Posts tagged ‘special needs’

Woke

I read the message of a dear childhood friend with surprise. She talked about the impact of the various health crises of her special needs child on her other children, and how she and her husband had not really tackled that impact well in the midst of everything going on. She is kind of a pillar of amazing-ness to me; she has handled their child’s medical issues with a strength and grace I strive to emulate.

I quickly responded in support that we are all doing our best in any given moment, and I believe that of her completely. I then gently tried to extend that sentiment to myself to see how it felt. I found myself believing it, maybe for the first time ever.

I think I’ve spent 17 years judging – and often judging harshly – myself and how I have handled things with C. I am a fixer at heart, a researcher by trade, and I’m always convinced there is an answer just around the corner. I keep searching for it, because I know if I find it everything will be better.

But I give. I quit. I’m done. No more of that. Whether it took distance from C to realize it, or if I am just waking up, I don’t know. It brings me to tears to think about it – holy cow, I have been hard on myself. From day one, if I’m honest. Not good enough, not doing enough, not doing the right thing, not giving enough, not loving enough. Yet the reality is I have done everything, given everything, and loved so hard it sort of broke me.

I am always doing my best. And I can always do better. Therapist NC wrote this statement on a whiteboard at our very first meeting with him. How I hated that sentiment – and many others – during those early days of therapy. I couldn’t live with dichotomies like that one. I thought it excused things. Gave reasons for C to be an ass and then say he was doing his best in the very next breath (which he did more than once). But perhaps what it really did was bring to light my own deeply-held belief that I was never, ever at my best. Doing better was something I should be doing more of, even though I felt like I was constantly working at it. I had the second part of that therapy statement down, perhaps too much so.

It’s exhausting living with the belief you are never good enough. I am now trying to give myself a little bit of a pass on the “I can always do better” part. Even though I’m not doing exactly as instructed by Therapist Saying #1, I think it’s an okay way for me to work it. Putting down that heavy weight has been a great relief. And in this week of Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful to have finally reached this point of believing I am doing – and have done – my best.

November 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm 2 comments

Unpacking

I wandered into my appointment with my therapist this week without a whole lot on my mind, really, except ongoing pain around which life seems to revolve right now. What came out of my mouth, however, were several revelations I’m not sure I even recognized for what they were until I spoke them aloud. Whether a high pain level lowers my internal filter or makes me care less what anyone thinks, I’m not sure, but it does seem to be an effective conduit for getting things out of my head and into the universe. And somewhat surprisingly, lightning bolts didn’t strike me down immediately for saying these things. Go figure.

The worst of the worst? I’m fairly ambivalent about seeing C when we visit him over Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen him since he left here in August. And he left after a rather violent episode that left us both hurting. Hubs was out of town, C went for pills I inadvertently left out, and the rest is history that will haunt me for years to come. Truth be told, I don’t know that I have actually forgiven him for that incident which, if I’m honest, is probably more at the root of my ambivalence than anything else.

When we talk with C on the phone, he sounds great. Things come out of his mouth that astound me. He seems healthy, well adjusted, and happy. But I don’t really trust any of it fully. It all feels artificial. We won’t know how he’s truly doing until he comes home, and even a visit won’t tell us much. Only when we are all back in our daily routine will we be able to tell if any of these newfound skills will actually stick, and I admit to not having a whole lot of faith in this process. Not really because of C, his treatment center, or Hubs and me. It’s more about the best predictor of the future being the past. Habits, dynamics, behaviors…they are all difficult to change.

So I wait. I continue to work on my sense of inner calm and peace no matter what is going on around me, because I know that’s really all I can do. Staying in the moment and all of that. I am a lot better at that particular skill than I was a year ago. Still, when someone is throwing things, body slamming closed doors, going for knives and pills, and screaming hateful things, it is fairly difficult to be very Zen. I am trying to let those incidents fade from my memory and recognize that a seven month break is pretty significant. A lot of change can happen in this time C is away.

Yet that voice in my head and heart continues. “What if?” I just keep trying to counter the negative answers with, “What if it’s great?” I am reminded of my own Nana, who had unrelenting faith in all of her children and grandchildren. Cousin X could have murdered someone and she would chalk it up to a phase that would pass. So I’m left wondering. What if C grows up, gains insight, recognizes his own role in life, and chooses to jump down on the right side of the fence? Now wouldn’t *that* be something?

November 11, 2018 at 4:17 pm 2 comments

In the Weeds

It has been so long since I’ve done this I don’t even know if I know how to do it anymore. Many, many years have passed, and the more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same. This journey, while less about C and more about me now, revolves around C – still.

With massive health challenges, painful behavioral challenges, moves, new schools, a whole lot of therapy for everyone, and alternate living situations, we have all grown up, myself included. The sheer volume of events since last I visited here would fill a book. And after spending a 5-hour chunk of time last week reading every single last word of What We Need, I came away with one conclusion: I need to keep writing. I need it for me. I need to record our journey. I need to document this life we share. If that doesn’t answer that question I’m always asking – just what it is we need – I don’t know what does.

