March 3, 2011
This week I had the honor of speaking to the especially savvy East Brunswick SEPTA (special education PTA) on the BBBSAT tour, and I am relieved to report the gig went well. Amongst the incredibly receptive audience members were my mom, Susan Preston, former Assistant Superintendent of Washington Township Public Schools, and Justin’s autism fairy godmother, Ellen Murphy, Director of Special Services for East Brunswick, so there was just the teensy-weensiest bit of pressure to get it right. I’ve now done a number of these speeches since I began the “tour” last fall, and fortunately I no longer physically react to public speaking like I did for my premiere event in Maryland. Intellectually I loved talking to that first crowd, however physiologically my body reacted in a way I am certain would put toxic shock syndrome to shame. Monday night however, once I got over my standard speech anxieties (is there food in my teeth/will I forget my name/will my mommy be proud of me), I managed to relax, and truly enjoyed sharing my story with the group.
Thank God nobody told my teen-aged self that I’d one day consider public speaking about my autistic kids to be a fabulous girls’ night out.
Believe it or not, it’s actually been difficult to score these speaking engagements. Special education PTAs and autism organizations are serious business now, and I’ve found a number of them to be booked through 2012 with people far more accomplished than myself as presenters. There is also the issue of some parent-teacher associations being run through their local Board of Education, which generally precludes them from inviting anyone to their meetings who is shamelessly hawking their own products, which at the moment, is moi. I was once denied an invitation to a particular district because a SEPTA president didn’t find me to be “special” (but my Grannies said I was), and although the sentiment didn’t sound very nice, she was actually right. As of today, all I’ve done is written an unpublished manuscript, authored a blog, conducted some fundraising, and done a wee bit of public speaking.
As have about twelve thousand other parents with kids on the spectrum.
Although I may not be “special”, I am however a girl with some big plans, which I’m not quite ready to reveal to you yet (I know, how will you sleep at night?). The plan involves the public schools, and I’ll be in partnership with my mom, whom I consider to be the Kevin Bacon of special education (hell, if you work in New Jersey and you don’t know Susan Preston, then who the hell are you anyway?). Things are in the works, and I hope to be more forthcoming in the months to come.
I promise, one day I’ll tell.
But for today, as I celebrate my blog’s year anniversary, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to my husband who encouraged (harassed) me to do this in the first place, as well as extend that gratitude to the blogging community, who have been so receptive and extremely patient with my learning curve. I’d also like to thank everyone who helped me to write and edit my manuscript, and managed to remain friends with me as well. I particularly want to extend a huge thanks to the editors of Exceptional Parent Magazine, who will be kind enough to let an unknown housewife debut her first published article this spring. For this opportunity especially, I am really, really, ridiculously grateful.
Last, and certainly not least, I simply want to say thanks to the schools and PTAs who have invited just another autism mom into their fold, and have subsequently been so warm and welcoming. It has taken years, but I finally feel like my family is in a good place, with both kids productive, healthy, and happy. It’s time for me to give back to the community, and I’m just so appreciative of everyone who is giving me the opportunity to do so.
From the depths of my heart, thank you.