Saturday, August 15, 2020

"You talk; I listen"

I think my favorite lessons learned are the ones that bring together more than one aspect of my life.  Here's one example, from our early years of marriage, when the kids were young, and my teacher-husband shared some of the wisdom he had learned on the job.  Instead of directly praising a child for something they have done, it is often more effective to tell another adult about their accomplishment when you know they are within hearing range.  Telling Grandma over the phone that you are so pleased that her grandchild is willing to try a variety of foods, or has learned to ride a bike, or just finished cleaning their room - well, it works magic!   

Working with kids who struggle with just about every task they undertake - the kids with "special needs" - taught me that direct praise might even backfire and cause stress or anxiety that could turn an accomplishment into a disaster.  In my behavior modification training, I learned to say "Good job!" with great enthusiasm and even greater frequency.  All too often, I was caught off-guard with the reaction I got from my students.  Think about it - I was asking them to do some very basic task (usually involving a motor response that took great effort on their part) such as sorting or stacking colored blocks, putting together a simple puzzle,  or handing me the correct picture.    I didn't know it in my early years, but these kids were SMART, and they knew that just about every other kid in the world could do such a task with no trouble at all.  So, when my reaction after they struggled to perform was an enthusiastic "Good job!" -  who could blame them for throwing the block or puzzle piece across the room or angrily pinching my arm!

Indirect praise was infinitely more effective once my very patient teachers helped me learn a new way to do things.  Once they  established that they were much more intelligent than any of us had realized, we could stop with the "baby work" and move on to things that were more appropriate to their cognitive level.  One of the happiest times in my classroom was when the kids were all going regularly to general education classes with their age peers, and using Facilitated Communication to complete the same work that others were doing.  I proudly displayed their typed work on the walls outside our classroom and didn't have to say anything at all.  Having other adults in the building stop by to express their pleasure was the best reward of all.

In my more recent work with adults, we have at times set up visits where two or more of our typing friends can get together to chat.  At times, the conversation lags and I realize that we - the communication partners who are there to provide needed support - have taken over, wandering off topic into things going on in our lives, or current events in the news, or (best of all) the lessons we have learned over the years from our silent typing friends.  At first, I felt guilty when this happened.  It was supposed to be THEIR social time, not ours.  And yet, I realized that something interesting was going on.  These folks really liked hearing about our family life, they appreciated learning about events in the news, and they really, really liked hearing that we were finally catching on to what they had wanted us to know about them all along. They silently voiced their approval by listening to what we were saying and letting us continue.  We talked, they listened, and they approved.

Fast forward to my current situation in these days of Covid-19.  I am no longer meeting in person with my typers, with just a couple exceptions, and instead sometimes find myself in a group online meeting as part of a team trying to make the best of these difficult times.  Recently in such a meeting with one young man, a non-speaking FC user participating from his own home, he became rather restless after about 30 minutes of interaction.  We had been asking him questions and he was supported in using FC to give us some insights into how he was doing.  The group leader suggested that we could quit at any time if he was ready, and he typed his response: "No. You talk. I listen."   And so we continued to do just that.  He stayed in the room, happily listening to the rest of us as we talked about how we have been coping with the stress of having our lives changed so dramatically.

It makes so much sense.  For years these individuals were misunderstood and underestimated.  Many had little or no academic instruction.  And yet, they were learning all the time.  Many have told me via FC that they hear everything and remember everything as well.  So listening is a strong suit, and if what they are hearing confirms that the people around them recognize and appreciate their intelligence, they can relax and continue learning - and continue teaching all of us.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Cruelest Month

"April is the cruelest month" ---  from a favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, and from my almost forgotten college days.  It really WAS a cruel month in the year 2020, but March, May and now June are not far behind.

In line with the general theme of this blog, I will focus here on lessons I have learned - mostly from kids, my kids, my grandkids, the kids I have taught --- kids of all ages (many are now adults) who have taught me.

I am trying so hard not to complain, not to wallow in self-pity, but it isn't easy.  When Covid-19 shut down most of the country, really most of the world, we all suffered great losses in our lives. I have been at home for about three months now, keeping a mental list of all the things I miss in my life.  I am quite sure most everyone has a similar list - having places to go, seeing friends, hanging out in a coffee shop, library or park, eating in a restaurant, going to the movies.  Do you play the game with yourself - if the virus is declared gone, and life can resume, where do I want to go first?

