So today is World Cerebral Palsy Day.  It falls (now) every October 6th.  We wear green to support (in whatever way you define the term) those with a Cerebral Palsy. 

I could tell you all the ways I grieve, and all the ways I feel I’ve lost or am missing something in my life because my twin guys have a Cerebral Palsy, but today my heart is too full.  I am brimming with joy.  I am thankful.

I used to think inclusion was simplistic.  Keep them in the same school, include them in what everyone else was doing, with modifications.  If the rest were doing it, so would Drew and Dean!

Today, as I spoke to the boys’ class, I realized inclusion is just BEING.  I spoke to them about diversity, and all of our unique qualities which are important to the world around us.  How if everyone were the same or did the same things life would be boring.  We are all SPECIAL because we bring something different to the world. 

Inclusion isn’t about being like everyone else, it’s about being who you are and being accepted, admired and supported.  It’s about being able to share joy and triumph wherever we see fit.

This week has shown me what a wonderfully inclusive environment I send my kids to during the day.  Yeah, they can’t do the math and can’t participate in conversation, but they are recognized for their love of singing – so they’ve been asked to join Glee club; the children in their class asked questions they’ve been dying to know to gain insight and how to sign to them; and the music teacher asked how she could modify the curriculum for their year of recorders (I kindly suggested/requested kazoos instead.)

All of these things show me inclusion. No one is trying to change them.  Just appreciating them for who they are.

Happy World CP Day everyone! 

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Hi. I used to be like you. I was impatient. I hated waiting. I needed to move. Lines were a peeve. Slow walkers drove me nuts.  And don’t get me started about slow drivers!

Then I became a mother. My first child, our gorgeous daughter taught us that we may not get places on time.  She ran the show.  We learned that babies held power. If we didn’t get home at bedtime, there was no bedtime!

Then we had the boys, our identical twins.  They came early, but time slowed down. 

We waited patiently for them to eat and grow. We waited patiently for them to get strong enough to come home.  We waited 4 weeks and 1 day.  If you’ve never left your children behind, you won’t understand this pain. 

When we brought them home finally, we waited… we waited for them to reach milestones.  They didn’t reach them.  We waited for referrals to doctors.  We waited and waited.  They started hitting milestones. Sat up at 15 months…. commando crawled at 21 months… we waited… we waited for a Doctor to tell us at 26 months that they indeed had a Cerebral Palsy – Periventrucular Leukomalacia to be exact.

We then waited some more.  These boys have taught us more patience than anyone can ever imagine.

We waited for them to stand.  We waited for them to walk. We waited for the walkers we had to order to help them to walk. We waited for them to talk. We waited for leg braces. We waited for meetings for school entry.  We waited for more meetings. We waited for the cab that would drive them to school because they couldn’t walk. 

During all of that waiting… we WORKED HARD… really, really hard.  

We watched our boys take their first steps well after their 4th birthday… we watched them walk away from their walkers.  We watched them learn to climb stairs.  All with tears in our eyes.

We cried because we were told that they may never be independent, never walk, never talk.

They now walk  and run and jump and climb stairs… we are still patiently waiting for them to talk so that people understand…

They now ride the bus!

They get tired, really, really tired from all of the work that they do at school.  They LOVE riding the bus.

Which brings me back to you.  Mr. Impatience.  Please. Please don’t yell out of your window at us.  We are moving as fast as we can.  We are trying our best. As the parents of Drew and Dean we are so thankful of the 98% of commuters that appreciate that some kids are slower to get off the bus… but you, the one guy in line who yells at us… you ruin our moment. 

If I can ask of nothing else, please have patience for kids getting off the bus.  Not just mine, but all of them.  Show kindness and patience.  It will change your life.

It’s a constant struggle, and maybe as a parent in general, but as a special needs parent for sure.  I have had many conversations in the last while with my blogging/special needs parent friends about wishing we could just lay it out… stop being inspiring and insightful, stop being positive, stop being happy and “okay” with the lives we’ve been dealt. 

After this blog, I’m gonna go for it! I’m gonna tell you…. it SUCKS!!! I don’t mean all the time, but more often than we let on.  I am SO AFRAID! 

