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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.

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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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I’ve written before about inclusion. I’d like to take the opportunity to bring it up again, seeing as February is “Inclusion Month.”
The term inclusion to me is tainted. It comes with so much confusion, and anxiety, when really it is SO SIMPLE!
My definition of inclusion is this : treat everyone as though they have something to contribute to your life and society around you.
Inclusion doesn’t need to be muddled with policy and paperwork and all of that jazz!
Inclusion is understanding that not everyone will be a rocket scientist, a star athlete, an ‘A’ student, a public speaker, a janitor, a McDonalds burger maker!
We all have our place in society, we are all different, we are all raised differently, we all have something to contribute!
I support “inclusive education” for my boys because, although they don’t follow typical curriculum, and can’t skate with the class, and can’t tell anyone what their favourite toy means to them, they are providing everyone around them a sense of life without a voice and limited motor abilities. They are living life with COMPLETE joy. They demonstrate LOVE for EVERY. SINGLE. HUMAN. BEING!
This generation which we are raising will be the MOST tolerant yet!! They will understand and whole heartedly accept that WE ARE ALL SPECIAL!
I am so grateful for my family every single day. Even though there are great challenges, I know that I am surrounded by something special.
I know it is difficult to change the misconceptions and attitudes we have been raised with, but understand how simple the term is.
Please, I ask, ponder it for just a moment and share the word.

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I have the great opportunity to spend time at my kids’ school on Fridays when I’m a Hot Lunch Mom, interpret that any way semantically you want, because they are ALL applicable (lol).
I love meeting classmates, and friends and speaking to teachers and getting a feel for everyday climate in the school. I love when the students rush us and say you’re “so-and-so’s” Mom!! It’s very cute.
I love hearing stories of the boy’s antics, and how much they are loved. I love hearing my daughter’s classmates say “remember when…” Discussing their last play date or sleepover.
I had a conversation with someone recently about how I am involved in so much, and have a lot on my hands. I simply stated that I would rather be involved, than sit idly by.
I wouldn’t trade anything for being tired, and schedule strapped, because I am fully involved with my children. I am making sure that I know their school, their friends, and the communities they are involved in.
Having kids with disability, I’ve decided that I have no right to criticize service or knowledge, if I don’t partake in the planning and process. Although, I think I would probably be this way regardless of disability or not! It all started actually when my daughter started school!
My boys, due to them being non-verbal, can’t tell me about their friends, and what happens during their day. My daughter can come home and describe every detail, if she desires. But with the boys I need to see, to understand.
I can’t easily “get out” with the 3 kids, so this is my alternative, go to them! It may seem like a sad social life, but I’ll take it! Besides, the school makes it pretty easy! Fabulous teachers, who are proving to be fabulous friends as well, and other FABULOUS “HOT” lunch moms!
This isn’t the life that I expected, but I’m making do, and rolling with the punches.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

There is something powerful about getting in front of a group of people and talking about yourself. To be completely open and honest, and let people know what your world is like.
I’ve recently had opportunity to do so on a few occasions, and I feel empowered!
How else can we change the perceptions of others without allowing them to view ours?
You see, I’m not professing that I’m doing things right in my life, but I’m definitely learning to understand and accept myself!
I was asked to speak to a parent group, one for parents often just coming into the slightly intimidating world of special needs parenting. A friend, a local Social Worker, emailed to ask if I would be interested in coming and speaking on the month’s topic “Stress and Coping”.
For those of you who know me well, know about my stress levels, and probably had a quiet chuckle that I was asked to do this particular topic. I am open about my stress and vent to those friends I am comfortable with, as we all should.
I think we all have varying levels of stress, in different parts of our lives, and we all cope differently to each of those stressors.
My philosophy with stress is , that to truly cope with it, is to be true and honest about it. We need to know that we can’t eliminate all stress, but we can cope. We don’t have to always cope gracefully or quietly, but we can do things to alleviate most stress.
Now what I told these parents are tidbits of wisdom that so many parents before me, had passed down to me. Maybe I’ll list them for you:
*don’t sweat the small stuff, really- you have bigger things to focus on!
*don’t lose sight of yourself, your child, your family. What others label you or your child as doesn’t have to change who you are, whether individually or a “unit”. Make your new normal!! ( and try to LOVE it)
*its ok to feel sad, stressed, angry, etc! We’re still human! Nothing will change that. Dwelling on any of those emotions will only keep us longer from the BEST emotion – HAPPINESS
*remember who you are as a couple , minus the kids. It’s so easy to fall into “team” mentality, and lose sight of why you decided to create this crazy family in the first place. Make the time for you as a couple!!!
*find some time for you, and just you. You may not get the time to go for a run, or go to a yoga class everyday, and you may not get that nap you want, but whatever fits in that moment, during that day, do it!! It may be enjoying that piece of chocolate you snuck when the kids weren’t looking, or sipping a glass of wine while cooking….
And finally…
BREATHE. Just remember to breathe.

I’ve often been told that my husband and I are the “right fit” for having kids with disabilities…. I’ll let you ponder that statement for a moment…
Now, I can completely understand where people are coming from when they say this, because my husband is a Developmental Services Worker, who works with individuals who have intellectual and/or physical disabilities. I, myself, work with children of all abilities, to provide intervention to improve their communication and language abilities.
So, on paper, in technicality, I guess, yes, we are qualified to handle kids with disabilities.
I don’t want to offend anyone who may have told me this in the past, because, truly, I understand the sentiment, and I understand it’s difficult to say something, in fear of offending me (I’m a little sensitive at times.)
But …..I’ve thought about this statement over the last few years, because every once in a while, it pops up again.
I can tell you, no matter what type of education and training you have, you are never ready for ANY child, let alone, a special needs child.
I believe we ALL have the capacity to love unconditionally, no matter how our children grow. We love them through thick and thin.
I’m sure any one of you could raise a child with special needs. It would be much different, but… You could do it!
I can’t tell you how life is WITHOUT because I don’t know, but it’s not really that different. Yes, you look around and wish your kid wasn’t the one wearing diapers. And, you wish that your child could play more independently without worrying about his safety. Most of all, you wish your child could tell you what’s wrong and how his day is going.
But I can tell you something that I think we all do, and most of us do really well!
We SURVIVE!
We are all flying by the seat of our pants! None of us know what tomorrow will bring, none of us know how we will react in a new situation. ALL of us DO HOPE that we are doing the BEST JOB WE CAN, and our children become the best human beings they can be!
I thank you all for the confidence you have in me (and my husband), but really I have full confidence that you would deal, and will deal with what gets thrown at you too!!!

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