Navigating Educational Trauma as a Parent

Like anything in life there are sides to every story…..often multiple sides.

My post about Parenting Trauma within the Educational System seemed to hit a chord with many and I believe its a huge opportunity for conversation.

Within the Education System we have:
– kids who are traumatized
– parents who are traumatized
– educators, administrators and support staff who are traumatized

There’s a lot of trauma.

And……no ones trauma outweighs another. Every trauma is valid and some how we have to figure out a way to navigate a system filled with traumatized people, who are doing their best; and have the end result be a safe, inclusive space for all to grow and thrive.

It’s an unfortunate reality that, at any given time, our best may be super messy and awkward. Just like our little ones……some days, their best may be flailing around on a floor screaming. And that “best” is better than lashing out at another person. As humans, we have the opportunity to come along side and support those who are struggling.

Navigating trauma that has been inflicted on your child, is brutal. While there are times that people intentionally inflict trauma on others; I would say that the majority of trauma within the education system, is not done purposefully. People don’t go into education with the intent to harm kids.

Regardless of whether its intentional or not, trauma happens and when we know better, we must do better; which is why awareness, and communication are so important.

When trauma is triggered, the brain shuts down and communication and learning are impaired. This is true for kids and for adults.

I’m aware that I hold trauma in my body and mind regarding my children and the Education system. When triggered, I try really hard to pause before I react and to filter what I say and feel; or to find someone who can help me regulate But, there are times when past trauma is triggered and all I do is react.

When trauma is triggered, my brain goes into overdrive. My thoughts immediately start racing. At the same time, everything is a bit of a fog. My only goal is to protect my kids, at any and all cost. Unfortunately, there can be fall out. In moments of fight/flight, I may say things that rational me wouldn’t say. I can feel my heart racing and my body tenses. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I can literally feel the surge of adrenaline washing over me as I prepare to fight or flee.

It feels awful!

And I know that many of you have been there; and many of you are there.

My hope, in posting about this, is to bring awareness. Awareness to parents, awareness to educators, awareness to people who have no clue that this happens. I believe that with awareness, there is opportunity to talk, to communicate more openly; and ultimately, to grow and heal. In order for relationship to build and grow, there has to be communication.

I believe that the “end goal” is that we all want children to grow and learn and be successful.

In the midst of trauma, its easy to loose sight of that. The Fight/Flight instinct kicks in and we go into Battle Mode.

As parents, its beneficial to know if we carry trauma regarding the Education System. We need to know that the trauma taints everything we see, hear, say, experience…….

I’m not saying that there haven’t been “wrongs” committed.

Because there have been “wrongs”. That’s a fact.

But how do we, as humans, work together towards growth and relationship. Especially, when we have a child (or children) in the middle of it all.

How can we communicate respectfully with each other?
How can we hear each other?
How can we come to an agreement with each other?
How can we be partners rather than adversaries?

I know this is a lofty ideal.

I don’t know exactly how to make it happen. I don’t believe that what’s currently happening is working; and I want to be a part of a change.

Here are some of the ways that I hope to affect change.

Awareness I think speaking about trauma and other issues; and sharing openly and vulnerably is important. I can’t tell you how many people message me saying they “get it” or are going through the same thing. They say that it feels so good to know they’re not alone on this journey. That means the world to me because I know that I’m not alone.

RelationshipI have purposed to build relationship on a peer level with the people in my kids lives. This doesn’t mean that we are “besties”. But, I want them to know me as Patti, the person; and I want to know them as the person they are. Making relationship critical, means that when I’m feeling hurt by something or someone, I have a bigger chance of “pausing” before I say something hurtful to another human. It’s easy to rail against a system……and less easy when you really see the person in front of you.

RespectIf I had to choose one building block to build my life on, it would be respect. I want to act and speak respectfully regardless of how I’m treated. I’m human and fallible but this is one virtue I make every effort to embody. I believe that if you are a respectful person, as a general rule, you will be treated with respect. If you can continue to be respectful, even in the midst of difficulty, you will gain more respect. It’s just the way it works. That doesn’t mean you need to be a doormat and let people walk all over you. Part of living a respectful life is also having self respect and knowing what to accept and what to let go of; but speaking the truth with respect is powerful.

