Category: advocating

Conquering Your Own Fears To Help Your Exceptional Child Conquer Theirs

Last week as I was driving in Michael’s school supplies taking a new route to his school with the GPS, I was reminded by my nervousness of one of my issues- my fear over my bad sense of direction. Michael had been challenging me all summer to go on drives with him to new places navigating me there correctly the majority of the time. It was nerve wracking, but an incredibly eye opening experience, both in pride seeing how amazing his sense of direction is and how I can conquer things that scare me when I put my mind to it.

You see, I am not someone blessed with a good sense of direction as I’ve alluded to in other blog posts, so this was a challenge to me. Even last Thursday alone in the car with no one judging my turns and directions, I was worried not about getting lost, but about handling the stress of doing something new. Wow. I was scared about breaking out of routine. Just like Michael.  But I did it and it felt great! I had Michael to thank for it.

My stress was about taking a new way to Michael’s school. Michael’s stress this summer stemmed from being around large groups of people and in noisier environments. I did my best to encourage small steps and he accomplished that, but not until Thursday morning did I fully understand how Michael felt. I had an AHA Moment. If this is how Michael feels when I am encouraging him to try something new, it really is a little on the terrifying side. What helped me do it? Well, it was the saying that I kept telling him all these years- you can’t be afraid to try something new. It’s important to use strategies to handle the stress, and then you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Well, I took my own words to heart that morning and was proud of my little risk that ended well of course.

I rode through the anxiety and came out stronger. It got me thinking that if I now approached Michael’s sense of anxiety the same way I approached mine, I’d be a little more sympathetic and hopefully be able to offer more support towards his anxiety. Especially after handling something hard for me I could tell Michael I knew how he felt and commiserate better.

I also realized I could tell Michael, how about I face one of my direction fears if you face one of your people fears? In time, we would both be overjoyed at having faced our difficulties, and not only survived but thrived through the tougher moments. I once again had renewed sympathy and amazement at all the times Michael has pushed through the fear and come out a winner. He learned to walk, communicate, ride a bike, swim, handle diabetes, and all sorts of things in between. He is a hero because he didn’t give up all those times, and I am a hero and a role model for him during the moments I don’t give up and keep moving forward. I realized last week it is important the two of us never give up on each other and keep trying.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle fear and stressful events? I hope you face it head on and set that positive example for your Exceptional Child. If you don’t, that’s ok. You’re human. We all have times we’ve backed off and maybe it was for the best, as we weren’t ready body, mind and spirit. Think about changing that mindset in the future though, because if your child sees you facing your fears head on they will be more apt to face theirs and come out the winner. Until next time.

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This Exceptional Mom’s Step Closer To Living Neuro Diversity

This afternoon something really special happened. Michael and I had a chance to speak with an amazing young man on the autism spectrum in our community. This has been something I have wanted to happen for a very long time, but with busy work and school schedules it did not happen. This young man and Michael had hung out together at an extra curricular activity years ago and the friendly bond had been mutual. Michael used to ask about him, and over the years I had meant to try and arrange a meeting, but life got in the way. Fast forward to June when I contacted this individual to ask him questions about his tween and teen years and how autism affected him while maturing given the challenges Michael is experiencing. He was a wealth of information and asked if Michael would like to talk with him in person. It would also mark the first time I would meet him face to face. We have corresponded by email, Facebook and spoken on the phone only previously. I was excited and so we set up a day and time to meet. This afternoon late in the day was the meeting.

What an experience! For me watching someone so like Michael, but yet not him, (you know the saying, once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, ) I was loving listening to how they talked, what they talked about, and how they shared thoughts, feelings and laughter together. I was included in the conversation too, for which I felt privileged. There was one moment when Michael heard about all this young man is doing and has accomplished so far in his twenty something years, and said, “Wow, you did all that with autism!” The comment made me laugh and then feel sad, as Dad and I have always told Michael his autistic brain is something to be proud of, and that the only difference between him and someone non-autistic is how they see the world a little differently and need to find what their strengths are and what they can contribute.

