Thursday, September 28, 2006

a shrink for the price of a trim

I sit down in my therapist's chair. She puts her hand on my shoulder and says, "Whenever you're ready to talk, I'm listening." I tell her about my work deadlines, my loneliness, my son's disability and my misunderstandings with my husband.

And then she trims my bangs.

I doubt she has any psychology training, but my hairdresser has a gift for listening.

Like any good therapist, Sherry tells me to take care of myself, that I'm stronger than I think and that God is with me. She hugs me. She prays for me. And she's not afraid to tell me when I'm sabotaging my life.

Last night my hair went a little shorter and our session went a little longer. After laughing and crying in her chair for 45 minutes, I walked out with a new look, and a new outlook.

Not bad for $22.50 plus tip and taxes.

Friday, September 15, 2006

whatever this life brings

"I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams.
And that faith gives you the courage to dare to do great things.
I'm here for you whatever this life brings,
So let my love give you roots and help you find your wings.

It's not living if you don't reach for the sky.
I'll have tears as you take off,
But I'll cheer as you fly."

(from "Find Your Wings" by Mark Harris)

I've had this song in my head today.

K.'s principal called this afternoon to say he'd had his first ever explosive outburst at school. As I biked to school to bring him home early, I wondered, "Will I ever have the chance to cheer as he flies?"

Will he have friends? Finish college? Keep a job? Get married? Support a family? Some days I'm not sure. (I'm guessing moms picking size 7 underwear off the floor around the world wonder the same thing.)

Do I just need to redefine what it means to "fly?"

I cheered this week when he read a whole picture book. I cheered today when he used words instead of slamming doors to tell me he needed time alone.

I know that what K. needs more than anything, when life becomes too much for him, when others judge him, is to know that I am here for him, whatever this life brings.

I want to keep reaching for the sky, regardless of how strong K.'s wings may grow.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

invisible disabilities need ramps too

If you were about to tell me about a herb, drug, diet, book, therapy, prayer, or parenting strategy that works wonders for Autism Spectrum Disorders, please don't.

I think I've heard them all.

Even if I haven't, I don't appreciate unsolicited advice. I'm guessing that most people who have ever struggled to conform, physically or emotionally, know how I'm feeling. Smokers don't need to be told about the patch. People who are overweight don't want to hear how your cousin lost 50 pounds by eating fruit. It just ain't that simple.

The insinuation is that, because I haven't tried whatever they're recommending, my son's behaviour is my fault.

Since I haven't had the guts to tell anyone this in person I'll say it here:

1. I cannot possibly try every treatment at once so give me a break!

2. I have a team of specialists (occupational therapists, social workers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, pharmacists, psychologists and resource teachers) who know K. and are already giving me all the expert advice I need.

3. Most disabilities just aren't erasable.

I was interviewing an occupational therapist yesterday for a story on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. She says that when someone has a physical disability we try to change the environment, not the person. We build ramps or install elevators for people in wheelchairs. We don't scold them for not trying harder to climb the stairs. But when someone has an invisible disability, such as Autism, Fetal Alcohol, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or ADHD we tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and choose to behave appropriately.

That, she says, is comparable to "pushing someone in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs."

People of every stripe need grace, patience and understanding. It takes time to learn and grow. And sometimes it takes a specially adapted environment in order to succeed.

That's what I'm trying to do in my parenting. I'm learning to prevent K.'s blow-ups by predicting which situations he won't be able to handle. Since the post office incident, I haven't taken him to the store without a plan, an escape vehicle, snacks, and clearly spelled out expectations. When he does get explosive, instead of restraining or punishing him, I'm teaching him to calm himself with books, music, and television.

That's the scoop on how I am trying to help K. In case you thought I just wasn't been strict enough, or reading enough parenting books, or feeding him the right herbs.

Sorry for being defensive.

Be patient with me. I'm still growing too.

under the stars

I'm convinced camping was invented by women.

I'm not fond on sleeping on rocks or going days without showering, but I figure anything that gets men doing all the cooking, dishes, and childcare is worth it!

We went camping for the first time in years on the Labour Day weekend. We brought K.'s telescope and looked at the big dipper, Jupiter, and the craters in the moon. We sat around the campfire telling folktales and we buried each other at the beach.

It felt so normal. No psychological assessments, no medication trials, no calls from the teacher. We were just another family enjoying each other's company.

I'm holding onto those memories.