So once again, I welcome you here. If you go way, way back, you’ll see and read about C at 8, 9, 10 years old. He’s halfway through 17 now. He’s been hospitalized more times than I can count, both for physical and mental health reasons. The police have been called numerous times. Cancer has visited our house. Relatives have died. In short, life has happened. Life has gone on, albeit somewhat painfully. Still, there is light at the end of our tunnel, I know there is. I hope you will join me in my search for it.

 

October 10, 2018 at 12:08 am 7 comments

I must…

be crazy. No, scratch that. I know I’m crazy.

     School registration came up quickly this past spring, and I knew in my heart I didn’t want to send C back to his current school. There’s so many reasons why I felt this way: not the least of which was one of his teachers telling him God spoke in her ear at the bookstore and told her the Harry Potter books were evil; or the fact that based on one test (which “I didn’t do well on purpose because I didn’t want more homework, Mommy”), C was placed in what seemed to be remedial math (despite his being able to do long division in his head); or the fact that several of his specials teachers gave him such useless, meaningless, negative comments – without any context – on his report card. It’s more than that; it’s a feeling that despite getting straight As last quarter, the gaps in C’s education are far greater than they should be. 

     So the great search began once again. C “shadowed” at two schools. We chose one of the two, enrolled him for next year, and settled down to wait. Except I didn’t feel settled. That little voice in my head just kept creeping back in telling me none of it felt right. It grew and grew until I hatched a new plan. All of C’s schools – public, charter, and private  – went sour after a time, and some far more quickly than others. We keep moving C to a different school, either because the current school doesn’t work or because we actually move, and they all turn out the same. Some sour more quickly than others, but they all end up in the same place – the WRONG place.

     Then I saw that quote about the square peg fitting into a round hole:  The problem with trying to fit a square peg into a round hole isn’t that it’s hard to hammer, but rather that you are actually destroying the peg.

     And boom. There it was. It’s not that the schools are wrong (although some of them, frankly, are). Perhaps it’s that C doesn’t belong in school. Perhaps putting him through the stress and anxiety of trudging through school every day, never wanting to go back on Monday mornings, and feeling like the week is one hundred years long is not what C needs. Perhaps there is no school that is right for C.

     So the idea was born. I resigned my job, cancelled his registration at his new school, and started planning. C and I will start our new homeschooling adventure on September 3, 2012. Our journey along the path to what we need continues with this newest chapter, and I hope you’ll join us.

August 16, 2012 at 8:51 am 12 comments

I’m going straight to you know where

     We suffered through the school Christmas pageant last week; happily it wasn’t as painful as I expected it to be. There was definitely no Santa – far too pagan – but there were some familiar Christmas carols coupled with the seriously uncomfortable older kids playing Mary and Joseph with their plastic baby Jesus. C dutifully rehearsed his two lines (he was one of many narrators) and was all ready to speak them slowly into the microphone. “With sheep, cattle, and a manger,” he read, “baby Jesus arrived on a very special night.”

     It was all very sweet and good. But I miss the days when school plays were more entertaining – when some kid knocked over the set, sat down and cried, or stole the show. C’s kindergarten play was priceless. C was a pumpkin in a garden full of vegetables. He hated the hat he had to wear (sensory issues), and try as she might, his teacher could not get him to keep it on. He spent the entire play tipping forward, letting his hat fall, and then picking it up, putting it on, and starting all over again. It was hilarious. At the end of the play, C got stuck in front of the curtain and laughed with a joy and abandon that will forever make that video one of my favorite treasures.

     When I listened to C rehearse his lines for this year’s play and discovered his mistake, I admit to not working too hard to correct it. I probably should have; the mistake was irreverent in its tone, but the innocence of the misspeak was too cute to worry over. We let it go. To draw attention to it probably would have given C a self-consciousness he rarely exhibits, and we didn’t want to stifle any of his enthusiasm. So we held our breath when C proudly got up to the microphone and said, “With sheep, cattle, and a MANAGER, baby Jesus arrived on a very special night.”

     Honestly? I don’t think anyone really noticed. Everyone was so focused on watching their own kid I don’t think people really listened to everyone else’s. But Husband and I chuckled and reveled in the return to the joy that should be a school play. Complete with sheep, cattle, baby Jesus, and his own special manager.

December 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm 9 comments

Summer dreams make me feel fine…

     It was with great trepidation that we signed C up for swim team this year. Our club has a program where the inexperienced swimmers can be on a junior team where they all get ribbons and no one gets disqualified. We’ve had little success with these types of experiences before; karate (twice) was a disaster, golf lessons with a large group were worthless, cub scouts lasted one week, and all I can say is I’m glad C has never really wanted to do little league, because the thought of that experience makes me want to run screaming into the outfield. Generally these types of experiences are too unstructured, have too many kids, and are too chaotic for C to handle well. He runs around like a wild child, completely out of control and overstimulated, and then comes home exhausted and out of sorts for hours.

