Friday, April 25, 2014

Life lessons- Don't submit to the court of public opinion

                                                                                    * Photo Credit to Sears Canada

I've been learning something pretty important this past year. 
It's kind of funny how I tripped over the lesson that I needed desperately to learn but never even knew I needed it.

I have learned that I can choose to let people set standards for me, or I can choose to set my own. There is a saying out there: 

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that” --Geothe

I have had my fair share of people that have been cruel in their treatment of me. Everyone has. 
There was a point last year that I started to see a glimmer of hope that the things I most desperately wanted were possible. In those moments, I started quietly to make moves toward those goals. It wasn't until people started finding out about my goals that I had several people decide to speak against it, with either their words or their actions. Tell me it wasn't possible. Make personal attacks. Basically tell me I wasn't cut out for the job. People that didn't know me. 

But I was also gifted this year with more than one person that took for granted everything that was possible. The people I am thinking of never spoke one critical word, never one reason why the goals I had were unachievable. I am intensely grateful for these people. I can not tell you what a gift to me they have been. 

But it did put me in the position of having to make a choice.

I had to decide whether to listen to the people who were negative,  or those who chose to display 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love as an extension of who they are.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

What I decided to do was set aside the opinions of those whose goals had nothing to do with love, and work toward my goal. I decided two things: 

1) God is in charge of my reputation
2) My work will stand for itself

I'd say it's working out pretty well for me so far.

There is a takeaway from all of this.

The court of public opinion is very fickle. They like to have an opinion, and often deliver it with no tact or decorum.
Much like a seagull, after they have dropped in on you, and have delivered their insult, they will fly off to leave you with the mess. Their concern is not with walking along side you to better you.

It is best, to then choose to adopt and communicate a personal policy that 'constructive criticism is willingly accepted, under the condition that it is tactfully and lovingly offered, and accompanied by offers of help'.
Much more productive, and deters those sharing with you from a purely critical standpoint.

And please, please don't give up. We're all waiting to see how you'll amaze us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Let's Call a Spade a Spade (To Diagnose or not to Diagnose) Part 4

We've recently gone through a series of  blog posts that talk about special needs diagnosis, and debunking the concerns that arise about approaching diagnosis. If you missed them, find Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.

If you have started the process toward Special needs diagnosis, or have recently received a diagnosis, you will be processing a lot right now. This post will be directed specifically toward the mental process of handling it as a parent.

I'm at a loss for what to do!

I'm sure that through out the process of supporting your child, you will find yourself at a loss for what to do or how to feel sometimes. Even then, I believe as Christians, we are not alone. 

In our moments of weakness, no matter what part of the journey we find ourselves on, we also have a powerful advocate that can provide us with wisdom. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

You know, I have to, as a special needs mom, appreciate the 'without finding fault' clause in that verse. God knows that we don't know, and He's willing to give us His wisdom. No criticism. Not like what you may have already encountered from others. Run to Him. 

Along with his withholding of criticism, He is merciful and compassionate. Isaiah 42:3 describes something that sets my heart at ease in this area. "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice." 

If you are in a place of vulnerability, please know He will treat you with compassion. He will not break you in your weakest moments. He is more than able to provide you wisdom,  if you ask, and surround you with people that can lift you up. I have seen it. I have been recipient of it. 

Should you decide to pursue this road of assessment for your children, you may find that your emotional responses to receiving a diagnosis for what you are facing may be varied and intense.

 You will likely struggle in many ways. It's hard, to know that your child is different, and face the avalanche of feelings that comes with that. You may experience grief, anxiety, anger, sadness, despair, guilt, and isolation, mixed up with a fierce love and protectiveness for your kids. On the other hand, you may feel relief too.  It's like a roller coaster. None of it would be unique to you, and you would not be alone in feeling it.

You may have been battling for a long time. It can be both a mental and physical challenge. 
You need someone to walk alongside you, in a position of grace, and hold your arms up for the journey. The challenges you're facing didn't come up over night and won't be solved overnight. It truly is a marathon run, rather than a sprint type of situation.

I would really recommend getting involved with a support group, where you an spend time, in person, or online, with people who are walking the same journey, It goes a long way to feel you are not alone in this. 

Isolation can be so damaging. Please reach out for help. If your first try does not result in the right help, whether in the support, of the medical arena, keep trying until you find the right supports.  I have confidence in you that you can make it through this. 
A few parting thoughts, which you may or may not be ready for. If they are not a 'right now' thought, tuck them away for the moment you need them.