I’m afraid that I’ll never get these guys toilet trained.  

I’m afraid that they’ll never be able to have conversations that other people will understand.

I’m afraid that they’ll grow out of being cute, and be nuisances.  I’m afraid that people will think they’re nuisances!

I’m afraid they’ll never be independent enough to live away from us.  I’m afraid that we’ll not be able to care for them forever.

I’m afraid that I’ll lose more friends.  I’m afraid that I’ll get less  invites to things (family and personal).

The list goes on and on.

I’m afraid I’ll become bitter….

I love the sentiment, and I seriously don’t want to offend anyone in any way… but it HURTS when people say God chose us to be their parents. WHY?!?! Why us?!? 

I grieve about all the things my guys can’t do.  I get jealous about what other kids their age are doing.  I am blind (and choose to be) to what their peers are learning in school while my guys are learning colours and letters…

I WANT to be positive and happy and inspiring and insightful.  I have taken on this role the best way I can.  I have become a strong advocate, I have educated, I have learned!  But I just can’t be that person all the time.  

And I want to tell other parents IT IS OKAY.  Yes, embrace the role that you’ve been thrown into whether you like it or not, but don’t feel bad when you want to scream.  Scream. Be sad. Be angry. YOU ARE ALLOWED. 

Fall is probably one of my favourite times of year for exploring and being “outdoorsy”… I love taking in God’s beauty, loving the colours, the warm sunshine, the cool air, the nice smells of leaves as they fall to the ground…

This year I had a pity party for myself and fell into one of my little times of grief.  I’ve spoken about this cycle of grief that parents of special needs parents go through with various things.  I grieve when I feel like I’ve “lost” something that “should have been.”

 This last moment (which lasted about 2 weeks) came from not being able to take a family hike to see the fall colours (as I write this, it’s still there, even though I recognize it).  I see friends posting fun, outdoor family hikes, and although I’m so happy for them, I’m sad, because my guys still are unbalanced and unsure of slopes and grades.  I would love to enjoy the great outdoors with them at this level… but they’re not ready…

I took my daughter out for a hike a couple times, and kept wishing that we could all be doing it.  I took her fishing this past weekend, and wished we could all go fishing.

I was telling a co worker how I honestly felt about the boys not being able to keep up and not be able to do outdoorsy things.  She looked up at me and said “not yet!”

How did I not see that? 

Not yet!!

In all of my grief, I forgot how far we have come with these guys.  How many successes we HAVE HAD! 

I realized in that moment that I’m doing what I need to do, what we need to do.  We are teaching our daughter about loving nature, and the boys as well, at their level…. and we just need to continue to dream and work towards our goals. 
And yes, I will continue to grieve for the things that are lost right now but I need to remember sometimes that the answer is sometimes “NOT YET!”

I walked away from dropping my kids off at their first day of school feeling absolutely elated!  If any of you have been following along with my life, you will know that first days of schools have been nerve racking and stressful! 

My daughter, is entering grade 5.  She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met.  She is strong, funny, independent, responsible and gorgeous.  I have no worries for her other than someone breaking her amazing spirit!

My boys, twins, are starting Grade 3.  They have Cerebral Palsy, and a Developmental Disability.  They are handsome, funny and loving.  They, however, are harder to read than a book in Japanese!  We have had our challenges!    

Each year, the first day of school brings nerves and apprehension.  Will their new teacher love them? Will they get good EAs?  Every year, so far, has been different, every year I’ve had to explain the boys.  I’ve made 1 page profiles, I’ve created behaviour plans, I’ve had Daddy stay the morning to make sure everything is good…

This year I walked up to the school and saw the same EAs, the same beautiful ladies, waiting for the bus to arrive to greet my kids!  I have never been more excited to see two faces than I was this morning!

Not to go on about how wonderful these ladies are (they really are), and how wonderfully they work as a team together AND with my boys…. But, as a parent, it creates this cozy feeling of comfort.  I DON’T have to explain mannerisms, communication, behaviours.  I DON’T have to wonder how their day went.  I KNOW that my children will come home happy.  I know that the respect is their between us all. And MOST IMPORTANTLY I know that those EAs are there because they wANT to be!