Different means we can learn from each other. So my comment back to Michael was, “Yes, he did all that with autism like you do all the amazing things you do with autism. Your brain is beautiful and I wish I could do some of the things you guys are talking about as easily.”  The young man agreed wholeheartedly, and I saw Michael’s happy surprise. It’s the same thing with Michael’s ADHD. I have pointed out over the years how many celebrities and singers have this kind of brain, then added; “look at what they have accomplished. You can make your dreams come true. Just believe in yourself like Daddy and I believe in you.”

For me watching two people with autism talk so openly about victories, struggles and their unique brains,  helped remind me how normalizing who are kids are is what counts the most. It is hard for them when they are around people  who even though well meaning,  may misunderstand what autism is and isn’t. Even Dad and I sometimes forget what Michael needs to hear. He could be looking away and still listening. We need to relax with the look at me. He needs time to finish his thoughts, stay on track, and have gentle reminders to use strategies to stay calm and focused. He also needs to be reminded that autism is a part of who he is and it will not limit him as long as he takes advantages of the strengths he has with the kind of brain he has- hyper focus on interests that could form a career, energy to carry him forward, and an ability to see the world in a different way and get others to follow suit. His explanation for loving traffic jams? It helps me to slow down. I never will look at traffic the same way again! Ironically, Michael and all children and adults I talk to or read about, have taught me to slow down in my life, to look at things from a different perspective, and to see how learning to embrace differences makes us all better human beings in the end.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you celebrated your Exceptional Child’s uniqueness within the autism spectrum? If it’s been awhile since you told them everything about them is awesome, now is the time. Even the things about a different brain that you don’t get, take the time to learn and speak to an individual who is autistic.  They will no doubt open up your mind to what is possible with acceptance, respect and compassion. Until next time.

Different Environment, Different Exceptional Child-Where Is The Real One?

Tonight while looking for something else in my email I came across a summary report of Michael’s progress in a group he participated in run by some OT students at his school. There were things in there  I clearly agreed with and those that surprised me, as I have seen Michael surpass so many obstacles since the writing of this report. It was hard to read those parts, for though I believed that he did demonstrate those weaknesses in a therapy group setting, the report was probably written a few months ago. He is now on a better medication to help with his ADHD, and he has grown up a lot this summer.

Michael is also one way at school, and another way at home. At school he will push down his anger and not lash out. At home he does not hold back. At school, he will follow the class routine, at home we would have huge fights about this and sometimes still do, though I have to say it is getting better. Why? I am learning to see that Michael is not the kid we see at school nor the kid he is at home. He falls somewhere in between, and finding out who he really is and understanding how his brain works is a wonderful labyrinth that I have to have the patience to figure out. We compromise on certain things with him and insist he follow a routine on others. This has started working for us at home.

I sometimes feel overwhelmed as a parent as I’m sure all parents are. Am I doing enough to encourage him with activities? Am I making the right decision with medication? Half the activities in this report he no longer has interest in, He is also going through a phase now of not wanting to do sports with me or go to parks. He does like to go on bike rides and take long walks though which makes me happy as he is out in society and exercising. As I mentioned before, he is pulling away from crowds, people, and becoming a little more introverted. We are questioning if the same medicine that has made organizing himself in the am and pm so much better, responsible for socially shy behavior. This  has never been the Michael I knew at home prior to puberty or medication. He always loved people.

As Exceptional Parents, we tend to ask ourselves questions such as those a lot more than many other parents, I think. We worry have we done the right therapies and gotten our child the best support. Have we caused damage to them? How can we bring out our child’s true character if we do not feel we are seeing it already? Sitting here tonight as I write this, I realize there are no easy answers. A child is not a machine. One size does not fit all. I think the answer of who our children are are a mix of what we see and don’t see. We need to go with the flow, help encourage them with a mix of all kinds of activities that they enjoy, and give them a chance to show us their true character as they get older. We need to stop worrying so much. As Moms it is natural though, isn’t it? They will show us what they need, and no matter how many expert people help our child including us, in the end they are the people who know themselves best and they will know what they need.

Exceptional Parents, do you ever feel frustrated trying to help figure out who your Exceptional Child is? Take a deep breath. Time will show you. As long as you believe in them, they will learn to believe in themselves too. Then, you will see them bloom in the world. Until next time.

