Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Random Kindness

   I have been thinking lately about a time that someone has reached out and randomly shown me or my kids kindness. To be clear, my close friends and family has always been supportive. Outside of that protective bubble however, I realized that, I don't have much experience with this. Most of my almost seven years of mommy experience has been laced with unkind words, stares, mean words whispered behind my back and some said to my face. I could count on both hand those few times. I have been made to feel like a failure as a mom, far more often than as a success.
  To spite this, not all too long ago something special happened. I was at church with my kids and someone that I don't know very well walked up to me and told me that my kids were so well behaved. She went on to say that she knows how hard that it is. My jaw about hit the floor. I mumbled a surprised thank you. Such a simple act. It made the rest of my day and I felt like I was on cloud nine.
  Afterwards as I thought about it I realized how revolutionary it would be if we all said something. Far too often complete strangers feel that it's ok to voice negative comments. What would the world be like if people were equally vocal about the positive things?
  The week following my random praise I was at a large grocery store. Think high ceilings, bright lights, lot of people and echoing noises. The lines were long at check out. In the line next to me was a mom. She had three kids under five. One was in a carrier strapped on the front of her. She was unloading a full cart while she talked her middle kid down from a meltdown.  I could tell by the,(oh too familiar), lack of eye contact that she expected someone to say something rude. Instead I silently watched as she used kind words towards her children. I was amazed by her. I quickly bagged my stuff and before I left I gently touched her arm and told her how impressed I was with her kids and what a good mom she was. In that fleeting moment I was able to pass on the kindness that was shown to me.
    That will bring us to Glinda. The lesson that I learned from those two experiences was that, I was not powerless, (Glinda would have been proud). Instead of just complaining about the mean looks and words, I have the power to start spreading kindness. We have the power to change the world around us. It doesn't have to be a big gesture and it doesn't cost a thing. A well placed kind word can change a day for the better just as much as a unkind word can for the worst. Go, ahead and give it a try. Besides the world needs more Dorothys and less Wicked Witches.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Ghost of Bullies Past

   Memories are funny. The smallest things can trigger them. Sometimes the memory is still so fresh that it seems like yesterday....
   This morning in the hustle and bustle of getting out the door, something triggered a memory for my son. We had just turned down the school road. It was a beautiful morning. My son's voice rang out clearly from the back seat. He slowly and carefully enunciated each syllable. My stomach suddenly in knots, my head hurt. My heart hurt.
  Last fall, August of 2014, there was a new student in my son's special day class. He seemed nice but there was something.  I couldn't put my finger on it. You know that mama gut feeling?
   It was about a month or so in to the semester. My son became agitated. He would come home from school scripting words that he had never used. They were mean, aggressive words. I tried to get out of him where he heard them. I told his teacher and she was on the alert too. He started running again.  His progress stopped. He went backwards. I was worried. No, I was terrified.
   As I worked on getting the information from him at home, his teacher was working on him at school too.  Finally we were able to get that the new student was whispering horrible things to my son as he walked by. The other boy was doing it to everyone. My son was the only one who stood up to him. Slowly the bully became focused on my son. The more that the school tried to protect and correct the worse it got.
  School, a place that should be safe, had been turned into a war zone. Every day I could feel the tension build. I felt like I had stepped out of my body. I was watching someone else's life. I've heard it talked about on the news. I have read about other's experiences.This wasn't cut and dry like I imagined it would be. A little boy who has a disability, he had to have been treated like this by someone else?  That boy was hurting.  He was passing on the pain to someone else. I found myself both heartbroken for the bully and protective of my son.  If his abuse came from his home who would protect him?
   As much as I cried and prayed it got worse. Then one day it happens, the final straw. This other boy threatened to kill my son, in front of several aids and a teacher. The other boy was suspended and his parents pulled him out of my son's school. He never came back. I'm not sure what has happened to him. I pray that he is safe and gets help.
  The last day that the other boy was sent home early my son's mood had done a complete turn around. My son began to return to his normal happy self. Every day I could see him grow and heal.
   What happened this morning is why I am writing this. As we turned into the school road from the backseat came the name of that other boy. My son was talking about him being a mean boy. And that he didn't play with him. When the mean boy talked to him he would tell a teacher. He said yesterday... my heart sank even deeper.  Something that happened months ago felt like yesterday to him. His memory so fresh still. When we got to school I reminded him that the boy isn't there anymore. That he didn't have to worry, he is safe now.
  As I gave my son's teacher a good morning hug I whispered into her ear what he had been talking about. So, that she was forewarned. I wasn't sure if he was going to bring it up to her.
  When I drove away from school I realized that it was time to write about it. I couldn't at first. In fact many of my close friends and family never knew. I want to share it now in hopes that if you ever find your child, even non verbally seems out of sorts, please find out why. My son lived a nightmare for about a month before we put all of the pieces together. They say that time heals all wounds. I hope that they are right. For our family it has only just begun.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Year of Change