I’m not a policy maker. I’m not a name or organization within the system. I’m just a mom trying to affect change within my realm of influence; and these are just 3 of the ways that I hope to affect change.

I do, wholeheartedly, believe in the ripple effect. We have an opportunity every year to bring awareness, and respect to our relationships with the educators/administrators, parents and support staff that we come in contact with. It’s my hope that awareness, respect and relationship are the legacy that I leave behind, with every grade that my children pass through.

Don’t ever think that you don’t have any influence. We do have influence. Be a force for change. Be a positive influence and see what happens. It may take time, but I believe that it’s worth it.


Parenting PTSD, the Educational Version

I recently received an email that sent me into an absolute tailspin.

I’ve just realized that with all the info blacked out, this email could be for any one of them, because all 3 of my boys have the same initials. All 3 have IEP’s and “school teams”.

Do you see anything wrong or even remotely threatening or negative about this email?

Nope! Neither do I and I asked for a meeting. Regardless, as I lay in bed, my heart started to race and the thoughts in my head sped out of control.?

What if they are upset with my child?
What if they are upset with me?
What if they are going to tell me that it’s too much effort to support my child?
What if they chalk his issues up to bad parenting instead of trauma?
What if they judge me?
What if they are tired of trying?
What if they put it all back on me to solve and fix?

And the thoughts spiral out of control until I’m choking back the tears and barely holding myself together.?

{I know that these are “what if’s….” and I really don’t want to live in the world of “what if’s….” because….what if it all goes amazingly well? And really what does it matter if someone thinks poorly of my child. I know the truth. But truth doesn’t always vanquish the trauma…..at least not right away.}

This is Parenting PTSD, the Educational version.In the past, I’ve had administrators and teachers say those things about my child. I’ve heard those things said to me, said about my child, and said when it was presumed that I wasn’t listening. To hear those things, destroys a piece of your heart, mind and soul. It breaks your ability to trust, to really even hear at all, let alone with an open heart and soul.

It is devastating to hear that people feel your child is too difficult, too much effort, or just not worth the effort.

While I know that currently, we have people on our teams who actually care for my boys, that past wounding, that TRAUMA is still there. It’s runs deep and it excruciatingly painful.

As a parent of a child with extra needs, you are already soul crushingly weary but usually with no real option or opportunity to rest. You are almost always in fight or flight mode. If for some blessed reason you aren’t there, it only takes one second to be activated …..sometimes when it’s not even necessary.

I’m extra exhausted right now and pretty close to the edge of tears, most of the time.

I’m not alone in this, either. There are thousands of parents, with kids who have challenges, who feel traumatized from dealing with the people within the education system.

We are desperate for people to truly see our children for the wonders that they are. We are desperate for someone to share all the good and amazing things that they see about our children. We are desperate for people to look beyond the challenging behaviour, to see what our children are saying, to listen and really hear their hearts. To champion them into becoming all they they can be and even more.

We are desperate for people to see our children as human beings; and as valuable, worthy and important as the typical kids.

On our end, it takes the courage of showing up and being there even when you don’t know if it will make a difference or if you’ll get hurt again. It takes vulnerability to share your hurts, your ideas, your successes and your failures.

If you work within the education system, know that you have parents and children who are incredibly triggered right now.

show love,
show compassion,
show mercy,
show grace,
show acceptance.

Invest in relationship.
Foster communication.
Build trust.
Be Respectful.
Be a life line.

And the benefits will be innumerable.

But recognize that there is Trauma and it’s not going anywhere soon.

Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Facing It Head On

I’m having a hard time settling down tonight.

We had an appointment today regarding one of our kids. This is not our first time having an appointment like this but I don’t think they get any easier.

As parents, we want to see the best in our kids. We talk to other parents about their achievements. A typical parent may brag about their child being on the honour roll or a sports club their child was invited to be a part of. They may share about the recognition their child received in Cadets or Guides.

Special needs parents want to share about the wonders of our children, too. But our pride may be in the fact that our child spoke at 8 years old, or learned to tie their shoe laces at 14, or shared a beloved and sacred item with a sibling. We are ecstatic (and often terrified) when they get invited to a birthday party or for a play date .