Helping Your Exceptional Child Take The Next Step Towards Independence- Why Pushing A Little Goes A Long Way

As I sat by on Saturday watching Michael do his  diabetes injections completely by himself, I have to admit after giving Michael a high ten, I silently thanked God that we had all arrived at the same place, trusting Michael to take on this big responsibility. In fairness, Michael has wanted to  do his own injections for about a year now, but due to some lingering behavior issues and past questionable treatment of the injection equipment, Dad and I told him that we were not ready to show him until he showed us more maturity in handling his anger and outbursts. Well, things are not one hundred percent perfect, but Michael has come a long way in handling his anger. I sat down with Dad one night about two weeks ago, and we decided he had earned the right to be trusted with medical equipment. After all, we have started trusting him to be left alone at home for short periods of time. He has been taking his own sugar for over a year too. It was time for this next step. And as usual, Michael did not disappoint when trust was placed in him. He never has.

It’s a tough decision for an exceptional parent-learning when your exceptional child is ready to take that leap forward. If you wait for the ‘perfect’ moment, it will never come. It’s like waiting for the perfect moment to do something big for yourself. You will always make excuses unless you take a leap of faith. Listening to your parenting gut, trusting that your child understands what they are taking on and the responsibility of whatever you are asking them to do, as well as a balance of you being available to jump in and encourage them if they get scared. There is never shame in that, whether you are a child or adult. If we had waited until all Michael’s behavior challenges were solved before moving forward, he would have lost out on an opportunity to see his maturity in that area. We also would have lost an opportunity to see more of  Michael’s strengths. I have our Educator to thank for giving me gentle nudges as well. I see how smart, competent and capable Michael is, but sometimes my old worries of pushing him out of his comfort zone would stop me from acting.

I was not totally wrong. Michael carries A LOT of anxiety and then navigating that with his anger issues become significant challenges for all of us. But if as parents and therapists we only get stuck on what is wrong and not on what  could go right, that negative mindset will transmit to your child. Michael’s Educator reminded us of not only rewarding the positive, but understanding that Michael wanted, like any tween, to be treated more maturely as he was growing up. Instead of always having power battles with a growing teenager, we could, in small doses, give him a little more control over his life so he could see where good choices led.

As Michael has gotten older, I have started pushing him a little more in all areas past his comfort zone. I have picked my battles of course, keeping in mind that Michael can advocate for himself what is too much and what with help, he can grow comfortable around. So far, this formula has started working, especially as he has asked for more independence and trust. Now I tell him, you need to show you are trying your best to manage your emotions. When we see that, we give a little more trust to trying out new things. The diabetes injections are just one of many things we have given over to Michael as he has increasingly started taking responsibility for himself and his actions, positive and negative. The other day he made a bad choice in what he said. Immediately he asked me, “Help me. I need help controlling what I say.” I told him we were getting him more help and that he would learn. We believe in him.

Exceptional Parents, how comfortable are you pushing your Exceptional Child past their comfort zone? It’s not always easy, and of course you have to take it slowly and proceed according to where your child’s development is. Never let anyone push you or your child past what you feel they are capable of. But, don’t ever forget to have full faith that if your child is showing most of the signs that they are ready to take on something big, you give them the chance to shine. Until next time.

Understanding Your Child’s Stim As Necessary Healthy Self-Regulation

It has taken me a long time to make peace with Michael’s stimming. I finally did about three years ago. Like many parents who were told their child was autistic, after being told what we had to do to “fix” it, the next thing was how to normalize their outside behavior, ie. stimming in order to fit in better in society.  As I came to understand that autism is not something to be fixed, my child is not broken but beautiful in another way,  I also began to see that though stimming made me nervous and maybe some other neuro typical people nervous around us due to not understanding it, this was something necessary for autistic people like Michael to do and they each had their own unique way to do it. Neuro typical people stim too, by the way. We just don’t think of it as stimming as it is no ingrained in our popular culture. Playing with hair, bouncing a leg up and down under the table, flicking a pen open and closed are just some examples. Autistic people’s stims though involve things that are unusual for many neuro typical people to understand; rocking, clapping repeatedly, vocalizing with certain words, spinning. The thing is though, that for them it is a way to regulate in a way that calms their body and mind. A lot of stimming is usually done when they are excited or overwhelmed in a busy environment. It’s necessary for their mental health to do this and we all need to understand this.

