can be for individuals on the spectrum. I know for my son, early learning and repetitive exercising of skills learned are the only way he "owns" an ability. I wish that when we began our years of ABA therapy, speech and language therapy and social skills groups that social capital was explored in a meaningful way (involving lots of the "shoulds and coulds" that were presented on Friday.
I feel that social capital is an integral piece of the puzzle that signifies success in all adult area's of a developmentally disabled person's life and that if we were to involve the various Behavioral Therapy companies (ELCA, I Can Too, etc) and encourage them to "teach" the younger individuals with disabilities AND the family on discovering and nurturing the "natural supports" that already exist for a youngster on the spectrum, the greater the chances are as an adult to utilize that skill set. For many families with children on the spectrum, our front line of defense is usually our ABA therapist, speech and language therapist and occupational therapists. It only makes sense that we enlist their support in helping us create that social capital between the typicals and the not so typicals.
It has been my experience that many families isolate themselves or are isolated by others once they receive the diagnosis and so it can be very difficult to "put yourself and your child" out there for fear of non acceptance, ridicule, ignorance. Simply put, we as parents are too close to the subject at hand. If we were to have the assistance and expertise by our ABA and other therapists we might be more willing to continue to try to utilize our community as our "village".
Just as Friday's symposium was presented more for the gatekeepers of adults with developmental disabilities and their social connections, it might be equally important to involve the early childhood therapists in understanding and creating curriculum to implement social capital at a early age. Would there ever be opportunities to present or discuss with the various early childhood therapists and educators on the importance of social capital and how they can be a rich resource in teaching those skills and involving a families natural resources?
Thanks for your consideration! Just some random thoughts I had early this morning!