Would you even consider bragging that your child got invited to a birthday party or for a play date? It’s ok if that would never cross your mind, it just means that we function in different circles, on this great earth of ours.

Here’s something else that’s different…..

Parents of typical kids will probably never experience this situation, and if that is you, count yourself blessed. It’s a special kind of hell to go to an appointment and speak and share about all the ways your child is missing the mark. To spend a couple of hours talking “down” about your child. To fill in form, after form, after form, about all the things your child can’t do, and specifically doesn’t do, well.

You almost have to disassociate from yourself to do this. But you MUST do this, in order to get your child the supports they need.

So you do it, regardless of the fact that it goes against every parental instinct to cherish and protect. You dig out all the dirt and ugliness; and you lay it out there for all to see.

It’s hard because it’s not like you don’t know that there are things your child struggles with, but when you put it all together in one pile, at one time…..it’s overwhelming; and frankly, soul crushing.

That pile of crap in that picture up above……it’s all the stuff I swept out from under my couch. Some of it is garbage. Some of it is useful. Some is necessary. Some was misplaced.

It’s easier to know it’s there; but to only focus on what’s in front of you. If the room looks okay, then it’s good, right?

Its when you sweep it all out into the open that you are faced with a challenge. You can start sorting and do the work and effort that’s required to place things in order. You can throw it all out. Or You can sweep it back under.

You can’t throw “this situation” out or throw “this” away; and ignoring it doesn’t work out well for anyone. There really is only one appropriate option and that’s to put in the time and effort and to “sort things out”. As a parent of special needs children, those are two things that I have the smallest reserves of……time and energy!

But I will get up tomorrow and try to figure out what the next steps are because that is what you do when you love someone with all your heart and soul. When your goal is to help them succeed and be the very best “them” that they can be; you do whatever you can do.

If you have children with disabilities, you’re either nodding in agreement or horrified at what you may soon be asked to do.

If you don’t have children with disabilities, know that your friends, acquaintances, those parents……..they go through things that are tough. They do things that no parent ever wants to do; and they do it so they can afford their child the best in life. But those parents, they are tired. They are often overwhelmed. They may feel like they’ve betrayed the wonder and beauty of their child, in the name of “support”. The hardest part is that that there are no guarantees. You may not get the supports that are needed and then it feels like it was all for nothing; and that’s REALLY tough.

Parents of typical kids, I’m sharing so you can know…….so you can be aware…..so you can show compassion.

Not pity. Not ever pity.

But awareness, seeking to understand, and compassion are huge gifts that you can give us parents of kids with differences.

Take Aways…….

  • Be aware
  • Seek to understand
  • Have compassion
  • Be kind – Always Be kind!

No Shame

It’s been over 5 years since I started taking meds and my life radically changed for the better.

I grew up with anxiety but I thought that everyone felt like me, thought like me, lived and struggled like me. I had no idea that it wasn’t typical to overthink everything and worry about everything and wonder what everyone thought of you and if they thought you were weird or stupid. I thought it was normal to try to do everything 100% perfectly and then after an event or meeting or get together, to go over everything you said and did and muse about how someone might have interrupted or taken what you said in a negative way; and to totally beat yourself up for just not being good enough.

I thought everyone was really good at life and that I just needed to try harder. I thought I just needed to be more confident or work harder to be perfect so people wouldn’t think I was weird or strange.

I sort of coped. I’d probably say that I survived my childhood and teen years…..even into my married life. And then we had some financial struggles, work issues, church issues, a stillbirth, secondary infertility, more work and financial issues, parenting issues and then we added in a few years of childhood cancer and special needs.

By that point, I had zero reserves left to even survive. I hadn’t slept more than a few broken hours in over 3 years. I was exhausted and SO lonely. I was broken. So very broken.

In the past, I’d had health care professionals ask if I felt I was depressed. Depression never seemed to fit, especially when I looked into it and read up on symptoms. I didn’t feel depressed….but something wasn’t right. I felt like it took every ounce of effort I had to just survive and even then, I was doing a lousy job of it.