God is in the business of Romans 8:28. "...And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

You know how I interpret that? God knows, God sees, and God still makes good out of even the painful things in our lives.

 Who knows? You may be walking this road "For such a time as this" as Esther did. You may just be doing some on the job training for a time when you will have the opportunity to walk along and uphold the arms of another, in their hour of need. The skills you learn in working with and supporting your child(ren) through this will serve to encourage someone else down the road. 

I also want to remind you that your incredible child is so valuable, regardless of the struggles involved. Yes, they have quirks, but you're up for the challenge, aren't you, with God's help?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let's call a Spade a Spade (Special needs: to diagnose or not to diagnose) Part 3

In the part one, and part two , we talked briefly to say that there is some value to seeking help for our children, when we have some challenges of a special needs nature. If you missed them, please see Part One here, and Part Two here.

In this third segment of the series, we'll  speak a little further on a very important objection that comes up for many parents, and follow up with some encouragement.

Consider this thought: In the  analogy from an earlier post, I described a set of concerning symptoms.  

To remind you, here is the paragraph again:

"I want to turn this whole thing on its' head for a moment. Think of this: Your child suddenly has an unquenchable thirst, starts to lose weight, and becomes sluggish. We usually look at a situation like this and decide that this is something that needs medical evaluation. We would want a name for it, and a course of action that we can take to bring relief."

Those are a list of symptoms for childhood diabetes.Take a moment now and consider what might be the outcome, if medical assessment were not pursued for a child with this battle.
I think we'd all agree that there would be long term ramifications of leaving things without some type of intervention.

When we choose to leave special needs without intervention, we can have some unforeseen consequences as well:

*It is difficult to understand what you are facing- you may wrestle with whether you are doing everything you can to help your child 

* It is difficult to access support services- it may be hard to find the right supports. Sometimes you can not access the appropriate services without a diagnosis

*For some issues, early intervention is key

*Parents can be seen as the cause of the child's problems- This can add to your stress

* You may have to keep debating whether to have the testing done

*If the child does not understand their differences it can cause them to feel 'unworthy' or 'less than'. They then run the risk of operating out of that mindset, to their detriment; I don't say this to scare you, but because we have the ability to counter act this, by offering them understanding and supports. 

* Isolation: It is so much easier to find others who can relate to you, and so lonely to feel you are the only one trying to overcome your struggles

But they'll force medication!
We spoke before about special needs issues that fall into the category of medical issues.  You may be concerned, should a diagnosis be made 'official', about being pressured to introduce medication to your child that you are not ready for.

Allow me to set your mind at ease. You will not walk in and have medication pushed down your, or your child's throat. It will, as a course of medical treatment be offered in appropriate situations. It will be given as an option. Medical professional are, by practise, most familiar with the cause and effect of medications. You need see it as nothing more than one of many options open to you to support your child. 

I want to remind you, however, that you are no victim. You have the ability to research ALL of your options. You have the ability to consider all treatments. There are dietary, medical, natural, alternative, and behavioural therapy options. You have the right to use all or none of them. Of course, I don't recommend 'no intervention', but my point is that you are a powerful advocate for your child. There is great benefit in weighing all the options open to you.

You have both the power and the responsibility to look into what is best for your family to manage any symptoms that you helping your child to cope with. When you decide upon your treatment options, it will have been based on your research. Should medication be part of your plan, do not let anyone guilt you into choosing differently. (See 'court of public opinion' clause discussed in the last post. ;) )

In the next post, some encouragement for those whose journey will include special needs, or for those who have recently received a special needs diagnosis.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Let's Call A Spade a Spade (Special needs: to diagnose or not to diagnose) Part 2

In Let's call a Spade a Spade Part one, we talked briefly to say that there is some value to seeking help for our children, when we have some challenges of a special needs nature. If you missed it, please see it by clicking the title above.

Today, I'd like to begin to address some of the typical concerns that come up when considering this route. Today I want to cover some of the common objections, that arise from both within us, and that come from others.

Will I really get anything from a 'label'?

You stand to gain from knowing exactly what your child is facing. It's one reason I advocate having our extraordinary blessings assessed when it's clear they are struggling. We can not do right by them until we know what they are struggling with specifically. Once we know, we are free to feel the relief of knowing that we CAN HELP our children to succeed. We have first defined the problem, and therefore the paths we can take to bring relief to the situation can become a little clearer for us.

Back in science class, we learned that there are different kinds of things. Different kinds of animals, and plants. Every one of them has a name. Each has a technical name as well. A 'label', if you will. 

