Holding On To A Job While Raising A Child On The Spectrum

Father raising son with Autism

Let me just flat out tell you from personal experience that the juggle is real! After learning of my daughter's diagnosis I had to work part-time for a while, then tried holding on to a full-time position, eventually losing jobs along the way. Not for any other reason but tardiness or attendance.

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Years later while working for a well-known company a kind manager told me I should check into FMLA. FMLA - Family Medical Leave Act, provides job protection for people who need time off to care for family members who are receiving medical care, or have a serious medical health condition.

Here you can read up further on important details of FMLA. Rewind a few years back when I went into the HR office at another company asking about this, only to be told that caring for a child with special needs is not an FMLA qualifier. I should never have accepted that answer.

Little did I know that autism and her rare disorder Pachygyria is often considered a disability under the ADA. So let's fast forward, I am speaking with my HR/ benefits department of my new job and they simply sent me paperwork that needed to be filled out by my daughter and my daughter's doctor: neurologist, psychiatrist, or any specialist related to her conditions. After years of major stress, anxiety, tearful mornings due to my daughter's meltdowns, illness, doctor appointments, therapy appointments, and other reasons I had no choice but to be late, or absent from work. Lo and behold, I was approved for intermittent FMLA leave for a year. (It is reviewed on a yearly basis).

A relatable example of what employers need to be aware of as well can be read here.

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The next year I had to submit the new paperwork for review, and I also had a new manager. Let's just say this manager was not compassionate to my situation by any means. I was questioned left and right, and told my reasonings did not fall under my approved intermittent FMLA.

I researched, contacted my benefits department, and the Labor Board. This manager was incorrect, and I could have filed charges separately, but I didn't. The benefits department advised me when requesting off, or being tardy, that I was not required to explain myself to said manager. All I needed to do was advise that it was FMLA.

Fighting For Services

It was a rocky period, but worked out in our favor. Sometimes you may have to resubmit the forms twice or three times, in just a way your employer sees fit in order to be granted approval. I've always fought for my daughter, and always will. No one said it would be easy.

Learning from others; including parents, co-workers, friends, doctors, and teachers by asking questions, and soaking in as much information as possible is an important way to obtain the knowledge needed to help our kiddos on the spectrum. Knowledge is key. Here is an article from WrightsLaw that shares some legal advice.

We must fight from day one for our children. We must be their voice. We must press on. We must stay strong. In doing these things we are not only their parent, or grandparent, but a necessary advocate in their corner. Ready to fight the fight.

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