In 2012, I was looking into what anxiety was, for someone else, I came across an article and checklist and I could check every single box. I booked an appointment with my Dr, took the list in and said, “I have anxiety. I’ve struggled with this my entire life and had no idea it was an actual thing. I check every box on this list. And this is the first time, “I” understand why I have struggled and what I have struggled with.

I asked for meds and I truly feel that was the beginning of me “actually living” instead of just surviving.

I spent the next year, feeling more and more calm and still within myself. It was unreal to me to feel my thoughts settle and for the anxiety to quiet. I finally felt like I wasn’t “fighting” myself all of time. I had the opportunity to breathe and to replenish and to recover.

Taking meds, understanding anxiety, getting counselling and talking about it have been life changing for me.

I have (with my Dr.) tweaked my doses over the years, sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing; and sometimes switching things up. Always with the goal of having me be my best self and living my best life.

If you are thriving without meds, awesome; but if you are struggling, don’t ever be ashamed or feel like you are a failure for needing and accepting help.

I still struggle. I still have anxiety. Sometimes it’s brutal; but most of time, I’m doing well.

I may need meds for the rest of my life and I’m okay with that. If it means the difference between enjoying life or barely surviving, I’ll choose enjoying life every time.

I will never be ashamed of needing help, asking for help and accepting help. I hope you won’t be either.

Today, I am so very thankful for this handful of meds. They have changed my life.

What are you thankful for?

BEING

Judah is at school.
I’m kind of in shock.
Let me be clear, I am NOT in school at this exact moment.

I took Hot Lunch to school for Siah, as a treat. Off handedly, I asked if Jude would like to stay with Siah and he agreed.  This afternoon is Art in his class or Games Group with the most amazing EA.  He said he’d like to stay for Art.  He was a little concerned about the 15 minutes of Daily Physical Activity but we’ve worked an arrangement for him and at this exact moment….the plan is that I will pick him and Siah up at the end of the school day.

I left the school almost scared and feeling really weird.  I don’t have my little shadow with me.  I was sure  he was going to come tearing out of the school after me begging to come home and saying that he’s changed his mind.  Nope!

I came home and wandered around, feeling a little lost.  I made lunch for myself and then surveyed my kingdom.  It’s in pretty rough shape.  My first thought was:

“I SHOULD clean this up. I ONLY have a short window of time.”

My second thought was:

“I don’t want to.”

So, I have curled up on the couch, with my laptop, in the middle of my mess.  I’ve put music on and am having a cup of tea.

I feel frantic, like I’m wasting an opportunity to “DO” things.  The list of things I COULD do is way TOO LONG!

The list of things I WANT to do, is also TOO LONG.

What’s more important than DOING ALL THE THINGS, is BEING!

I probably won’t get the opportunity to do much “resting” after I do nothing…..but in doing nothing, I am resting.

I COULD DO all the things but all those things will still be there when I’m done just “BEING.”

So for today, I’m breathing deeply and holding onto this moment.

A Small Dose of Saturday Morning Trauma

I got a call about 10 o’clock this morning. I could hear Siah screaming in the background. Jon hollered at me over the screaming, “I need you to come and get Siah.”

Not even finished my first cup of coffee and hair and make up not done…..I raced out of the house and down the street to our dentists office.

I walked in the door and they ushered me to a back room where I found this.

Good Saturday morning to you too!

Nothing like a spectacular dose of trauma to start the weekend.

It’s dental work. My boys needed fillings. How simple is that? Go in, get it done….BAM!

Not that simple.

I sat in the recovery room with Siah and listened to Judah screaming through 2 closed doors.

It’s hard to think straight when your world feels torn to shreds by trauma. When anxiety overwhelms to the point that nothing makes any sense. When trauma tells you that you are in terrifying danger. When you brain lies to you and it doesn’t matter because you can’t think beyond this exact moment of terror.

Siah was curled in a ball, yelling and screaming at me for letting them hold him down. He was so upset that I couldn’t even touch him or comfort him.

In the end, it’s more traumatizing for us because now that they have settled and the meds have worn off, they don’t even really remember what happened. Yay for the meds actually working.