Some children with autism are sensory seeking like Michael. He LOVES to do long walks in traffic then sit down and watch the cars going by while rocking. Sometimes he will stand and do it. He also loves to rock and clap to his favorite music. I have learned over the years to let him stim whenever he needed to as I see how this has helped him de-compress. Sometimes he tunes me out as I would tune people out during a walk or drive, but usually he can focus just fine on what I am saying. I’ve had to overcome my fear over the years that Michael’s stimming would get him noticed as being different, and then my next questions was, “why is that a bad thing?” The answer back was because I did not want him laughed at or thought of as weird. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what is beautiful about Michael IS his difference, his difference in how he relates to the world, how he takes information in and talks about it. His autism is part of who he is, and I don’t want him fitting himself into a box he is not meant to be in. I want him being proud to be autistic, proud of how his brain works. The world also needs to start recognizing that difference is not to be feared. It is to be celebrated.

I realized that the issues around stimming were my issues. As I got over them, I now embrace Michael’s stimming and all autistic stimming as something I may not always understand, but should I be privileged enough, maybe one day it will be explained to me by an autistic person why they stim in a particular way. I’ve already had some conversations with Michael about this. I loved his answers. And the first time I heard about adult autistic stim parties and told Michael about it, I remember how his face lit up and he said, “Wow. A party where people with autism get together to stim. Cool.” I wanted him to know that when the world gets too much for him, there are people who think like him and have fun by stimming for as long as they need to.

Exceptional Parents, where are you on your journey towards understanding your autistic child’s stimming? It’s not an easy road, and the fact that they are different than you will always be a challenge on some level of communication. Remember however, it is important that they are comfortable in their own skin, physically and mentally as it is for any child. Encourage them to be themselves. If they do not have special needs friends, reach out to others who also have autism so your child sees that there are others like them.  It’s great to have neuro typical friends too, but your child needs to know they are not alone. On your journey as a neuro typical parent, also don’t forget to look for adult autistic mentors for your child who will know your child in ways you will not. I am at that stage now, and it is a privilege to listen to these individuals talk about their childhoods, adolescence and adulthood and say, wow they get my kid because in some ways they are him! They will be your child’s guide and yours to the world of autism and all its wonder. Until next time.

How We Can All Learn Determination From Our Exceptional Children

So there we were this evening biking on Michael’s favorite busy street. We stopped a few times for breaks and so Michael can watch the traffic. He loves cars and moving traffic. He would clap his hands and watch, then clap some more. That is his “traffic stim.”  When we moved on after the third little break, I noticed that one of his tires on his bike had gone a little flat. It was not completely flat, but was losing air so bike riding would be more difficult.

“Michael, your tire is losing air and it will be a little more challenging to go to the next block like we had planned. Do you want to try and you can partially walk the bike or do we head home?”
Michael looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want to do it. I don’t mind if I have to walk a bit with the bike. I want to do the route we planned.”
I was so proud of his determination to finish what he started and pretty much knew this was what he was going to say. I only warned him as I was worried he may get discouraged when the bike riding got harder. However, I had forgotten for a second who I was dealing with, a child who never gives up, perseveres and pushes through to get what he wants, difficult or not.

“Ok honey. We’ll do it. ”

Several times during the bike ride when we would stop Michael would ask me if I was proud of him. I also said extremely. I saw the smile he would give me. I think he knew my answer would be yes. I would be crazy not to be proud of the child who from birth fought to be born through a series of difficulties, then fought to catch up on the milestones and did it, then fought to learn strategies to overcome anger and anxiety and still continue to fight to figure this out. This is a hard challenge. AND finally, fight to master learning how to manage a chronic life long disease of Type 1 Diabetes. I sometimes forget through the exhaustion of parenting, just how tough, resilient and spirited Michael is. He does not give up. He does not take no for an answer, which can be a drag as a parent when you want your child to listen, but heck, I know he’ll do fine making his way in the world one day because of his attitude of not giving up what he is going after.