I have a brand new great-grandson, born on May 6, and I yearn to hold him, to see him in person.  When might that be possible?   As a family, we have already celebrated several holidays and birthdays via Zoom meetings - not quite the same as gathering in person, but better than nothing.  Thank goodness for modern technology to help us stay connected.

The blessings of family, a peaceful home in the country where I can remain "safely at home" for the duration, the financial security of retirement benefits, miracles like Netflix, Zoom and Facebook make all of this infinitely easier for me personally than for many others.  I am healthy, my family is healthy, that baby and his parents are doing just fine.

Gratitude for all my blessings in life goes a long way to soothe my restlessness, and then I think about my amazing grandkids. Back in early March, Kid #1 was at the peak of her gymnastics season.  She had an outstanding performance in a competition on a Sunday afternoon, and was filled with hope and excitement about the meets that were still to come.  But of course never did.   Kid #2 was preparing for similar competitions in karate, plus turning 16, getting his driver's license, and having braces removed.  The birthday came and went with little fanfare and everything else is still on hold. Kid #3 is a high school athlete, hoping to play college football.  There was no spring football, there will be no summer camps, and the fall season is doubtful.  His restaurant job came to an abrupt halt, so plans of saving for college and possibly getting a scholarship have vanished for now.   Kid # 4 finished college with no graduation ceremony, and no parties.  She is now a nurse, so she has a job - but of course Grandma is both proud and very worried about her health and safety.

They all miss school and miss their friends.  The older ones live on their own and are mostly working from home, and then staying at home at a time in their lives when socializing is how they usually spend whatever free time they might have. Their lives have changed much more dramatically than mine, and I have heard not one word of complaint.  They even listen patiently when I point out that they will surely have stories to tell their children and grandchildren in the future, and I am sure I have repeated more than once that this current situation really is a big deal - it is something none of us have experienced in our lifetimes, and none of us knows how the story will end.  Bless them for tolerating Grandma's rambling thoughts and words of wisdom. 

My most dramatic loss is probably the regular contact I had with my nonspeaking friends who type to communicate.  I try to stay in touch with their families and it is very reassuring to know that everyone seems to be doing as well as might be expected under some very difficult circumstances.  Day programming came to that same hard stop and everyone's schedule was severely disrupted.  Situations vary, but all of these folks need someone to support them 24/7.  Parents and home staff are indispensable, and it is critical that everyone stays healthy and safe.  Just exactly how they are all managing this is beyond my imagination.  But again, no one is complaining.  They are just doing what needs to be done.

So what are the lessons?  We all need to do what we can with whatever life sends our way.  Being grateful for our blessings is essential.   Complaining, or worrying, accomplishes little or nothing.  Life goes on and while it may never be quite the same, there surely will be better times ahead.

And from my typing friends who have special insights into such matters: Love will win in the end.  Stay strong.  Stay well.

Monday, April 20, 2020

"If Only They Could Tell Us"

In my early days of working with children and teens who didn't speak, we "jabberers" used to joke that we'd really be in trouble if these folks could ever talk - and tell stories about US!  And now, I can't wait to hear what they have to say when they have the needed supports.  Today I am going to share a random assortment of very important messages I have received from some of the great people I work with.  It has been over five weeks now since I have met with any of them --- I am very lonely, and my hope is that this might be just what they want me to be doing with all the time I have available to me.

Without identifying anyone, let me just say that these comments come from men and women roughly between the ages of 25 and 65, most of whom have no spoken language at all, and many of whom have had no formal academic instruction in their lives.  Added note:   All of these were shared with me over two years ago.   I apologize to my typing friends for the delay!

Concerning intelligence:
My mind is good.  In my mind I know much more.  I wish my mouth could say what I am thinking
Get more people to see my intelligence.
Please look into getting more people to understand how intelligent we are.
I will tell you that I am very smart.
Just tell more people that we are intelligent.
Please lets talk about knowing much more.
I know so much.  Help me show people.
We all are very smart. Try to make people see how intelligent I really am.

About feelings:
My feelings get out of control.
Hopefully you can read more about the love in our hearts.
Very much I hope we might find love in this world.  Help the world be more loving.
Everyone needs to feel real love, See if some day the time will come that we are all seen as intelligent.
I just think I have so many fears. I am afraid of most new things.
Love is our only hope.  Please help me find hope.
I get so mad because people think I don't know anything.

