This series is about what I have found to be essential skills, traits and abilities for surviving and thriving as an autism parent. I hope you can take something useful away from it.

I often think about what characteristics have benefited my son the most. I’m putting determination at the top of the list because I feel like it is the foundation of everything my wife and I have accomplished. I’ve also noticed that my son has that same determination to succeed, and I think maybe he learned that from us.

When I talk about determination I want to be clear. I’m not saying to be stubborn, or inordinately and unreasonably willful. What I am saying is to be calm and focused on objectives that help your kid. For example, when we go to an IEP meeting we are all business. We don’t do the emotional outbursts, crying, etc. We see a therapist for that sort of support. When we are at an IEP meeting we are working for our son, and we can’t do that unless we are in control of our emotions.

We have grown to see that work in a number of situations. Recently we saw a professional to have Raymond evaluated. She had a great deal to say that we didn’t agree with. However, instead of bursting into tears or getting angry, we quickly switched tracks. While she wanted to talk about how Raymond had issues, we tried to refocus her on how to support those issues to help him overcome them. In this case I don’t feel we were successful but that is mainly because I don’t believe the professional had any real answers to our questions. However, I do still feel that we did what was best for Raymond. Although the report is inaccurate, it does contain some truths and we can use that information to support him and help improve his quality of life.

I also think of determination when I look at all the research we have done and will continue to do to support him. I am a career salesman and have spent the last 15 years in various areas of the finance industry. Reading abstracts on studies is not in any of my job descriptions, but I learned how to do it so I could help my son. Reading and interpreting legal codes is on my radar but was never high on my priority list until Raymond was diagnosed with autism. Now not only do I read and interpret state and federal laws, I lobby my various government representatives to change them.

So step 1 is to be determined. Follow through. Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.