Month: August 2017

Do we have to “people”? Yes. Yes we do.

Okay, I’ll confess:  I am NOT a Playdate Parent.  I vowed early on in my parenting career (gack, nearly 19 years ago!) that I would not schedule the abomination known as The Playdate.

So, um, we had three playdates this week.

Yeah.  I also swore I’d never be in the PTA, and now I’m the secretary of the SEPTA (Special Education PTA) in our district.  My husband finds great amusement in seeing me do the Things I Said I’d Never Do.  Hey, maybe that should be my book title!

The point is, as we get older and wiser, we discover that by avoiding certain things we might just be missing out.  I’m not all that good at social settings unless I know someone, but on the flip side I’m LONELY.  I want friends.  My kids need friends. And like the vegans in our lives, I’ve spent an abundant amount of time talking exclusively about the subject that is the focus of my life (autism and ADHD, in case you’re new here).  And like the vegans in our lives, many of my acquaintances have just stopped listening.  I am not saying this to slight vegans, I know and love many people who have made this decision for themselves and I admire it.  What I am saying is that when we have a specific focus in our lives, whether it’s diet, a new favorite sport, or our children’s neurological differences, we tend to talk about it.  A lot.  A whole lot.

A friend recently published his book about making the incredible transition from avid carnivore to vegan, and he talks about this early on in the book.  I related to much of what he said, and it helped me to see that for me, having a focus like this has been fairly isolating.  It’s also been rather freeing.  I mean, I’m in a still relatively new job and I have an opportunity to reinvent myself somewhat.

So there we were, finding ourselves scheduling playdates and putting parties on the calendar.


With people.

My husband and I joke a lot about not wanting to “people” (as a verb).  But the fact is, I’m aching for interaction.  Don’t get me wrong, he and I have an incredibly witty banter, and frankly should take our show on the road. But when we’ve become the sole audience for each other, I worry that the isolation has been caused by my own stubbornness.

So, I’m putting it out to the universe.  I have a colleague who says that every time I put something out to the universe it comes true.  So I will put this out there- I am making a conscious decision to be more active, to get closer to people, and to do what I’ve tried to teach the boys- talk about what other people want to talk about rather than fixate on my own topics of interest.

Which leads me to this- if you haven’t read this book yet, and need help teaching conversation skills, I highly recommend it.

The Conversation Train by Joel Shaul 51cq7lHl0OL._SY385_BO1,204,203,200_

How do we start?

My intentions this week were to sit down and write a long-awaited and much needed post about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). It was going to require research and thought and careful attention to detail.

And then this week happened.

The world, and our country for sure, has been thrown deeper into turmoil.  People I love are scared and I am scared for and with them. More than ever, we need love and strength.

With that in mind, I have to talk about how to be together.  How to teach love.  And this is something that is vital for all humans- regardless of race, gender identity, ability, sexual preference, socio-economic status, and personal history.  First and foremost, we are human, and humans need to be loved.

To my left is a cube given to my youngest son by the Executive Director of the agency where I work.  It shows photos of people of different ages. It shows people from countries all over the globe.  It shows people in wheelchairs and people who are standing. It shows them together.  Smiling. Being part of something bigger than themselves.

To my right is my youngest son.  This child to whom we are to impart all our wisdom, chaos, silliness, and love. This child who, like all children, was not born with hate in his heart. This child who we already have taught and will continue to teach that people deserve love, and that people have differences and similarities.  This child who is fortunate to live in a place where he has friends who don’t look just like him.  This child who already knows that it’s okay that people look different or act differently, and that those same people are indeed his friends.

I do not say all this to puff myself up and pat myself on the back.  I say all of this to you now because it is truly our duty as people, regardless of whether we have children, to teach children that the world is a diverse and amazing place.  To teach children that we must reach out and get to know those who have walked a different path.  To teach them that if they see someone in a wheelchair or someone who doesn’t (or can’t) speak or hear or see or someone whose skin looks different that this is not a moment to turn away because of differences.  This is a moment to say hello.

Say Hello, by Lisa Loeb… watch and enjoy! 

Learning to let go…just a little

This summer was the first time our youngest boy would be attending summer camp.  In previous years, he’d had summer school at his preschool, and continued his work with a speech therapist, an OT, and a PT.  There were two weeks off before summer school and two weeks off at the end before the regular school year resumed.

This year was different, for although he qualified for summer services, they would be half days and I was not sure how meaningful that would be for him.  With great trepidation, I declined the summer services (because we’re taught to protect any and all services as though our lives depended on it) and sent my baby to summer camp.

The boys on their first day of camp

This was not just any camp, it was a camp specifically for kids with a diagnosis and/or mental health needs or developmental needs.  It’s a small group of kids and a lot of incredibly talented and patient (and well trained!) counselors who would come together every day for six weeks and share in their common experiences.

It was a camp where my kids weren’t the “odd man out”.  They got to be…kids.  They got to feel normal.  They felt supported.
This has not always been the case, and our previous two years at another camp (for Speedy) showed that not every camp is able to handle special needs.

During the last week of camp, they took a special trip to a waterpark.  Two. Hours. Away.
I put my babies on a charter bus and as I drove to work I cried.
The first of my coworkers to ask me how I was doing was met with sobs.  Because apparently I was really not at all prepared for putting a 5 year-old and a 7 year-old on a bus for a two hour drive which would surely result in their total destruction (or so I was convinced).

(Hint: they were fine, really)

I have a tendency to think of all of the possible Worst Case Scenarios when faced with The Great Unknown. I run these scenes in my head regardless of level of absurdity, and I play them all to completion as though they were part of a movie I’d just seen.

Here’s the result of that trip:

One VERY tired boy

Did I need to worry?  No, of course not.  While it’s true that incidents do happen, it’s also true that the staff at the park and the staff at his camp know what they’re doing.

The lesson in all of this is that I needed to let go a little, if for no other reason than my own sanity.  This is an important and difficult lesson for a control enthusiast such as myself, and I’m still learning.

What does one do when faced with the knowledge that maybe they’re holding on a little too tightly to their children?
Put down the bubble wrap, Susan*. You absolutely cannot protect your children from the entire world.  You need to let them experience the falls and scrapes and the terrifying moments.  You need to arm them with the knowledge that stuff happens, and that they have the ability to face the stuff when it all goes down.
Because here it is, in a nutshell: if you surround them and helicopter them you may be temporarily making yourself feel better (assuming you have not yet realized the extent to which you’re making yourself a wee bit crazy) but YOU ARE NOT HELPING THEM.  Like Speedy says, “Be like Elsa and let it go!”

Forgive me, I nicked it off Pinterest.

*There is no Susan.  Or if there is, she doesn’t have bubble wrap.