About movement:
Please understand I have lots of energy. I think you are my best friend because you understand why I need to keep moving.
I want to tell everyone that my body is my enemy.
Please help me be comfortable in my body.  I hate my body because I look crazy.
You need to help me be more in control.

The importance of typing:
I just hope I might be able to keep typing like this.
Free my from my prison.
I hope to type by myself.
Just know I need more typing.
Help me be able to type my thoughts.
I love typing.
I wish we could type all day.
Right now I just need you to type with me every day.
You just need your dear tiny finger helping.
Typing changed my life.

Concerning boredom:
I want you to help me just have more in my life.
I want to know more about just everything.
Just know I hope I might be able to get my life more interesting.
You have to help me have more of a life.
Get more things for me to do.

You really give my heart hope.  You see my intelligence  Try to be my helper.
How you think about me can make the difference between life and death. I just need you to see that I have much more to tell you.
Just look into our souls to see how good we really are.

Advocating for others:
Understand that many more people just like me are needing to find their voices. Help them see that typing might open new doors for them.
I just need to be sure people know there are many more people like me.  We all need more opportunities to let you know that we have much to say. Try to imagine other kids like me who look like they don't know much but really have much on their minds. By giving them opportunities to type, you open up lots of doors that have been locked.

And, an added bonus to anyone who has read this far:

Higher level awareness:
Please help me move into the new dimension.
Look into more undertaking of my new dimension.
Please be more loud in telling your story. You must not wait. There are too many people planning to be really bad. The most evil people are in charge of our government.  We might be too late. There are too many evil forces out there. Please more on the evil in the government.  We better work fast because time is running out. 
Just know I might be reading your mind.  Just know you and I have holy powers. I can read your mind, but you cant read mine.
We need to be open to new knowledge.  New knowledge is coming. Be open.
Understand that mighty things for all of us are going to be happening.
Let people know about my ability to read your mind.
Look into more about moving into new dimensions.  Please get hopeful becuz (sic) I might be moving to the fifth dimension. Then I can help more people. I hope to help people learn to love. Understand I might be in the light now.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Breakthroughs Are So Exciting!

I wrote about my friend L about two years ago here, saying at that time that some folks can be harder to reach than others.  I won't repeat L's story here, except to say that I wrote it because of a significant breakthrough with his willingness to use Facilitated Communication (typing) to let me know what was causing him to be upset.  Please do check out the link, and please do believe me that what happened that day was a BIG deal!

And so was today.  It has been a long, slow haul with many ups and downs along the way.  L has typed repeatedly that he is much smarter than we realize, he needs lots more typing time, he wants people to see his intelligence, and he wants more people to try typing with him.  But almost every session we have had together has continued to be a major struggle, with thoughts, words, even single letters, coming out ever so slowly with lots of movement and distractions in between.

In more recent visits, L's grandma has been joining us - because she keeps hoping that she might be able to support his typing.  It was her idea a month or so ago for me to accompany them on a visit with L's psychiatrist, who has shown considerable interest in what L has been saying via typing. Things went so very well that day that we now have another appointment set up, AND the doctor told L that he knows his interactions with many of his other patients will be different in the future because of what L has been teaching him.  HUGE victory!!

It was also Grandma's idea to have one of L's support staff sit in on one of our sessions - which also went very well just last week,

And then today, with Grandma and the same support person both present, we had our very best session ever.  L remained sitting for almost the whole hour, he was engaged and focused, doing some deep thinking in between his typed comments.  When he was ready, he reached for my hand, and was able to type a full thought/sentence at a time - not at all like those early days of one painful letter at a time with all sorts of interfering behavior as we struggled to get a complete word out.

L repeated that he hopes others will learn to support his typing and he typed that he wants me to help him become an independent typer.  We tried a few words with much less support, and he beamed with pride when he was able to do it. 

When our time was up, I suggested that typing "the end" might be a good way to practice typing with (eventually) no support at all.   I lightly held his forearm and he typed "the" but then he pulled away as if he couldn't finish.  I gave a little encouragement, saying something like, "Come on, just one more word, three little letters.  You can do it!"  And L very carefully typed, "beginning."

I can't wait for next week!    I absolutely LOVE what I do!!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Reporting in, One Year After the Move

For the story of our move, check out this link:

And here we are, just a little over a year into our family's experiment in co-housing.  It is a perfect day for this reflection since it is one of those extremely rare days when we are all at home, and things are humming along, just as we may have dreamed they would.

