Mother’s Day 2016

Good morning, and Happy Mother’s Day.

Holidays and parties are HARD for our family. We need to prepare by doing a lot of resting prior, and then we must prepare for the inevitable meltdowns and struggles that will follow. Beth and Anne can usually “hold it together” while we are there, because they truly WANT to be there. The problem is that it is too much for their systems, especially Beth. The one thing our loved ones will never understand is the “happy meltdown.” The “happy meltdown” is the fallout as Beth’s system tries to process all the excitement and happy she experienced at the gathering.

After many PAINFUL holidays this past year, we are doing things differently. It is upsetting to people that want to see the girls at parties, but I cannot please everyone and my girls’ mental health cones first. So today, I will spend the morning with my amazing daughters, then this afternoon I will go visit with my family (mom, gram, aunt, etc…) to celebrate Mother’s Day. Our decision was not popular, but I must admit that once it was made, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

Today is Mother’s Day, and EVERY Mother should celebrate in a way that puts a happy in HER heart. We should not celebrate in ways that only make others happy. We must put ourselves first sometimes, and today is the perfect day to do that.  Remember Different is just different; it is not better or worse, and you need not justify your choices to anyone. May your day be filled with laughter and love; may it also be meltdown free and relaxing.

 

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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World Autism Day 2016 ~ I Can’t. She Can. I Think I’ll Let Her.

In Al-Anon the first three steps (from the 12 steps) are the foundation of our program. We tend to shorten those steps to: “I can’t. He can. I think I’ll let Him.” The actual steps read as:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I look at it like this… I am powerless over people, places and things. My Higher Power, whom I call God, will help them on their path, just as He is always with me on my journey. The only person I have control over is myself, and I must use that control to always conduct myself like the woman God knows I can be.

Today as I prepare for another April, where I inevitably spend most of my time cringing at many of the posts, I am seeing the world through my program eyes. I understand that I cannot control what other people believe, or what they choose to share. I accept that we are all just trying to do the best we can for our families, and we don’t have to agree to treat each other with respect and kindness. I am praying for Autistics everywhere to know that their value is not tied to the opinions of others, but is rooted in themselves. I am praying for a better world, where everyone treats each other with Love and Respect, while celebrating and embracing diversity.

My “Three Steps” for treating my daughter with the respect she deserves:

  1. I Can’t…

I can’t live life for Beth, because I can never fully understand what occurs in her beautiful mind/body from day to day. I must always respect her boundaries and space, because I do not experience the world in the same way she does. My job as her parent is to support her in any way possible, but I should NEVER try to control her.  I can’t think for her, and therefore should not speak for her either.

      1. She Can…

She can, and does, live a pretty awesome life. As she learns to navigate this overwhelming world, she tries to share her experiences with us. She can tell (or show) us what she feels, and how certain things affect her. All we need to do is “listen” with our ears, eyes and most importantly our hearts. She can speak for herself, and reminds us of that when we forget.

        1. I Think I’ll Let Her…

I think I’ll let her live life on her terms. She is constantly helping us see the world in a different way. She helps us, and people who meet her, see the struggles and blessings of Autism. She has an amazing voice, which she uses to spread love and light everywhere she ventures. By letting her share her message, how she chooses, we are changing the world for the better, one person at a time.

World Autism Day 3 Steps

Today is World Autism Day; this month is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month. By the end of April, you will see a LOT of information shared in various forms. You may find yourself with more questions than answers. If you have questions about Autism, the best place to go is an Autistic person. As a parent, I cannot express the level of my gratitude for the Autistic Adults, who are willing to share their journey in order to help the next generation. There are many wonderful pages/sites that can address your questions, and help you see Autism for what it is… A neurological difference; It is NOT less, neither is it more, it is simply a different way of processing the world.

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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#SeeAmazing is actually AMAZING

I have been digging into the Sesame Street #‎seeamazing‬ initiative the past few days. I must admit, I was extremely nervous about #‎SesameStreetandAutism‬, because Autism Speaks was involved (I detest the way they present Autism as a tragedy). I went into my research praying that there would be limited negativity, and was pleasantly surprised to find it all VERY positive.

I think I have gone through everything on the site, and now Beth is going through it all. She absolutely LOVES the We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3! book and has read it several times. She also really enjoys watching all the video stories of different children with Autism. With each one, she happily flaps away singing: “Look Mommy, they’re autistic like me!”

