"High functioning." "Low functioning." Labels that help us understand and compartmentalize people and behaviour are often misleading when it comes to actual ability to function. Norms and societal expectations (aka, stereotypes) have a funny way of doing that.Read More
When I was growing up during the years we lived in central Florida, my mother was a special education teacher. Her class had children in it who could not be put in mainstream classrooms - not even by today's more lenient standards.
I asked my mom to let me go to the school where she taught, even though we lived less than two blocks from an elementary school. Every day after my class got out, I went to my mom's classroom and we would often have a student or two or three who remained at school for a variety of reasons. It wasn't unusual for mom to give students a ride home or assist their parents on errands. In one instance, I recall taking a profoundly deaf boy (with severe anxiety if I remember the situation accurately) to be fitted with new hearing aids. He screamed almost the entire time until his hearing aids were fitted.
In another instance, mom went to each of her students' houses to pick them up and brought them back to our house for a sleepover the night before the Special Olympics. That particular year, they were held at the school close to our house and the families of many of her students could not transport them to the event. (Things were very different 30 years ago.)
I am not a teacher. I couldn't do the kind of work my mother did. But I learned so much from the care she took with the students in her class. I learned that children can be born with any number of challenges that may or may not be obvious at first. By far, the most important thing that I learned (even back then) is that there is help and people do care.
I was really blessed to have those few years that I remember of Mom teaching. Her health forced her to make a career change when I was eight. As an adult, I never feared having a child born with a learning disability or emotional or mental handicaps, as such conditions were called back then. (Sorry. I'm not up on the current terminology at all anymore.)
I've never been more thankful for being the daughter, sister and sister-in-law of special educators than I was on December 12th when I was told that my son has PDD-NOS. It was expected. I heard the words finally and I knew what I had to work with. There were no tears or regrets about anything I've done. I didn't feel a need to grieve over any aspect of Brandon's diagnosis. He has autism, but his future is as bright as it ever was.
Brandon's diagnosis changes little about what we're doing, except that more services open up to us with his diagnosis, but we were already on the right track. We will keep going the way we have been and I'm confident he'll continue to make really good progress.
I couldn't be prouder of him than I am. He is a truly sweet child with a lovely disposition (most of the time). He's funny and smart and so happy. It's exciting to watch this amazing little person growing up and learning new things. He will be fantastic - I have no doubt about it.
As a mother I find myself doubting my worth far too often. I know I’m not alone.
When I see stories of families who are raising children with special needs (of any kind) there is almost always some amazing hook to the story.
Maybe the mom is teaching her kids the alphabet thru cooking with whole foods that have no sugar or any preservatives.
Maybe the dad has taught his kids to sing and all six children are learning different instruments to become the next Von Trap family.
I, however, feel very average. I’m not crafty or artistic. (Matt will tell you. I draw a frog and it looks like a deformed cat.)
What can I do to help Brandon discover the best parts of himself? How can I facilitate that which I don’t yet even know myself?
One thing I know without a doubt: Brandon is the child of my dreams. I longed to hold him in my arms for six long years. He’s brought so much joy to our lives.
I will make him laugh.
I will teach him interesting (and occasionally boring) things.
I will be silly with him.
I will guide him.
Somehow, what I have to offer will be enough.