     But swim team. Swim team. Basically, swim team – for me – means summer. I started swim team when I was barely five, and didn’t stop until a college without a swim team sort of forced me to. Swim team defined my childhood. I know better than to think C will follow in my footsteps, but I also know swimming would be good for him. He enjoyed the pool we had in Arizona; that is, once we actually got his little face in the pool. Then he became a fish. He loves the water and moves through it in his own unique way that is both effective and entertaining at the same time.

     The first day of practice, I was dismayed to see 35-40 kids, most of whom were about 6 years old, wiggling around and waiting for the coach to get started. It was chaotic at best, insanity at worst. There was much standing in line and downtime; generally the kiss of death for C. I watched as other boys, years younger than him, somehow managed to gang up on him within minutes of practice beginning. I had to intervene at least five times, and by the end of practice I had decided there was simply no way we could continue.

     I approached the coach after practice to explain why we wouldn’t be back. Too many kids and too much downtime, I rehearsed in my head, so as not to sound as though I thought the coach was somehow to blame for the situation. I started the conversation by telling him C has Aspergers, and did he know what was? “No,” he said clearly sensing that AS involved something that would make swim team challenging. “But what can I do to make C successful?”

     “What can I do to make C successful?” Seriously? I was stunned. I hadn’t even told him of my decision yet, and he was already trying to keep us there. I honestly can’t recall the last time – if ever – someone has said something like that to me. Here’s this coach, basically a kid himself with 35 overactive kids on his hands, wanting to figure out how to keep C on board. I explained a little bit of the problem, and his next comment was even better. “I can rearrange things so he’ll be more comfortable. We will do whatever we need to do.”

     It was only because of this conversation that C happily, and successfully, competed in his first swim meet last Saturday. I have the video to prove it. Thanks, coach.

June 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm 19 comments

Let’s give him something to talk about

     I have had to force myself to limit the Pokemon conversation that is a constant in our lives these days. I let C tell me about two Pokemon, or talk for five minutes, or ask three questions. But when we’re done, he inevitably asks, “What should we talk about now, Mom?”

     I admit to being at a complete and utter loss at how to answer this question, and it leaves me pondering just what it is I discuss with other people all day and how those conversational topics are set. Having to “pick” a topic of conversation reminds me of an awkward first date, because you know if it’s that hard to find something to talk about, the relationship will never work. Since this question mostly comes up in the car after all other topics are exhausted, I generally say something about just enjoying the ride and looking out the window. This seems like a cop-out to me, but I’m baffled as to what to say. I’m so used to conversation just flowing that being forced to think about how it does so renders me mostly mute.

     I’ve tried the conversation starters, and they work for a moment or two. Once C even surprised Husband and me by suggesting we share one thing we liked about our day over dinner. God love this child – he is trying as hard as is humanly possible. It’s not that C is trying to hide anything or doesn’t want to talk, but when I ask him what he did in Spanish class today, the answer is brief and full of the basics. He doesn’t talk about the other kids unless something major has happened, and he often misses the daily dramas that occur within the classroom around him. I pull as much information out of him as I can, but once those conversations die out, C somehow works Pokemon (or Mario, or plumbing, or trains, or whatever is his current fascination) back into the discussion, and I tend to fantasize about escaping to Hawaii.

     I’ve realized that despite being extremely verbal and talkative, C has very little “functional language.” A speech therapist told us this once, and I admit to not completely understanding her message. “C has much to talk about, but much of it has nothing to do with people, emotions, social interaction, or function.” Frankly, I think we were so happy he was talking at all after years of silence (verbal anyway…the days of screeching “Pterodactyl Boy” aren’t erased from my memory), we perhaps missed the fact that his language was missing some key components.

     Yet now, when I talk with some of the neighborhood kids, I realize how effortless conversation actually is for typical kids, and I revel in those moments of crystal clear communication. I’m amazed not only at what they observe (“Dog isn’t as excited to see me this time as he was last time, Mrs. P,” says the three-year old neighbor boy, while I stand there, mouth gaping open at his awareness and ability to share that information with me). Then C will say something to another parent about knowing what Wi-Fi system they have and whether their parental controls are set on the Wii and both of us have to chuckle.

     Fortunately, C is extremely charming. Dimpled and smiling, he loves to talk. He’s friendly, engaging, and often quite funny. He does have friends – actually, if he knows your name, he considers you a friend – although close friends are few and far between. At this age, where kids are starting to have relationships based on more than one shared interest, C is left standing conspicuously – and often painfully – alone. I hang on to the fact that his so lovable; adults love him, and my hope is that when his current peers become adults, they will love him too.

May 25, 2011 at 9:10 am 13 comments

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