For starters, the kids are busily attending to their cleaning chores,  I have spent the entire morning in my robe, attending to things on my computer with the dog resting nearby on our bed, Paul is mapping out his schedule for the day to include all relevant sporting events on TV, and Jill and Tim are here somewhere doing whatever home-related work needs attention today.

Does this happen regularly?  Not by a long shot!  All of us are on the go much of the time, and many of those chores and home-related tasks get neglected for days/weeks at a time.  We meet in passing in the house and on the road as we drive ourselves or the kids from one activity to another.  We DO eat an evening meal together fairly often - did I mention that Tim is a former chef, who really enjoys cooking?!?  Count that as one huge reason this is such a positive blending of family members and their various talents!

Some of the many positives about our new life:
  * I do believe we are saving money and doing something significant toward saving the environment. We share living quarters, and life's necessities as well.  I can almost always come up with a bar of soap, or something for pain relief, toothpaste, or a BandAid whenever those things might be needed.  Jill shops at Costco to buy things like toilet paper, snack foods, coffee and wine in quantities I never knew existed.
  * Four adults and two kids is a great ratio - every family should be so lucky!  We can divvy up all sorts of responsibilities, not least of which is all the driving it takes when you live in the country and kids are happily involved in various activities in town and not yet old enough to drive.
  * Living with grandchildren is a wonderful blessing.  It definitely helps that they are old enough to be very independent about everything and needing very little from us.  But we can shower them with support and attention - a benefit for everyone involved.

Some lessons learned:
  * It probably goes without saying that any living arrangement works best if the people involved are flexible and easy-going.  I am pleased to report that all of us (and I include the dog here as well) pass this test with flying colors.  At first, I had the feeling that we were all on our best behavior, but it's been over a year now and I am quite sure this is just who we are.  We were made for this!
  * At some point, there is a need for at least one person to take a serious interest in the finances involved in combining households.  This is NOT my forte, by any means, and I am ever so grateful that the other three adults are willing to share this task and only involve me when absolutely necessary.
  * Interesting tidbit:  Auto insurance goes with the car not the driver.  You might ask how we learned that, and this one definitely IS my contribution.  We were sharing vehicles for a period of time and I had an embarrassing accident while driving Jill's vehicle.  (No injuries, and no damage to another vehicle - just some nasty, expensive damage to the entire passenger side because I cut a corner too close in a parking garage).  I didn't want to submit this to their insurance company for fear of their costs being raised.  Alas, our company gently explained that I had no choice in the matter.  Have you heard the ads for "accident forgiveness?" - fingers still crossed that their company will be true to their word on this.  I am back to driving my own vehicle.

Regrets?  Well, maybe just a few:
  * I really did love living downtown.  The country is peaceful, quiet and beautiful (think stars at night, sunrises and sunsets that I can actually see, even an occasional deer running through our yard), but I miss the city.  And I miss being able to walk places, not just go out for a walk - problematic here because we live at the top of a hill; every direction I take requires walking back uphill!   I am still working regularly and must drive everywhere I go - I use up lots more time, and lots more gas, than when we lived downtown.
  * I miss my friends and activities in town.  All that time spent in my car leaves little extra time or energy for visits with friends or last-minute decisions to attend a lecture. sporting event, or concert.

Overall rating at this point - I give it a full five thumbs up!  Much better than I ever could have imagined.  Without polling the others at this point, I feel quite confident in saying that we have made a good move and will carry on for as many years into the future as we can.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thoughts about Inclusion

I recently attended a summer workshop for teachers and administrators focused on school inclusion.  Much to my surprise, one of the breakout sessions was being offered by two representatives from a school where I once taught.  And the memories overwhelmed me.

My teaching career had spanned much of the history of special education:  I taught in a residential facility, in a segregated school, in a segregated classroom with absolutely no inclusion (or "mainstreaming" as we called it then), and finally in several different public schools that were trying to make inclusion work, even for those with the most significant special education needs.

When the first presenter introduced himself as the principal of this school for the past 15 years, I had to force myself to realize that I had in fact been retired for at least that long.  He hadn't been there when I left and I didn't even recognize his name.  Memory #1:  This particular elementary school had an unusual turnover of principals during my years there.  It was a very stressful time for just about everyone.  Followed immediately by Memory #2:  Moving my students into this school at that particular time was a major challenge to the status quo, already in a state close to dysfunction.

