Special Needs Teacher by Day, Special Needs Mom 24/7

Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate motherhood. This Mother’s Day, we’re highlighting one of this year’s conference speakers, April T. Giauque, a mother of nine, five of which have special needs.

Coming to the Milestones Conference all the way from Austin, Texas, April is a public speaker and trains teachers how to implement social skill strategies, transition skills, independent living skills, and employment skills to support students who are on the autism spectrum. She moved to Austin in 2015 to pursue better education supports for her children, which also led her to her most recent position as a transition teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf in the 18+ ACCESS program.

Tell us about your experience as a mother and as a special needs teacher?
Being a mother to 9 children is never boring! I’m on the go making, baking, lifting, hugging, holding, counseling, laughing, disciplining, helping, social coaching, crying and cheering for and with them.  Since I do all of that with my own family, it was an easy transition to do that with students. For me, motherhood and teaching are synonymous with each other.

How do you juggle being a mother of nine and an educator?
Oh that! I just use wrinkle my nose and ta-dah, its done!  No, seriously, there isn’t any magic in it. There is a lot of organization, hard work, and prayer that goes into this. There are large “to do” lists, schedules, and communication. It is all about what motivates me which is love. I love others the best way I can and through love my family, students, and others feel uplifted.

Mother’s Day can be used as a time to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges motherhood brings. What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of motherhood?
When I watch my children stumble, fall, or even fail at something—they don’t stay down. They get right back in the game of life—that makes me feel amazing.  Other accomplishments are when I hear about my children from other people and the impression my children left with them. Finally, the best reward is in the quiet of the evening as they open up and talk about their day while I massage their backs or arms, or hold them as they drift to sleep.

What insight would you give to other parents of children with special needs who are just starting their journey and establishing their goals as a family?
Your children are who they are. They are not your dream or vision of something you want—they are more than that. They have everything they need to find success—success as defined by their abilities and beyond. It’s our job as parents to guide them and support them with a strong scaffold at times, but then to pull back some of the supports to see how independent they can truly become. They love others in their own way—treasure that.

This year you are a speaker for the 2018 Milestones National Autism Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to put this session together?
My children. They inspire me, teach me, drive me crazy at times, but they are my life. I love them.

What do you hope participants will learn from attending your session “Piecing our Puzzle Together: A Mother’s Story”?
I want them to understand through hope and love, they’ll find their own masterpiece—over time. It’s like you are at a showroom getting ready to pick out your dream floor for your kitchen: the material and color combinations are endless because your budget is limitless! You begin to find the things you want, then suddenly the salesman stops you abruptly and says, “We just finished your credit check. I’m afraid, these options are no longer available to you.”

Then he directs you to a different part of the store. During this long walk, you feel ashamed- you thought your credit was fine; you are embarrassed–other shoppers saw this happen. As the door opens, you only see samples, it’s a mix-mash of everything. The salesman smiles and says, “I can see the look on your face–don’t worry. I have led many people into this room and by the end of their searching, they become a designer of their own unique floor—of a masterpiece that NO one else has.”

You see other people searching and you feel overwhelmed. But you cling to the hope that you will find your unique floor and you begin your search. At first you might be looking through the samples with tear stained cheeks, and at other times you might think you have found multiple copies of the same sample and think you can build a floor from this! You race to assemble it only to find out that none of the ends connect.

Then you find a few people that are laughing and happy. You walk over to find they are busy breaking the samples into pieces and fitting them together like a mosaic. You look at their creations and they are beautiful! You find hope again and ask them what they are doing? They answer simply, “We are taking what we can find and making the best of it.”  That’s it?  You think to yourself. That’s too simple.

But really that is it. You take what you have and make the best of it.  With hope, work, love, and a little time, we can all find our masterpiece.

Learn more about April T. Giauque’s session and our full conference schedule here.


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