I say that as sarcastically as I can because I was called there…..without the benefit of mind numbing meds, to witness and experience it all. To be hit and kicked, in fear. To be rejected and not allowed to give comfort.

As soon as he settled some, I traded off with Jon to go and see Judah, who was terrified, mostly because he heard Siah panicking. And being unable to see what was actually happening….he assumes the worse.

Siah actually finished his dental work. Judah wouldn’t let them near him…..even cracked out on meds.

We made it home eventually.

We’ll have to cough up the insane costs to have Judah sedated to actually get the work done.

Anxiety sucks.

Watching someone you love suffer from anxiety is brutal.

Experiencing anxiety is brutal.

Can I encourage you to have compassion for those you know who deal with mental health issues?

I’m gonna get up tomorrow, put make up on and go and sing my heart out. You’d never know what I experienced today by just looking at me…..and I’m not looking for pity.

Compassion and understanding though…..definitely. Especially when my boys are acting out and I have nothing left to give but I dig deep and create energy out of nothing.

But my sharing is not just about me. Be kind and compassionate to those parents and kids you know who struggle…….you have no idea what they really are going through and I guarantee you they won’t share the reality.

It would be too much to handle.

It is too much to handle.

Dear School System…..

To the School System,

This year has been an extremely tough one for our family.

I’ve been a parent in the School System for 15 years, and was a student, myself, for 13 years (K-12).

I had no issues.  I found school to be easy….probably too easy.  I definitely didn’t try hard enough and still got mostly great marks.  Sure, I re-did Math 10 (3rd times the charm, right?) but I didn’t care one bit about sin/cos/tan or graphing.  Never have used it.

I believe that over the past 11 years, my sons (and I) have been repeatedly traumatized by the School System.

I understand that is a weighty sentence, but I fully believe it to be true.

Trauma is described as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.  It doesn’t have to be a death or violent event for someone to perceive a situation as traumatic.

Complex trauma is:

  • Chronic
  • Begins in early childhood, and
  • Occurs within the child’s primary caregiving system and/or social environment

Typically, complex trauma exposure involves the simultaneous or sequential occurrence of child maltreatment and may include psychological maltreatment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing domestic violence.

Exposure to these initial traumatic experiences, the resulting emotional dysregulation, and the loss of safety, direction, and the ability to detect or respond to danger cues may impact a child’s development over time and can lead to subsequent or repeated trauma exposure in adolescence and adulthood without supports that might buffer the negative effects.

 

I have two sons that have experienced repeated distressing and disturbing experiences within the school system.  They both have a diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Cognitively, one son is average and the other is superior…..that also brings in another layer of complexity.

We have fought on behalf of our boys, for the last 11 years.

There has been misunderstanding of their specific disabilities and needs.
There has been mistreatment by well meaning but un-informed teachers.
There has been GROSS misjudgment of stress behaviors.
There has been repeated segregation, alone, in medical rooms.
There has been denial of child specific supports as defined by diagnosis.
There has been brutal bullying with no consequences for the bullies.
There has been denial of access to opportunities because of disability, with no support.

There has been repeated emotional and mental trauma which has also resulted in physical strain on both of my boys.

It doesn’t stop there.

What affects my boys, effects our entire family.  Our family of 7 is precariously balanced on the best of days….Neuro-Diversity, and Mental Health are tough loads to carry.  Throw in any mental and emotional upheaval and there is no balance….we come crashing down.

My boys are resilient in the fact that, they get up every morning full of anxiety for what the day will accost them with.  Every social interaction is fraught with anxiety; and requires that they must decode idioms, expressions and body language.  This “social language”, that we take for granted, is foreign to them; and they struggle with learning it.  Not because they don’t try or  want to understand, but because they have a neurological difference that makes it difficult to do so.

EVERY DAY is filled with stress…..with anxiety……with sensory overload.

They don’t get a break from it.

And yet they carry on.

My boys keep walking into your schools EVERY DAY knowing that at some point they will be mentally, emotionally, or sensorily assaulted.  Maybe not on purpose, but it happens just the same….

