Archives for posts with tag: special needs

I put off watching the movie Wonder for a long time. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out why. I knew this movie would potentially hit me HARD.

My daughter convinced me to purchase the pre-release and have a movie night.

Part One

I was instantly hit with emotions and ones that I didn’t expect. I surprised myself by instantly judging this family for homeschooling their son for so many years, and THEN deciding to integrate him into middle school.

I was thankful for the strength and support we received when registering the boys for school, and that the idea of keeping them home never occurred.

What I’ve learned, and what I feel we’ve done right, is building an accepting and open, honest relationship around the boys and school. Inclusion isn’t even a term we use anymore, it’s a way of being.

The students are excepting of the fact that the boys are different, and I truly believe that they are all more tolerant of each other because of it. They have grown with understanding that we all bring unique strengths and needs to the table and everyone has value. These kids love and support my guys and want them included in everything, and do their best to make it happen.

The benefits of having “Special Needs” kids included in mainstream education far outways any reason not to, in my opinion.

Part 2

The other thing that really hit me with this movie was the sibling piece. My heart used to ache for our daughter. One of my most painful days was when she exclaimed, “Why can’t my brothers be like everyone else’s brothers!”

The impact (in the movie) on the sister was visible.

We’ve always made certain that our girl was never given responsibilities out of normal sister responsibilities. Although she retrieved diapers and wipes for us for far too many years!

We’ve always tried to make her feel special in her own right, but she’s taken the back seat time and again. She’s become (or maybe always has been) one of the most beautiful, compassionate and kind people I know. The more we move on this journey, the more I know we’re doing ok, that she is going to be okay. I’m confident that we’ve given her the tools she needs to continue to be an awesome person!

The movie depicts some jealousy or resentment perhaps, and I don’t doubt that will happen more than a few times in our girl’s life. I then think to “normal” sibling relationships and am pretty sure that’s happening in those ones too!

Putting it altogether, this movie pulled and yanked at my heart, I think because it was so true to the emotion I have felt in the past 10 years. I appreciate that it has provided a perspective to those not in this world, a tiny glimpse into what a rollercoaster we ride.

And what a ride it is!

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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.

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!

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…

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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So I recently wrote a guest blog post for Bloom, a special needs parenting blog affiliated with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Find it here
I am completely humbled and amazed at the number of people that found the link and read it! Today, again, a colleague at work stopped me in a lunch room to comment on how much she loved the post and forwarded it to everyone she knew! Like, HELLO?!? Me? You read about me?!
I absolutely don’t write for the public, I honestly do not. I have found a quiet passion and hobby in writing. I feel that it is a beautiful avenue to express myself, and get all of these extra ideas and thoughts out! I’m not sure if it’s a “mom” thing, but I feel like with the endless ‘To-Do’ lists, appointments, schedules, my brain can’t handle extra things floating around!!! And I don’t always have someone available to chat with! This is my conversation. Sad, I know, but lately I’m beginning to realize that I’m NOT having this conversation alone.
In a world where we feel so isolated sometimes, as parents of Special Needs kids, admittedly often self inflicted, it is nice to know that I am being heard.
We all have stories to tell, we can all learn from those around us.
I am blessed to have people interested in what I say, and I thank you all!
I am living life with gratitude.

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.

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