  We are quickly approaching the one year anniversary of my son's diagnosis. This has been a busy year filled with change and learning. I think that out of our little family, I may have been the one who changed and learned the most. Some of these lesson have been painful. I want to share some of it with you. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. Or at least find comfort knowing that you aren't alone. Because you need to...

1. Be kind to your self
Yes, I did think at a year old that my son could have been autistic. Instead he was almost six when he was diagnosed. Making him ineligible for all of the early childhood interventions. I have felt way too much guilt over it. I have had to let it go. The only thing that the guilt was doing was sapping my, much needed, energy from the here and now. I did the best that I could with what I knew. That my friends is the only thing that we can do.

This leads us to...

2. Listen to your gut
I can't stress this enough. I have learned this the hard way. If you feel that there is something up with your child then push for an evaluation. The worst case is that you can be wrong. Best case is that you are saving everyone from unnecessary misery. You bypass number one. It is a win/win. There will be times that you will be the unpopular voice. Everyone may doubt you. The fact is that we as the parent some times pick up on stuff that no one else may see. The last piece that led me to seek an evaluation for my son was another bloggers journey. I found my self saying far too often, "wow her daughter is just like my son and she is autistic."

 3. You are your child's best advocate
If you see your child struggling speak up. If you see a big change in behavior find out why. Don't be afraid to ask questions. They need you to. Many of our children have a hard time communicating with words. You have to become a professional at under standing their form of communication. Verbal and non verbal. I always think of Grover from Sesame Street, " I will unleash my powers of observation!" Be quiet and watch. They will tell you what is wrong even if it isn't with words.

4.You are not alone
One wonderful thing about the internet is that you are able to connect to a whole world of people who have been there done that. No judgment, no questions just love and acceptance. If you look and are patient you will find your tribe. I had spent six years of not knowing why. I was doing everything right. Why was my son so different? Why was our family so different? It turned out we/he isn't/weren't I was just looking in the wrong place.

5.The Golden Rule is not for the weak
Treating others the way that you want to be treated includes folks with a different opinion. That includes on the internet. Yes, you have arrived at your opinion thru research and careful thought.That doesn't mean that people with opposing views haven't gone thru the same means to form their opinion. I am not saying that there aren't absolute truths. What I am saying is that the other person deserves respect just like you. Walk away if necessary. If you don't want people using hurtful words towards you, then don't use hurtful words towards others.

This is a big one, so hear me out...

6. Autism is not the worst that could happen
My initial response to my son's diagnoses was, what can I do to fix him? After spending time reading the writings of adults with autism and families living with autism, my paradigm has shifted.  I realized that he is who he is and it is ok. He isn't broken. He just needed new ways to navigate the world around him. I am always telling my children that everyone is different and that it is good. I want to be very clear. If your child needs speech therapy, get them into speech therapy. If they need help to learn how to deal with sensory overload, then get them occupational therapy. Yes you should help them be the best them that they can be. Just like you would do with any child. Autism, however, is not an affliction.

   Yesterday I was told how much my son's classmate with loves my son. I was told that it is because my son is always kind to him. Of all of his accomplishments the kindness and love in his heart, I am the most proud of. When I was pregnant with my son my husband and I used to talk. We decided that out of all of our hopes and dreams for him, there were two things that were supreme.  They were that he would always know that we love him unconditionally and the other was that he would be able to love others.  I feel like in its own way things have gone full circle.  How can that apply to you?

7. No matter the path the goal is still the same
You may have just been told that your child is autistic. Maybe you are a year in like me. Or you may be the seasoned, warrior mom who is smiling at my naivety. Who ever you are and where ever you are on your journey. My goals,(yours, ours), as a mom don't change the second I got the diagnosis. I still want the same things for my son. The path has just changed.