Being a special needs parent means that you have to let go of stuff you never thought you would.  I am relying on OUR TEAM to help support the boys as they learn new words, learn how to play with others, and learn how to use the toilet (among many other things).  Things I always thought I (with my husband) would be teaching them.

It’s one thing to see your children be comfortable and secure with their caregivers away from home, but it’s a completely different level where I feel secure and happy about where they are.

I thank all of the beautiful people (school staff, therapy team, recreational supports) not only in our lives but all of my fellow families lives, for being the compassionate caring individuals you were put on this earth to be! YOU ARE NOTICED and TRULY APPRECIATED!

The other day I posted about the judgement parents face, and how sometimes it would be easier if people just showed compassion.  You (and I) have NO IDEA what Joe Schmoe is going through next door.

Today, I read this article (See it here) about what it’s like to have a child with a speech delay.  I can totally relate! My boys would be considered clinically “non verbal.” They are 8, have approximately 100 solid words which they use mostly in isolation, not in phrases, and not generalized across situations yet.  They understand A LOT! They can “pick up that garbage, and go put it in the can” and ” go get your shoes and coat”.  

Children with expressive language issues often exhibit behaviours which are challenging because they get frustrated with their inability to tell us what is going on.  My boys, with seemingly no warning, get very frustrated and will start banging their heads (off the floor, off a wall, off the counter) or screaming and in full tantrum.  

Now to give you some extra insight, I work in the field of language disorders as a Communicative Disorders Assistant, and my husband as a Developmental Support Worker, so we kinda “get” the Special Needs bit.   So it would be pretty fair to tell you that we don’t even have the superpowers to predict the level of frustration and stop the behaviour before it starts.  

I can also share with you that this is probably the most painful and frustrating thing you can experience as a parent.  Seeing your child fall off of a bicycle, or split their lip has got nothing on what appears to be your child choosing to injure themselves.  Now why kids with language delays, and disabilities do this, I can’t tell you.  I would have to do the research, but I’ll admit that I’m afraid to.

Now, I’ll also admit that I don’t know where I’m going with this.  Except that it fit with my previous post.  I have bigger things to worry about than doing those tasks which hold me to a “good mother” standard.  But if you knew all of the little battles I (and so many other mothers and fathers out there) deal with, you would prioritize things differently too.

In my belief, there are two things everyone can do to create a better world… YOU can change the world by showing kindness and compassion… You don’t need to worry about how to change policies, religion, etc.  All you need to do is be kind and accept others for who they are.

I could have written this post the hurtful, hateful way that I felt earlier after a conversation which inspired this.  But I’m choosing to inspire change in how we look at others.

What I believe: EVERY parent is doing the best that they are capable of. I will say that again. EVERY PARENT IS DOING THE BEST THEY ARE CAPABLE OF!  Think of parenting like a spectrum (like everything else in the world)- there are Super parents, the average parents, and the parents that are struggling… I believe that ALL parents want the best for our children and that we do the best that we can do, given all of the factors that arise in the moment.  No one wants their child to suffer, or feel left out, or to be hungry, or to fall behind.  We all need support, and some don’t have an immediate support system.  

Please don’t judge another parent, or person, because you have no idea what they’ve been through or what they’ve just overcome.  A simple statement like ” I can’t believe they don’t read to their kids!” ” who can’t brush their kids teeth” is judgmental beyond belief! It sounds ridiculous… But true!

Now to clarify, this statement was not directed at me, but I felt the need to step up. 

We do not know the reason, it is not our business!  But to give you example, I will share bits of my life…

I don’t read to my kids at bed time. I try to get in a book here and there, but I am the first one to admit, it’s not a high priority!  I have 8 year old twins in diapers.  They are non verbal and often have tantrums that I don’t understand.  Sometimes I just want to enjoy the cuddles they give me, sometimes I’m holding them tightly so that they don’t slap their heads.  

I don’t have the opportunity to brush their teeth every day (let alone twice a day) because some mornings, like this morning, I was wiping up poop.

