When I was pregnant with my daughter I was given the book Wesley the Owl. I wasn't sure why, but I decided to take my parenting cues from the biologist/author who raised a barn owl from hatch. Barn owls are smart and sensitive. They form lifelong bonds, feel shame, and even have suicidal tendencies over something as trivial as a social faux pas. Barn owls can be possessive, jealous and predatorial; acting on instincts but also learning from others. They can offend without realizing it, have keen hearing. And they exude a brilliant other-worldliness. Owls are awesome.
My daughter has been equal parts charming and exhausting since the toddler years. Everywhere we went, people saw something special in her. Was it the curly hair?
Then 1st grade hit--and life got interesting. Up until Kindergarten school is mainly about learning through play. But once you hit 6 or 7 you're expected to buckle down, follow the rules and pay attention. Meltdowns and tantrums are normal in preschool, but cause to be cast out in grade school.
After repeated unexplainable visits to the principal's office it was time to visit a psychologist for an evaluation.
While we waited for the meeting with the psychologist we started reading Wesley the Owl together. It had been 7 years since I had read it and I was feeling drawn to it again. My daughter and I discussed the owl's behaviors--preferences, nuances, relationships. We noted, with the biologist's direction, how the owl did many things innocently, out of instinct, and did not realize his actions were harming others or himself.
After several weeks the results were in: Mild Autism (Asperger's Syndrome).
Reading through the evaluation my respect for my child grew. I knew she was smart and talented, but had no idea against what odds.
I also realized how much of my parenting had been shaped by a maternal understanding of how her mind worked. Of course life was pretty easy at home in comparison to school! I had already made many of the modifications, gradually over the last 7 years.
Now I am reading and putting names with observations, and discovering new pieces to the puzzle. My daughter is relieved that she can go to school with her Owl Chart. She knows she needs an advocate and a guide outside our home.
Who knew it would be an Owl?
We would love to hear your thoughts and tips for thriving on the Autism Spectrum. Tell us in the comments!
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