That fact that animals and plants have a label does nothing, except describe what we are already able to see. That they have a difference from  or commonalities with other things around them. This description does nothing to add value or take value.

 I suggest to you that it is the same with making a decision to get a term for what you already know you are dealing with. It simply describes what already 'is'. This is the beginning of the road to help. 

For me that's all the label represents. Once we know, we can journey on with more understanding, but not necessarily focusing on what something is called.  We don't need to center on the fact that there is a label after we have it, we simply need to know what we are dealing with.

I want to turn this whole thing on its' head for a moment. Think of this: Your child suddenly has an unquenchable thirst, starts to lose weight, and becomes sluggish. We usually look at a situation like this and decide that this is something that needs medical evaluation. We would want a name for it, and a course of action that we can take to bring relief. 

It should be the same with all special needs, mental illness included. Why is it, that when other factors such as attention, or impulsivity, or behaviour are involved, we are tempted to stop looking at it as a medical issue? They are all things controlled by brain function. Last time I checked the brain is not exempt as an organ of the body.  ;)

"People will treat my child differently!"
Perhaps one of your concerns is that people will look at your child, and possibly you, differently if it becomes official that there are special needs involved. 

Yes, it's possible that others may decide to treat your child differently.  I'd like to encourage you to look at Psalm 118:6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 

Yes, there are some people who are very uninformed about special needs. There are some people who will act toward you with a lack of grace and compassion. Consider though, that would likely happen even if it were not special needs related.

It's just more likely that their lack of grace and compassion would be unfairly directed to assuming that behavioural symptoms are the result of parenting skills. It is usually a refection of the person, and not a reflection on you or your child. 

We have had some difficulty in encountering this, and it can be painful. It does not, make their opinions truth, no matter how much they cause you pain. 

So please do not base your choice in this matter, or any other based on what someone else will say or do with a negative tone. 

You and your child are worth more than holding yourself prisoner to the fickle court of public opinion. If I may be so bold, I'd like to ask you why they should have so much sway, when they are most likely to leave you alone in your troubles, rather than supporting you?

"Won't a label hold my child back?"

Not at all, if you choose not to let the negative traits associated with the label define your child, and communicate that same concept to your child. There are an incredible amount of gifts that come as part of the package when your child is affected by special needs. They usually just require a little more work to let them come to the forefront, making their gifts visible to all.

You may also have a concern that others will try to hold your child back based on their 'label'. You may also have a fear that you yourself might be the one to do it. However, I want to encourage you. 

You are your child's most influential advocate. you get to set the tone for how they cope here.  You get to over rule outside influences for the positive. 

Despite weaknesses, your children will also carry with them gifts, talents, and a calling. They will still be artistic, creative, spirited, everything they were before diagnosis. You still get to reinforce values of self control, work ethic, and godliness in your children. Nothing changes about that. 

You get to inspire them to be everything God has created them to be and accomplish, despite any weaknesses or struggles they have. 

It may mean that this particular child will have to work 10 times harder than the average child to gain the same results as typical children, or that their level of functioning will always be different than typicals.  However, if you know that in advance, you can educate yourself, and others so they can overcome detrimental viewpoints.

What looks like 'laziness' or 'rebellion' under one set of circumstances, can actually be learning issues, or executive function deficits in a special needs child.  Broken down and properly handled, this can be focused in the direction of success, (whatever that happens to look like for the individual child) without making the child feel awful because they are mislabeled with a simple character deficit, and treated as 'bad' or character deficient. There are not too many things more demotivating than giving a person the impression that they are a write off. However, if you know what you're facing, it will allows you to perceive the situation more clearly.

 You get to be the reason your child thrives. You'll just get to have more tools in your toolbox to help you do it. Isn't that amazing?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let's call a Spade a Spade (Special needs: to diagnose, or not to diagnose) Part 1

I want to share my heart over the next little while on something important. It's special needs related, and very close to my heart.
 I'll try really hard not to step on any toes, because to cause pain or hurt is not my intent. I do, however, think it's time that we have a closer look at special needs diagnosis for our kids where it's appropriate.

 I sure hope I didn't just lose you there. 

 Before I begin, I have a disclaimer that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on Tv. ;) 

I'm just a mom that has walked the road with some children that fall into the ADHD  (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) , and  ODD camps (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Most recently we added High Functioning Autism to the list of things to research.  I also have a friend dear to my heart that has children on the Autism Spectrum.  I'm also a mom that has  chosen to support these children by doing my homework and making choices in keeping with their needs.

Yes, I have children with 'labels'. No, it's not the end of the world.

