As a parent of a child with autism, can you recall a particular conversation with your child’s therapist, teacher or intervention specialist when it was explained what “pairing” means relative to your child’s learning style? I sure can.
One afternoon, after a meeting with my son’s ABA program coordinator, I was thinking about her answer to this basic question: “Why is it that my son is able to complete certain tasks here at the center, yet when presented with those same tasks at home, he is unsuccessful?” Her answer was that he “paired,” or associated, those tasks specifically with being at the center and that he had difficulty generalizing, or demonstrating, his mastery of those skills across various settings.
As I pondered on that concept, I asked myself, “What would I want my son, Nathan, to “pair” with “Mom,” if anything?” It only took me about a half-second to conclude that, more than anything, I wanted him to pair “Hope” with “Mom.”
My non-verbal, 6-year old son with autism is such an inspiration to me that I often say of the two of us, “I am his voice. He is my heart.” It was in that spirit that I decided to use his love of reading to provide him a constant visual queue, one of “hope,” for him to pair with “Mom.” I tapped into an old hobby of mine, that of jewelry making, and designed a pendant using the written word “Hope” alongside a small puzzle piece dangle, to express my endless optimism that he would overcome his autism. I affectionately coined that pendant, “Eternal Hope” and wear it to this very day, as Nathan has come to expect seeing it.
Soon after I designed that pendant, I made up extras to share as gifts for friends who were also mothers of children with autism. Word spread in my local autism community about my hope-inspired pendant, and I soon found myself inundated with requests for more. That was the beginning of The Hope Chest Keepsake Jewelry, my labor of love for the autism community.
Please join me in the coming weeks as I share more of the stories behind my Autism Journey Collection at The Hope Chest Keepsake Jewelry, where being on the spectrum can be a beautiful thing.
by Vicki Sotack, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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