This got me thinking about what Michael is here to teach me, like all our children are here to teach all of us. He is here to show me to never give up. He is here to show me not to give up on my dreams no matter how challenging it is to make it happen. He is here to remind me to fight for who and what I believe in always. He is here to remind me that love conquers all.

Exceptional Parents, what has your Exceptional Child’s determination showed you? I’m sure it has reminded you that no matter what , you can get through anything, just like your child has. You advocate for them they advocate for you as well, and help you be the best person you can be. Never never give up. Until next time.

Seeing The Other Side-How To Talk So Your Exceptional Child Understands You

Being the parent of an exceptional child changes you. Heck, being a parent changes you, as you have to remember to talk to your child in a way that reaches them and helps them know you get them. When you have a child whose brain works differently than yours though, the challenge is even greater. Michael’s brain is affected by everything that makes him who he is-autism, ADHD, anxiety, and Type 1 Diabetes. All of these physical and mental things make up how he sees the world, how his brain organizes his reality, and as I’ve seen many times, how this reality is not always the same reality it is for me.

We have had many misunderstandings with one another when I would think he was not listening to me, he was purposely being defiant, and he was not listening. As he grew older and I learned more about neuro diversity and different brains, I began to see how much of what I thought was deliberate was not. He would often not understand where I was coming from, and even with a pretty perfect vocabulary and very good conversation skills, receptive language would still be a challenge. I began seeing how I could make myself more clear and see things from his perspective. I also began talking to him about seeing things from my side, and reminding him that we don’t all think alike, so compromise needs to be something to strive for. Discussing a stressful upcoming event is something I’ve had to learn to do with extreme patience. He will often ask the same question over and over. I used to blow up, as my patience would wear think, and then I would feel terrible. I would see that his anxiety is just too high and his ability to self-regulate is still developing so moving forward was high.

Once I learned how to use my own STOP analogy, that is stop and think before speaking, I eliminated a lot more escalation of fear and anxiety on Michael’s and my end. With autism there needs to be a lot of repetition for Michael to remember things sometimes and put his mind at ease. I devised ways such as schedules on paper or the computer to explain things to him. I also would write social stories or ask our team to help me right good social stories that would explain things more simply. Michael has always been a child so eager to learn and move forward, that this has not been too difficult a process.

As parents it is hard. We need to keep in mind that executive function and any kind of organization skills take extra time for our kids to master. That means we’ve got to extra patient when waiting for an answer from them, waiting for them to move to the next activity, and when frustration builds up more easily than with other kids, remember that it is not their fault or ours. It is two different brains viewing the same problem. As the adult and the one who can set the example, it is up to us to pause, take a deep breath, and redirect our child’s frustration and try and see why they are upset and how the two of you can put your heads together and fix it calmly. That has been the hallmark of success with Michael. When I have stayed calm, or at least as calm as possible, I have come up with great solutions to help Michael is even better, he has found the solutions to the problem. It is a humbling affair raising a little person, but there is so much our exceptional kids teach us. Don’t shy away from the lesson. You won’t be sorry you did.

Exceptional Parents, how often have you been able to put yourself in your Exceptional Child’s shoes? It’s not always easy, but as long as you take the time to see them as trying their very best even when they are failing in that moment, show compassion as you would for yourself, you will start to build a whole new rapport with your exceptional child. They will sense you trying to bridge the gap and meet them halfway. Until next time.

Report Cards and Seeing The Exceptional Child That Shines Within

Today was the last Parent/Teacher interview at Michael’s school. As usual, it was bittersweet for me. Another year gone by. More growth and opportunities to learn new things, other areas where there were challenges, but the wonderful staff at his adapted school is addressing them. Also, as always, I was able to troubleshoot and brain storm with them new ways to support him at home, now particularly with his severe anxiety which sometimes manifests itself as aggression at home.

