I came to Centria as an Instructional Designer, meaning my job is creating eLearning content. When interviewing with Centria, I found that the company had strong values that aligned with my own. Many people in my life have been affected by autism, and I was excited to work for a progressive company that aimed to revolutionize the ABA industry.
While I was enthusiastic about the vision and interested in the work, I did not expect this job to impact my day-to-day life as I don't have children with autism. A few months into my time at Centria, when I was creating eLearning content for the Foundations of Care module for Supervising Clinician Orientation, I took a family vacation to a waterpark. I have three children, and my youngest is a firecracker. He's six years old and will be a strong leader one day.
He prefers advanced warning and was upset that my husband and I had planned a surprise vacation. When we got to the waterpark, he said, "I am not swimming." As any parent would feel, I was upset. We had planned for months for this trip and spent a lot of money and time, and I did not want him to ruin it. First, I felt angry and disappointed. I knew his strong will could very well ruin this trip. Then, I thought about work, and the training I had been creating surrounding STEAM, a way to hold boundaries with children with autism. I thought it was a good model and decided to try it out with my own child.
He tried to leave the pool, and I set a firm and kind boundary, "You have to stay at the pool. You can choose to sit on a chair if you don't want to get in the water. "He understood I was serious, and he was upset. He said, "I want to go home." and I reassured him, "I know you want to go home."
He was rightfully upset and said, "I want to go home. I want to hug Petey," our family dog. I was open to his feelings and supported him by saying, "You want to hug Petey? Are you worried about him?" He expressed that he was worried about our dog, and I explained that he was with family and would get extra treats while we were away.
Following that, I empathized with him. I told him how sorry I was that he didn't want to swim and that I knew sitting in the chair would be uncomfortable while everyone was swimming.
We proceeded to sit the splash pad's shallow end for a while. I hugged him, being present but not forcing him to participate as I previously may have tried. I focused on making him feel happy and relaxed. I understood the need to regulate my own emotions. Through that experience I was able to see that by regulating my own emotions, I could help him learn to self-regulate.
He started to move on. I saw the "stubbornness" fade away from him for the first time. He had felt the feelings he needed to feel and was ready for something new.
Once I saw that he was in a better mood, I suggested he try the slide in the splash pad area. I reminded him he had often enjoyed the splash pad near our home and thought it might be a great idea. He told me he was scared to go alone and asked me to slide down with him. I did, and the rest is history.
This single interaction changed my perspective on parenting. I have more tools for interacting with my son and feel empowered to get through these situations successfully. My entire family enjoyed the trip to the waterpark, and we've returned since then. I am so grateful to work at a company that teaches its employees to be compassionate in their care. It's made me a better parent and friend. I am fortunate to see some of the positive change coming to Centria, and I can assure you, we will continue to make waves in the industry. I can't wait for you to see them.