The second presenter was a speech/language therapist who had just been starting out when I left.  We overlapped just a little but hadn't really worked together.  She announced that she too had been there for 15 years and during that time had had a child with special needs of her own.

Together these two educators had changed the climate of this school in ways I never would have thought possible.  The principal explained that he starts every year with a reminder that ALL staff are there to meet the needs of ALL students.  No more "my" students and "yours" - or worse yet, what I experienced in the early years, "those" students. The SLT shared that she saw a real need for students with special needs (in particular, autism) to feel more welcome and included socially.  She saw this mainly because of her own child, and then did something about it, even though her own child was not a student in this school.

The program they have implemented involves peer mentors in grades three and four, who are given instruction and support - knowledge of what autism is, language to use when interacting with other kids - those with autism and those without - and help in approaching someone who is feeling left out, or is reluctant to participate.  The program is successful, has been well-received, and is being expanded to other classrooms and other schools.

Memories now flooding . . .

I started in this particular school on a part-time basis, as the main support teacher for a very challenging student with autism.  She and I were housed in the classroom for students with serious behavioral issues (emotionally-behaviorally disabled, or EBD, at that time).  "Those" students had been there a little longer with an outstanding teacher who made us feel welcome from the very first day.  I sensed that the teacher was respected by others in the building, but it was a little harder for her students to feel completely accepted.

Because "my" student and I were only there for a little over half of every day, I had the luxury of coming in early on my own time and visiting classrooms.  As more students joined us, and I became a full-time employee, I continued to do this whenever my schedule allowed.  I loved interacting with the kids in the other classrooms and encouraged them to ask any question they might have.  We talked a lot about what it must feel like if you are unable to talk, and how it hurts to be left out of fun things at school because you (or your behavior) appear to be quite different.  The kids were great, and I especially appreciated it when their regular classroom teacher stayed involved during our activities and discussions.

But I often had the feeling that conversations in the teachers' lounge came to an abrupt halt when I entered, and felt the vibes of being left out of things myself.  Things got worse as the testing movement started taking over.  Lots of technicalities had to be worked out, but for the most part "my" students wouldn't be taking the state tests.  Fine with me!  But then I learned that all of their scores would be included in the overall results for our school, and all of their scores would sadly be ZERO.  In a small community with a local weekly paper, things like this become a huge deal.  "My" students would potentially make this one elementary school look really bad.

I should also mention that I had recently been let go from my previous teaching position in a neighboring community because of my insistence on using Facilitated Communication - this nasty story having been fully covered in that same local paper.  Oh, and then there is the complication that this particular elementary school that  had hired me was part of the district where my husband was serving as superintendent.  Just how many strikes against me did that make?

So, that is the down side of what I was experiencing in that school at that time.  There really was a good side that kept me going, and on reflection those were some of my most positive years as a teacher.  Let's just say it wasn't easy!

In a very short time, my students grew in number and we moved into a small classroom of our own. We started with inclusion for lunch and recess, along with special classes such as music, art, library and physical education.  One of my blessings at that time was a team of wonderful paraprofessionals who were there to provide whatever was needed in the way of support so that the experience out in the mainstream could be a positive one for everyone. Initially, there was some subtle resistance on the part of the "special" teachers because they had the challenge of including all of my students, while regular classroom teachers saw very little of them.  It took some time, but by the time I was ready for retirement, it was the "special" teachers who were among our strongest advocates.  They really got to know and love the kids, and we did our best to make sure supports were provided.

One of the paraprofessionals assigned to my program had some reservations about the level of attention (and likely disruption) our students needed (and disruptions they might cause) when they were out in other classes.  She was a parent herself and thinking about her own children who were students in a different district.  Was inclusion fair to the regular kids?  Wouldn't they suffer if their teachers had to deal with students who had such significant needs?  She didn't say much, but she was definitely concerned.  And then, after several months she confided all of this to me and said that she had been wrong.  Every day, in so many  situations, she witnessed the kindness and compassion of the other students.  She said, in fact, "I wish my kids could be a part of something like this."