For me it was hard too to see how his anxiety is limiting him in class. My anxiety limited me for years, but not having other challenges, I was able to perform academically and learn with much more ease. Michael, though bright, gets sidetracked easily and worries over things and needs constant redirection. This distraction causes him to lose focus in the classroom and affects his learning. His school is working with him on it, but though I vowed to keep in mind that he is in the best program he is meant to be in and not to push staff, the Mommy tiger in me was disappointed that many peers in his class moved into the modified high school program and Michael was not ready. I felt sad, as I know though academically he would struggle, socially he would benefit a lot in that circle. The hard on myself Mom part questioned the fact that maybe it was me who was at fault. Maybe I didn’t teach him self-soothing/regulating strategies young enough.

While speaking to the professionals, I made sure to say that I knew he would continue in the same academic stream he was in and that was good, as due to his anxiety levels now, he was certainly not ready at this time for other challenges. I truly believed this and agreed with their decision. But I took the plunge and asked if in the future they thought there may be a chance for him in a more academic intense program where there are more pressures? I feel bad as I did not want to sound like I was putting down the program he is in. It is excellent and where he needs to be, at least now. I added only that I think he is capable of  more, and I don’t want his anxiety holding him back. I am scared it is holding him back. Everyone reassured me they understood and knew where I was coming from. They were impressed I was willing to give a little push to him. I was glad, as pushing a little bit can yield great results.

I left the meeting in the end feeling both happy and angry with myself. I berated myself a little for not leaving well enough alone, but I needed to know what was holding Michael back, though deep down I already knew the answer. As a parent, we all want to do everything we can to ensure our child is in the best place they can be to learn, grow and develop. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, but sometimes we worry on how we will be perceived. The best results are gained when parents and professionals look honestly at where the child is and go from there. And as one of the staff told me, pushing your child and asking questions is your right as the parent. You want to make sure your child is where they are meant to be.

Exceptional Parents, do you worry about your Exceptional Child’s future? It is very normal. The most important thing to do though, is to always keep an open mind about where your child is now, and where they are headed. A lot can change, and remember , don’t try and fit your child into what you want for them. Aim for whatever helps them the most to develop to their fullest potential. I know in my case, Michael is in good hands with family and his school as we keep the lines of communication open. Until next time.

 

 

Exceptional Child Without Exceptional Excuses- How To Teach Your Child Not To Use Their Challenges As Excuses

Michael is at the age now where he understands he is neuro diverse and that his brain works differently. Heck, he’s been at that age, for better or worse, for the past three years. I say for better or worse as being the smart kid he is, he has tried to use his different brain as an excuse when he has messed up. I got angry because I have autism and ADHD and it’s harder to control my emotions. My blood sugar was high too. And my medication upsets my stomach and I can’t have my vegetables.

Well, the answer is yes and no. While this is some truth in all of the above, I know that Michael is more than his diagnoses, all of our kids are. The tough thing has been explaining this to him, while also reminding him that he is different and if people don’t know what to make of his stimming or interests, it is up to him to explain himself in a calm and positive way. Different is not inferior or superior. It is just different. Our kids are amazing, but we want them to take responsibility for all their emotions, good and bad.

Too many people have a hard time with kids who don’t fit into the cardboard box so-called norm, but that is fortunately changing as more and more information is becoming available through other neuro diverse individuals about what it is like to live in a neuro typical world and have another outlook on life. Parents can connect with other parents and exchange information and help to get their children to thrive. I think in the end though, the challenge is reminding your child that they are responsible for all their actions, good and bad, and that no matter how hard it is for them to regulate, they need to find their own ways to self-soothe and advocate for change for themselves and all neuro diverse people. Of course, when they are little, we parents and other authority figures must do it. There does need to be some help in place to support kids who have challenges. The only thing is that it is important not to use said challenges as excuses that they can’t control anxiety, anger, fear, learning issues or anything else.

Yes, it will be hard. Yes, there will need to be support and understanding. This is where parents and other adults come in. It is up to us to advocate for exceptional children when they are young. However, as they get older we need to pass the reins of self-advocacy over to them. We need to teach them to advocate for themselves, but in a responsible way where they take control of their challenges and are able to be independent, happy and healthy in the world. This is a step by step process and takes time. The first step, is a no excuses mantra they must be taught. Then, help them find solutions.