My hope during this series is to first offer empathy to the parents walking this road, and second, to take the opportunity to bring understanding to the others. Others, who can not, by first-hand experience, understand how difficult it is to parent, and home school special needs children. I am a firm believer that if one becomes educated,  they can learn to offer sympathy, and hopefully a heaping helping of grace. 

The topic itself can be a bit of a landmine to discuss. 

I know all the concerns about why 'labeling' our kids is apparently a bad thing. I've heard them all. Some of the objections came from within me, and some came from others. Here is just a sampling:

"Won't people treat my child differently if they have a label?"
"Labels limit people"
"I'm against medication!"
" (insert diagnosis name here) is over diagnosed"
"You just want to live in denial that it's really your parenting at fault."
"It's just an excuse you have for your child's poor behaviour"

I've heard them all in one facet or another. 
It's hard enough to walk through this with the concerns we ourselves have as parents. 
It's harder still when we have people choose to act in ways that make our journey harder. 

Even so, we need find the courage to see past all of our reasons that would hold us back from receiving help, for the good of the kids involved. That's who this issue is really all about.

To the parents that are wondering about pursuing diagnosis for their blessing(s), I understand your concerns. 

You love your child. You want the best for your child. You've noticed that there is something different about this particular child, or children in your family. It may be that they are struggling in school, or with unwanted behaviours. 

You've gone back and forth about reaching out for help. But at least one thing stops you. You're afraid of what will happen, if a label is applied to your child. Let me challenge you to see that your child is already different. They may already be choosing behaviours that make them stand out. However, that doesn't make them any less valuable than they would be if they didn't stand out! 

I hope to present some compelling evidence in the next few posts. Evidence that can address the concerns about assessment of special needs, and to set your mind at ease about the concerns that come up.

Please join me in my next post, where I'll discuss the arguments against diagnosis, and break them down for you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

We've crossed the great divide and tipped the scales

I'm having flash backs to a movie I watched years ago and having a little chuckle.
So much irony, so little time.

Maybe you'll have seen it too. It's a restaurant scene in 'Evan Almighty'. You know, the one about opportunities. Here's the important part:

God: Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

If you haven't seen it, you can see it here:

I have to confess to having thought it such a spiritual thing to ask for patience.

But then I experienced exactly what I posted above: The opportunities to be patient came.

And came... and came. 'Til I stopped praying for patience. 

Some of you know that my opportunities for patience came in the form of my children. Two special needs kids. That require developing lots of patience.

Well, I may have stopped praying for patience, but God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that he had more in mind for me than I ever imagined. I have suspected it for a while, but today the news came. We have officially tipped the scales, and we have more a-typicals in our numbers than typicals. We have officially hit the special needs Jackpot! 

Believe you me, I could tell you some stories of ways I had to develop some patience. I have seasoned them with a good deal of humour to make them more palatable, but they would represent some serious character development that became necessary in me.

Now, it's got me thinking. We all think Solomon was really wise. He prayed for wisdom. God granted his request.

Here's the account of it:

1 Kings 3:5-15

 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

You know what it doesn't reference in there? The "How" Solomon got his wisdom. I'll bet Solomon had some wild stories to tell. Boggles my mind just thinking about it, to tell you the truth. Oh boy, I'd love to have been a fly on the wall watching that happen. But then, admittedly, I'm a people watcher.

I know that there are a lot of things that have come to me today. I feel relief that I'm not crazy. I've been seeing things correctly. I'm happy that some people that implied that I am 'less than' as a parent, for having less than perfect children, have been proven wrong. I've had encouragement, from an amazing pediatrician that I'm amazing at what I do, working with my kids. I've been told I'm implementing all the right strategies, and that this whole thing is a marathon run, rather than a quick fix sort of situation. I was paid the compliment, of a vote of confidence that I will continue successfully in my efforts, and see the payoff. 

I've been handed a whole new boatload of grace to keep working at it all, even though the results will not be overnight results.

Even so, there are many things I don't know. That's gonna require more patience. More opportunities to be patient. Looks like God isn't finished answering that prayer.

Here's what I do know though. God will use whatever He has to to bring me where he wants me. I'm choosing to believe that Romans 8:28 is true when it says "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

I've simply decided that this is 'on the job training' for what's to come. Even if I'm not yet sure what that will be.

Please know, that if you are working with your special needs kids, they are worth every ounce of effort that you will have to put into it to get the outcome you desire. Even on the days that you are exhausted, and don't think you've got it in you to do it one more day.  Any my heart is with you as you journey. As we journey together.

If you liked this, you may also like Off the Ceiling and on to schooling