If I slam your hand in a car door by accident and then apologize, does it make your fingers any less broken or painful?  No, the trauma is still there.  Imagine how you would feel, if people repeatedly slammed your fingers in doors.

You’d probably end up extremely jumpy and tense; and mistrustful of those around you.  It doesn’t matter how much they seem to like or try to understand you, “survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.” In fact, you’d probably not want to go where people and doors are.

But everyday, my boys continue to enter your doors, and try again……it’s insanity, really.  And I feel like I’m perpetuating the insanity….the trauma…. by encouraging them to continue to “go and trust”.

They are so very tired.

And I am so very tired!

  • I am tired of holding them when they come home crying because someone misunderstood their diagnosis and their heart.
  • I am tired of fighting every year to say the same thing and not being heard.
  • I am so very tired of being seen as someone causing conflict or someone on the “other side”.
  • I am exhausted from scraping up a weeping child who has been judged incorrectly as defiant or non-compliant.
  • I am exhausted from dealing with meltdowns as a result of pressures placed on them at school, to live up to “typical” standards.
  • I am so very weary of encouraging my children to go back to their teachers and EA’s to work “issues” out, when I believe that my child is being hurt (however unintentional) as a result of lack of knowledge and understanding.
  • I am angry that I have been fighting for 11 years for people to “see” my children….to see beyond the the stress behaviors and see their heart.
  • I am so exhausted  and traumatized from the past 11 years, that I cannot even fathom continuing to advocate for my children.  I cringe at the very thought of connecting with the schools to advocate on behalf of my boys and yet….. I must advocate for them because I am SO concerned for their mental and emotional well being, in regards to their care and treatment within the school system.

 

Dear School System,

How can we change this?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are not traumatized on a daily basis?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are recognized for the value they bring?

How can we affect change within our school system, sooner rather than later?

  • Do our children have the right to access a place where they can be encouraged to love to learn?
  • Do our children have the right to have the same opportunities as their “typical” peers?
  • Do our children have the right to access safe places, mentally, emotionally and physically, to learn and grow?

Right now, this is not the case….my children (and many others) are not being taught, trained  and encouraged in safe and meaningful ways, within the School System!

How can we fix this? How can we work together to accomplish this?

ps. It is not my intent to disparage any specific teachers that my sons have or have had.  I feel very strongly about the brokenness of the School system, specifically in regards to special needs children.  I feel that there is a HUGE lack of knowledge, in regards to working with children that are Neuro-Diverse.  I believe that there are a lot of teachers and staff are that are well-intentioned but unfortunately, unknowledgable regarding neuro-diversities.

There is a WEALTH of information available.  I’d strongly suggest Stuart Shanker’s Self Reg as a great starting point….not only to aid with Students but also with Teachers and all School System Staff, in dealing with their own stresses.

 

Connection

I posted a picture the other day….


And my thoughts keep returning to this…

We have an appointment on Wednesday to go and talk with someone at the School Board about this most recent incident with Jeremy. 

I haven’t overshared about this situation for a number of reasons.

  • I’m utterly exhausted and traumatized by it all.
  • It requires immense energy to barely hold together a sweet boy who has been traumatized by it all.
  • I alternate between anger, apathy and anguish on an hourly basis. 
  • It’s almost surreal to me except that it altogether , too real.
  • This is a culmination of years of educationally based trauma for Jeremy and us.

My brain keeps hurling words, thoughts and feelings at me and this is my attempt to capture some of those words and make sense of them all so that we can share consisely on Wednesday.

At the very Center of all of this is Jeremy.

My sweet boy.  He struggles immensely as a young boy and that was the one thing that he ALWAYS had going for him.  He was SO sweet and charming.  Couldn’t focus if his life depended on it.  Couldn’t read or write.  Couldn’t decode social situations…..but he was absolutely darling.  That was probably his biggest saving grace. 

For all of his struggles, Jeremy has been desperate to connect…..desperate for relationship.  He hasn’t been very good at it and when he was finally diagnosed at 13 years old, during his second attempt at an assessment, with Autism…..so many things made sense. 

I find it interesting and so very incredibly frustrating that the older he gets, the less patience, support and care, people seem willing to offer.  It’s like they expect him to have “gotten” it (whatever “it” is) and are more likely to judge that he’s just not trying hard enough. 