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children make excuses for themselves at home or in school? Do they not believe in themselves? If so, it’s time to break that cycle that is defeatist so that they can learn what is  under their control and what is not. Once they know that, they will be able to achieve the ultimate balance in the world. That is what we all want after all, a healthy and balanced life for our kids. Until next time.

How Bad Memories Change Over Time-Confronting The Past And Seeing The Positive

Michael likes to move. Michael likes traffic because it moves. Michael likes walking. This is why it really did not surprise me after I took a second to think about it, that walking on a busy boulevard near our home is what helps calm Michael and what is fun for him to do with me. I get the benefit of exercise, being out in the fresh air, and having an hour or more of time to talk and bond with my son which is becoming more challenging as my tween pulls away from other mother/son activities like park time. Ok, so it’s not my ideal venue of paradise, walking on busy boulevards where traffic runs rampant and noise is the order of the day, but this is what sets Michael’s soul on fire, so I make it my business to be there alongside him to show him how I want to understand him and bond with him.

And there we were on the weekend, on one of these long walks talking and then just quietly walking, when lo and behold, we were coming up to the place where he first went to daycare, the daycare he had been kicked out of due to his unusual behavior and inability to fit in. This wasn’t the first time we had walked past it. We had done this walk many times in the past. I had always pointed out to Michael that this was where he had first gone to school when he was very little. Though it had had a painful ending for me and him, he had bonded with two of his teachers and had asked about them when he was older and verbal. One of them had held him on her lap as he stroked her hair when he was distressed by the noise, the fast pace and other realities of daycare he had not been ready for at two and a half. I had told the positive things to him and then added that the long day was hard for him, and that was why we had ended up sending him to the adapted preschool where he had finally learned to talk, come out of his shell, and we had uncovered his autism and been able to bridge the gap he had with us and us with him.

For me, passing this school for years had been a painful memory though I had not shared this with Michael. I did not want to distress him. But I’ll never forget the stress and relief in that meeting with the director of the daycare who had firmly and gently told me that my son was a lovely boy, physically healthy, but that there were lots of other issues we needed to look at. He would need a full assessment at a hospital and then once we had recommendations for a speech and occupational therapist, they could look to giving him back his spot. For now, he could not continue attending the daycare. The next words she spoke stayed with me then and are still with me now. People will tell you there are worse cases than him. Hospitals, social services may turn you away. You need to fight for your son, fight with everything you have in you. She then shared with me how she had to fight for one of her two children who had physical health issues to receive services at the local hospital. She again repeated, be ready and willing to fight for him. You’re his top advocate.

Of course I took those words as law, and I have never stopped fighting for Michael. Though I always looked back on that conversation with both sadness and hope, whenever I passed the building where I had hoped Michael would blend in with the other kids, I would feel sadness, loss, and anger that things had not turned out differently. Then, there I was at that building with Michael last weekend. I looked at it. I looked at him. And I felt joy. Pure joy. I realized that was the first place that had had the courage to help me see my son for who he was, in all his beauty. They helped me fight the pediatrician for a referral for further testing. Then push for an adapted preschool. Then finally through that preschool find a Mom community, and one particular Mom, who gave me the name of a psychologist who finally gave Michael the diagnosis of autism which opened up doors for him and us. I celebrated though everyone around me mourned. Now it was just learning how best to support Michael’s learning and brain. Autism was not a bad thing. It was part of who Michael was, and it was up to me to understood this different way of seeing the world.

This was new for me though, this joy in seeing the place that had made me cry, the place that had made me finally face my son was different, and that I was different and would have to parent differently. I felt free. This place had helped me be free, Michael too. Michael is who he is because of all the experiences he has had as I am, as we all are. This is reason to celebrate and to remember that even so-called dark moments, can end up being our moments of greatest light and growth.

Exceptional Parents, do you have moments that you look back on and see as eye opening positive experiences even as they appeared negative? If not, look again. You may be surprised how with time, you can see how experiences can change you for the better, even negative ones, and how your body and mind look at things in a different way when you’ve had time to reflect. Let go. Release past hurt. Everything happens for a reason to lead you most of the time to a better tomorrow. Until next time.