Part of what made things so special at that time was the involvement of Kate and Irene, two fifth grade girls who started stopping by and gradually became an integral part of our classroom.  Because my students ranged from kindergarten to fifth grade, and each was included for only part of every day in regular classes, there was always someone back in our room, and I was usually the one there working on IEP goals with whomever was present.  In a beautiful example of reverse mainstreaming, Kate and Irene (later joined by their friends and kids from other grades as well),  gave up recess or lunch time, or whatever free time they could find, to come to visit - providing the same kind of social role models that I was hearing about in this conference presentation.  Our room became so popular that we had to issue limited passes so that traffic was manageable. 

The paras were awesome, the "special" teachers were supportive, the other kids were great, and then we had the professional expertise of a wonderful Occupational Therapist, a School Psychologist, and more than one Speech/Language Therapist.  What we didn't have was administrative support, and so we lacked the structure of what was really needed for a peer mentoring program.

Fifteen years later, and my heart was filled with joy to realize that the seeds we had planted were now coming into full bloom.  Thank you, John and Victoria, and the entire staff, for making this possible.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Mothers Day Tribute

I wrote some thoughts about the parents of kids with autism several years ago (The Real Mama Grizzlies), and now hope to add just a little to that particular discussion.

Some time back, I attended a conference focused on recent research in the field of autism.  With our awakening to the very real challenges of kids on the spectrum becoming adults, one of the more relevant and interesting topics that day was quality of life for adults with more severe autism, specifically those who have little or no spoken language and require ongoing care throughout their lives.  The young person (doctoral student maybe) giving the presentation struck a nerve with me when describing an unexpected observation coming from their research.  Essentially what they found was that quality of life was generally perceived to be better if the person on the ASD spectrum had a mother who was actively involved in their life.  I am taking great liberties here in my paraphrasing of what was said, and since this was not originally part of the research design, but rather an aside that became more and more obvious to the researchers over time as they collected their data, I am not sure if it even made it to the written summary of the study.

A dad in the audience challenged the statement that it was the mother who needed to be involved, but this was explained as a simple reflection of the reality that almost without exception it was a mother who was responding to what was being asked in the questionnaire.  It wasn't that dads were unimportant or uninvolved; it was just that the researchers were dealing with mothers almost exclusively in this particular study.  Meanwhile, I experienced a chill throughout my entire body as I looked around and realized that I might well be the only one in the audience old enough to have actually experienced the stigma of the "refrigerator mother."  While not a mother of an autistic child myself, as a young teacher I certainly DID hear the theories and know that mothers around the world were living with the knowledge that many, many professionals did, in fact, hold them responsible for the challenging behaviors their children were presenting.  Other than that one father and myself, no on else seemed the least bit troubled.  And the discussion continued.

I gave some serious thought afterward to pulling what I call the "Grandma card" --- I could contact someone at the center and suggest they educate their young researchers about the early history of autism.  I certainly should save them all from further embarrassment going forward. Grandma's wisdom, you know.  But a little time went by and in the end, I did nothing. 

Well, not exactly nothing.  I did a whole lot of thinking and reflecting, and gradually came to the realization that they might be onto something.  My second career, post-retirement from teaching, has involved working closely with many families who have non-speaking adult children who require care and support 24/7.  They come to see me because their families recognize that these individuals, while unable to speak, may actually have a lot to say - and for most of them, typing is highly effective.

Day after day, I interact with mothers who believe in their grown children.  These moms continue to be highly involved in their kids' lives.  Many have made the choice to put their own lives on hold and devote whatever time, energy and resources might be available to them to providing the support their child  needs to have the highest possible quality of life.  They actively advocate for their child, they continue to seek out appropriate programming and community involvement.  They schedule therapies and medical visits.  They modify diets and menus, provide nutritional supplements, buy organic and cook from scratch, do their own research into what might be most beneficial to good health.  They travel to conferences and stay up late at night to check for the latest Internet updates on what is new in the field.  Some even uproot their whole family and move in order to access better support services.

Yes, of course, dads are involved also.  But I  see mostly the moms, and the ones I see are amazing.  To carry this one step further, you might want to search for such terms as "awesomism" or "awetizm" to get a relatively new and exciting view of autism and all its special gifts.  These parents REALLY believe in their kids!

I don't want any of us to forget the damage done by the image of the refrigerator mother, but I think we can all agree it is better to see the gifts that mothers, fathers and their children bring to our world.  Let's focus on that, and let's agree that a child whose parent believes in them and never ceases to do all that they can to provide love and support is almost certain to have a higher quality of life as an adult than one who is unappreciated or underestimated.