DON’T JUDGE ME!!

Parenting is affected by so many factors that we don’t understand.  

If you want to make judgment, make sure you completely understand the situation… 

If you want to make change, show kindness and compassion.  Try to understand and support.  It will get you further.

I find myself opening up to complete strangers, with their questions and sympathy, and find it quite normal now.

A conversation, whether it be at work, in a staff room, with another parent, at a hockey game, in the grocery store, usually starts out with talking about kids. It then turns into age comparison, then I reveal that I have twins (insert halo above my head and twinkling stars), then comes the twin fears and wonderment… “Oh you’re busy!” “Are they identical!?” “Boys! Twins!” Then come questions like “Do they play sports?” That’s when I, again, “reveal” that the boys have Special Needs (insert BIGGER halo and more twinkling stars!)

I get the “God Bless Yous”, and “oh, I’m sorry to hear that” and the occasional mortified “oh..”

I’ve grown to live with that.  As a society, as humans, we are curious.  Society hasn’t “lived with” Special Needs individuals for very long.  We just DONT know.  My generation is probably one of the first to have some students mainstreamed, but barely any.  Institutions have just recently shut down in my home province of Ontario, leaving adults who were secluded, now living in smaller group living residences where they have the ability to venture out into the community with support.

My daughter’s generation will be the most empathetic and compassionate generation yet as kids with Special Needs are just the other kids.  The kids with differences.  My boys are just Drew and Dean, and they’re silly and loveable!

I appreciate all conversations despite how offensive they would seem to anyone listening.  Those questions are honest and difficult, and through honest conversation comes awareness and understanding!  Think, if you were always afraid to ask a question, you would never learn!  We as parents of Special Needs kids have a great power to educate society!  Don’t get defensive or offended if someone asks you if your child can walk, or talk, or make friends, or have a good life!  Teach, inspire, create growth in our society who is still learning how to incorporate ALL individuals into daily life. Integration into society is less than 40 years old…

All of our conversations are important and insightful and learning opportunities!

We are shaping the world for our children…

* bloggers note-After hitting a slump in blogging I asked my friends to write my first line for me.  

The best part of my day is when I sneak upstairs and check on the kids before I head to bed myself.  I love creeping up to the edge of their beds, to see their content little faces snuggled into the pillow.  

Jeff (my husband) used to tease me, because even after I’d gotten into bed, I’d run up to their rooms just to tuck them in one last time.  

Our days are so hectic sometimes, that I want to make sure they get one last little kiss, and a whispered ‘ I love you.’  It’s also the time where I see them at their sweetest.  Macartney often has her stuffies tucked around her, and a look of such contentment, that it lets me know that she had a great day.  Very often, it’s when I witness the special twin bond that the boys share- they’ll either have snuck into one bed, and are snuggling, or simply sleeping in twin unison- in perfect twin form across the room.

Seeing them all, resting peacefully, reminds me that no matter how busy and crazy our lives get, we make it through, another day will come, and that our lives are a blessing, because there are three beautiful babies I get to kiss goodnight.

February is inclusion month and our local Community Living Association holds a contest for inclusion in education.
I have always encouraged my daughter, and the school where my children attend, to participate in it.
My daughter, now a Grade 3 student, had previously submitted pictures of her understanding of what “inclusion” is. This year, I felt she was at an age where I can ask her questions to broaden her thoughts and ideals on what inclusion means to her personally. Having brothers with Special Needs, must impact her right?
I’ve realized that, to her, inclusion is “normal” and that I’m trying to show her how my generation is seeing it. Being in education, I drew out a visual organizer, and she really didn’t understand what I was asking her.
I learned a very important lesson that the generation I am raising, with so many other parents, is the most tolerant yet. They don’t see colour or ability, or any other discriminators. They don’t see all of the judgement we were raised with. It’s remarkable!
I believe that it is still important for inclusion to be understood, but maybe more so for our generation, and the ones before us.
Inclusion is the ability to see everyone for their value. Inclusion is everyone’s right to education. Inclusion is understanding.
And if we do right for these values, to our children, inclusion IS!

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