Yesterday we went to church prepared. And what I mean about being prepared, is that we, my husband Johnny and I, started to pay attention to what Michael has been asking for to feel comfortable in an environment he loves yet has become hostile on some level to his auditory system. Since last spring off and on, Michael has been asking me for headphones from a reputable special needs equipment supplier. There was a time in spring and once in the summer, that I really thought he could have benefited from having them at these two noisier than normal events. Then I thought that since those two events passed, he’s probably only asking for them as there are kids in his class who need them on a regular basis. Michael has always been a curious child wanting to try out what his friends are doing. As in many other instances with Michael, I was wrong. He has needed these headphones for a while, along with his chew bracelet and thera-putty, a special squeezing putty that helps with the sensory need to squeeze and releases tension. His anxiety level has been requiring these interventions, but we have hesitated thinking that we could redirect Michael in other ways. Didn’t happen ladies.
I also had to admit something sad to myself, but it was a humbling moment for me too near the end of mass yesterday. I didn’t mind purchasing the chew bracelet and thera-putty quite as much as the headphones. And the reason why that embarrassed me, was due to the fact that he stands out in public now wearing the headphones. With a chew bracelet, he can discreetly wear it around his neck and tuck it into his shirt, and with thera-putty, we can say he is building something with it. The headphones scream out visible disability, autism. They scream out my child can’t cope here in church, at this store or wherever. I have a child who is different. I am different. And wham! I was hit by a side of myself I hadn’t seen in awhile. The Joanne that didn’t want to believe that her son is different, that she is different, who didn’t want to stand out. I was right back at the seven stages of grief which all of us Exceptional Moms experienced when our children were diagnosed. I was briefly mourning the loss of who I thought my son would be/who I would be like I did five short years ago.
Strangely when I realized this, I also realized for the first time in months I was relaxed in church seeing how well Michael was doing with all these tools. I was proud of him. I was proud of me and Johnny, that we finally figured out what he needed, by listening to him. Tears sprang to my eyes which I quickly wiped away, and I asked Michael how he was feeling. “I feel good Mommy. The headphones help me.” He smiled.
Michael’s confidence level is growing and I have to play catch up. But you know what ladies, he picked up the great sense of self-esteem from someone. I must be doing something right, and on that note, will not doubt my child or what I believe is right for him, and as a consequence, our family again. Today I wish for all of you Exceptional Moms, that you see the times when your own self limiting beliefs can be slowing you and your child down. And cut yourself some slack.You’ll know you’re doing the right thing when you see the way your child/dren are carrying themselves with happiness and pride. Until next time.