Let’s break it down extremely succinctly:

On a daily basis, with NO RELIEF, Jeremy deals with:

  • Social/emotional deficits (Autism)
  • Severe Executive Function disorder (ADHD)
  • Faulty sensory perception (sensory processing disorder)
  • Constant worry and stress (Anxiety)
  • A huge discrepancy between his academic abilities and his output (Learning Disabilities)

That’s a HUGE load to be carrying…..and he’s been carrying it for 16 years.  Its an incredible testament to his resiliency that he keeps trying every day.  That he gets up and in spite of his worries, in spite of inaccurate and hurtful judgments, in spite of constant internal and external pressures…he gets dressed, packs his bag, says “bye mom, I love you!” and heads off to school.

On an aside, Jeremy has been looking for a job.  He’s handed out a lot of resumes, but between a “special needs label” and a service dog….his job hunt hasn’t been very successful.  We’ve heard SO many positive comments about how Polite and Courteous he is.  How he is SO respectful and seems incredibly keen to work…..but nothing has translated to actual employment.  

This past week, in the middle of this chaos, Jeremy got a job.  He got a job because someone gave him an opportunity to show them what he is capable of.  The feedback we got, was that he is probably the hardest working person they’ve had.  

THAT……….THAT is who my son is.  He IS hardworking.  He IS responsible.  He IS respectful. He is DESPERATE to please and to succeed.  He WANTS to do his best……not just for you, but because working hard, being respectful, and doing your best are characteristics that we have consistently and tirelessly impressed upon him as critically important to his very being.

Down to his very soul, to the core of who he is…….Jeremy is desperate for connection….for relationship.

If you were to ask me what he wants most in this world…I would say that relationship trumps everything. 

If you were to ask me what he struggles the most with….I would also say relationships.

This is where his disability comes into play…..

Would you get angry or frustrated if a person who was missing a limb couldn’t climb a ladder as fast or as nimbly as someone with complete functioning limbs?

Would you be short tempered with someone who had a cleft palate or was in a wheelchair?

Now I realize that every disability has people who are cruel/uncaring and judgmental…..but that’s not what I’m referencing here.

How about someone who is blind…….but you didn’t realize they were blind?  You may be frustrated that they weren’t as fast and nimble at everything but as soon as you realize they are “differently abled”……more often than not, we have an “AHA!” moment and our compassion increases.

How often do we see a child having a temper tantrum in a public place and judge?

Or is our first thought, “oh I wonder what’s stressed that sweet little one to their breaking point?”

How often do we hear that a child in our child’s classroom “freaked out” and they had to clear the room; and judge that that kid is spoiled and gets away with too much?

Or is our first thought, “what perfect storm of physical/mental or emotional triggers overwhelmed him till all of his energy and ability to “hold himself together” was depleted?

Do we judge the behaviours or see the behaviours as communication? 

It doesn’t matter who you read, Stuart Shanker, Ross Greene, Gordon Neufeld, Gabor Mate, Brene Brown or countless others……..CONNECTION is CRITICAL!

We crave connection and acceptance on a very deep level.  Disconnection and rejection have a HUGE impact on humankind. Without connection, we are more easily succumbed to addiction, depression, self harm, etc.  It’s hard to find the strength to carry on when we are alone.  But when we know that we have the love and acceptance of those who care for us……..amazing things happen.  We can shine and grow.  We can reach and exceed our expected potential. 

How many inspirational stories do you hear and read about where “someone believed in me so I believed in myself and accomplished great things? What’s at the core of those stories????? Connection.  We are hard wired for connection. 
 Will you look for moments to connect, this week? Especially with someone who is struggling to connect. Reframe “behaviours” from “a terrible child” to a struggling child and ask Why they are feeling and acting this way and what is instigating the behaviours. 

To see our children as struggling and not as defiant or problematic is the start of an incredible journey towards connection that will benefit you and I and the world.. 

To Be Known and Loved

This week has been a tough one.  One of my boys has been discriminated against because of a lack of understanding of who he is, what his struggles are and what supports he needs.