It is wonderful to see one of my favorite childhood shows, now becoming a favorite of my girls. I cannot thank Sesame Street enough for including differently-abled children in their show. Over the years, I have seen (and loved) many differently-abled individuals on the show. I cannot even express how much I LOVE Julia, the first autistic Sesame Street character. Hopefully this is the first step among many to help our children (and the autistic adults in the world) be treated with the Respect and Kindness they deserve.

I leave you with The Amazing Song, it has become a household favorite. ❤

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Layla

On August 7, 2015 our cat Layla went over the Rainbow Bridge. Layla would have been 11-years-old in November, but kidney failure forced us to have her euthanized. This is a picture of Layla, from when she was younger and full of mischief.

Layla1

The girls were with me at all the veterinary visits, except the last. When the time came, the girls and Henry said goodbye to Layla at home; and I took her on her last car ride alone. She was my first baby, and I needed time alone to grieve.

Since Layla’s passing Beth has been struggling to process everything. We frequently replay all the vet visits with her horses. She cries at random moments, because she misses Layla, and keeps repeating phrases she heard during Layla’s last days. One of her favorites is: “Layla was family. Those we lost are always in our hearts.” She is right Layla is family, and will always be in our hearts. I am trying to help work through her grief, but some days I simply sit and cry with her.

We have made great progress in the past few weeks, but last night was a TOUGH one. In trying to help Beth get some tarter off her teeth, Henry mentioned that there was some blood on her gum. This sent her into a complete panic, and had her sobbing: “NO! Now we have to go to the doctor.” Thankfully the angels were whispering the answer, and I listened, which allowed me to calm my girl down. The first visit at the vet, the doctor pointed out blood on Layla’s gums (due to gum disease and dehydration). Beth (who remembers everything, because of her beautiful mind) automatically thought she was sick like Layla. I held her tight, and assured her that she was NOT sick like Layla. Then I explained about why our gums bleed at times. It took a while, but she finally stopped being scared and was able to talk to me about her feelings.

My heart breaks for my girl, and I don’t think children should have to experience such loss; but life is messy, and hard. I think it is important for them to see us grieve, and to know that no feelings are ever wrong. This year our school year is starting off with some very important life lessons, the book learning will come later. ❤

Layla2

The pet cemetery provided us with Layla’s paw-print, as well as two packets of wild flowers, so the girls can spread the seeds in Layla’s memory. ❤

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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The C Word

While I respect everyone’s right to their own opinion, when you talk/write about any Autistic individual, especially my daughter, there are two words that will awaken indignation in me. The C word is by far the worst; if you tell me about a cure for Autism, I cannot be held accountable for my actions. If you mention recovery from Autism, I probably won’t be much more rational.

In recent weeks, I have had complete strangers contact me about how to cure Autism, so I can help my daughter. I have also had friends, some of which have Autistic children, discuss similar topics. I thank God that I have been in Al-Anon for so many years, because the pre-Al-Anon me would not have been able to ignore (or politely respond to) such offensive contact.

I try VERY hard to be a positive example for my children. I try to lead by example and show them that we should treat everyone with respect, kindness and love. Unfortunately, I am human and when you say something so upsetting and outrageous, I sometimes forget to work my program. I think I need to print this up, and simply start handing them out to people who use these and other offensive terms:

Autism is an integral part of Beth, it is interwoven into every fiber of her being. Beth is exactly the person God intended her to be, there is NOTHING about her that needs to be cured or recovered! She is a whole person, who is amazing! Yes she struggles some days, but don’t we all? Her struggles are unique to her body’s neurology, but those struggles do not make her any less of a person. When people talk about Autistic people like there is something wrong with them, they are talking about my daughter and countless others like her, who add immeasurable magic to our world. It is INSULTING when so many special people are disrespected, and viewed in such a negative manner. EVERY person deserves to be treated with respect and kindness! Stop judging people who are different, embrace diversity, and love them for the extraordinary people they are. 

PLEASE THINK before you speak; try to imagine how you would feel if someone wanted to change you, or your loved ones. How would you feel if someone told you that you, or your child, needed to be cured or recovered? If you would be offended, like we are, then PLEASE don’t say it. Instead of spreading damaging stereotypes, PLEASE take the time to get to know an Autistic person. I promise it will change your life for the better, because there is a certain magic than can only be seen through their beautiful minds.

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Hard Lesson

Today my baby learned a hard lesson. She learned that the world is filled with dishonest people. At the age of 6, she learned that people will steal from others, simply because they can. She learned this, because it happened to her today.

We went grocery shopping, and she brought her friend Bessie (aka her purse). She still had birthday money left, and she takes it everywhere in case she wants to buy something (usually for sister or daddy), or donate a dollar or two. She cannot open her purse fast enough, when she sees people collecting for a cause.

Toward the end of our shopping trip, she dropped Bessie. When we realized it was gone we went in search of it. A woman we had seen several times throughout the store saw Beth sobbing and yelling; she asked what was wrong. I told her that she dropped her purse. She said I just saw her bear over by the chicken, which was where I thought she left it, but it was not there.

We walked around the store for 45 minutes hoping to find it elsewhere. We asked almost everyone we encountered if they had seen it. I left my number with the service desk, in case someone turned it in. We did all this with my daughter in a full-blown meltdown, refusing to leave the store without her purse. It was heartbreaking! When we finally left the store, we were both in tears.

Beth is persevating on this, and we talked a LOT about it. I told her that perhaps God thought the person who found it needed it more than we did. She finally started saying she wanted to share her purse/money so the people could buy food, clothes, underwear, socks or toys. Although she tried to sound happy about it, I could tell how sad she still was. Henry even went back to the store to check the garbage cans, but it was not there. Beth had $25 in her purse, and he suspected whoever took it, pocketed the cash and never gave a second thought to the cute unicorn purse.

Thankfully a friend of mine found the purse on ebay and bought it for Beth. I am overwhelmed with her kindness, and cannot thank her enough. I told Beth what this woman had done, and she told me that my friend got her a new Bessie, so she would not be sad. I told her that was exactly right, and that we were blessed to have such wonderful people in our life. She is still sad, and will be for some time, but she is also VERY excited to meet her new friend.

Today was horrible, but even on the bad days, I am reminded of how truly blessed we are. Today Beth learned a hard lesson, one that I do not think a 6yr old should have to learn, but it what it is. She is an amazing child, and this is just one more building block toward the adult she will become.  I cannot wait to see this extraordinary young lady change the world.

 

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Why We Started Homeschooling, Part Two

A few weeks ago, I shared the emotional reason why we began homeschooling. Now, I would like to share the logical reasons.

Once I worked through the emotions of our situation, I started doing my research to see what would be best for Beth. Should I fight for change at our public school, or should I homeschool?

Our district is all-inclusive, which means it does not have any self-contained classrooms past preschool. This was something I was thrilled about when Beth first started school in 2012, but now saw as a negative, given our situation. Beth thrived in the self-contained classroom; but appeared to have had more bad than good experiences in the blended one. From kindergarten and on, she would be in a “pod classroom,” which would have 8-11 students with IEPs blended with 10-15 neurotypical  students. The students with IEPs would be given 30 minutes a day with a Special Education teacher for “extra help,” but would spend the other 4.5 hours with one teacher and one aide in the pod.

Having taught 4yr pre-k, and substituted in kindergarten, I could not see this ratio working for any of the kids. Being neurotypical, and without an IEP, does not mean those children will not need additional help. How could two adults possibly fulfill the needs of 18-27 students, and still provide a positive educational environment?

With that question in mind, I started examining the benchmarks and kindergarten readiness skills on different sites. I realized that Beth barely had 50% of the skills suggested to start kindergarten. Although, her IEP was in place because she learned at a different rate, than her typical peers, I also realized that her achievement of IEP goals had been overstated. Perhaps they could get her to “perform” one-on-one, but overall she did not possess the skills to utilize in the classroom (or other non-school) setting.

I brought my findings to her therapists (who have been with us since Beth was 2.5yrs old), and asked them for an honest opinion on  her chances of success in a pod classroom. The answer was unanimous, she would fall further behind, and would not be able to reach her God given potential, given the structure of the pod classroom. They also felt that this would only add to her anxiety, self-esteem, and confidence issues.

Henry and I discussed our options at length. Although he had several reservations, he supported my desire to attempt homeschooling.  We also debated whether to allow Anne to remain in public school, or withdraw her too. In the end we decided that if the school was not a safe, positive environment for Beth, then it was not for Anne either. Our girls deserved more respect, and a better chance of success in reaching their God given potential, than our public school could provide.

I am beyond grateful for the ugliness that stemmed from our request for help, because it opened my eyes and heart to the reality of our girls’ situation. We had put too much trust in the public school staff, and given them more power than they deserved, but that is a post for another time.

 

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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