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what I’ve been feeling this week.  This situation could have been avoided had there been more understanding, more inclusion, more compassion, more knowledge, and less selfishness.

If people had taken the time, energy and effort to know my son…..to really know him……they would not have treated him the way that they did.

If they had looked for and discovered his heart and soul….they would not have judged his struggles as defiance or disobedience.

If they had looked for, and discovered his abilities….then his disabilities would have been overshadowed.

If they had looked for and recognized his intense desire for relationship and connection…….they would have been able to see beyond the anxiety and disregulation.

I keep coming back to this idea of “knowing” and of “being known”.  I believe there is a desire in all of us to really, truly be known.  Maybe that thought terrifies us….maybe it excite us…..

I believe that our biggest fear in being truly seen and known, is the fear of being rejected……of not being accepted. That’s what we, all, want…isn’t it?  To be known and to be loved, exactly for who we are. I’m not saying that we should never grow or work on areas of weakness. Growth and Personal Healing are critical, but being loved and accepted for who you are is so important.

I know that this is one of my deepest desires and yet, if I’m completely honest……I’m terrified that if you truly knew me, that you’d reject me.

I don’t know why I think that.

I don’t think I’m a bad person.  I try to be authentic, open, and honest.  If you only know me online, I believe that I’m the same person in real life.  I can be funny.  I can be serious.  I try to live with compassion and not judge.  I want to exemplify love in my words and my actions. I don’t shy away from the truth, nor do I want to hurt people with it. I share about the good and the bad. I speak with way too many exclamation marks and periods……..just like I type!!! I find it difficult to speak without my hands, without using facial expressions, and my whole body.

And yet……..

I often feel like I’m too “big”…….too “expressive”…….too “expansive”……

I feel like I’m constantly diminishing my true self because my true self is overwhelming.

I LONG for connection and yet, I’m terrified of it.

And maybe this is why I feel SO strongly for my children…….I see their intense desire for connection.  I see their yearning for relationship.  I see their hunger to be known………and accepted……and cherished.

And yet,  they are big……their personalities can be larger than life.  They can be overwhelming at times. But I SEE them……I KNOW THEM!

I see their hearts.
I see their souls.
I see their goodness.
I see their kindness.
I see their compassion.
I see their innocence.
I see their love.
I see their passion.
I see their zeal.

I KNOW THEM.

And yet, they’ve been hurt….too many times!

They’ve been hurt because people didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t look beyond the struggles and disabilities to see them…..to truly KNOW them.

It hurts.
It hurts them.
It hurts me.

I believe that we miss out on some of the most precious treasures in the world, if we dismiss those who may be differently abled.

Maybe in really, truly seeing and accepting others; we too, will be seen and accepted………..what would our world look like then?

 

 

Will you……

Can you imagine waking up in a remote village on an island somewhere? It’s a beautiful place filled with people very similar to yourself in looks. So, it’s not like you stand out as different.
But there are differences…..you don’t really seem to speak the same language as everybody else and you don’t really understand the customs or the social rules of the community. You want to fit in. You want to make friends. You are so lonely but no one seems to understand or accept you in the same way that they understand and accept each other.

You try really hard to communicate, but the harder you try to connect with the people, the more they seem to misunderstand you. They start to talk to each other, about you. Many of the attempts that you make, to connect and communicate, seem to highlight your differences and exacerbate misunderstandings.

Over time, your anxiety about being able to connect grows, which only increases your difficulties in interacting. Eventually, over time, you learn a few phrases, and a few of the customs…..but it’s really not 100% clear to you; and more often than not, the people are confused and/or offended by your attempts at relationship. Even worse, sometimes they mock and ridicule you.

Can you………no, WILL YOU…..?

Will you imagine if this was your reality for your entire life?

Will you imagine how lonely you would feel?

Will you imagine how desperate you would feel……….

For Acceptance

For Connection
For Understanding
For Compassion
For Love

Can you imagine not understanding the social rules of the world?

Can you imagine not being able to read body language or facial expressions?

Can you imagine not understanding “inferences”?

 

Please try to imagine.

Please be accepting of those with differences.

Please gain understanding.

Please have compassion.

Please show love.