Viewing category ‘support system’

The Same But Different

with Susan Wagner

Susan Wagner is a freelance writer and editor, an avid runner and a mom of two boys. She's tentatively navigating the teen years with her oldest son, who has ADHD and an anxiety disorder (because puberty isn't hard enough already). [Insert blog name here] chronicles her efforts to balance science homework, basketball practice and panic attacks without completely losing her mind. Follow Susan on Twitter and Instagram (@workingcloset) and at her personal blog, The Working Closet

No Excuses: Explaining My Son’s Disability

Categories: family, special needs kid, support system

No Comments

I spend a lot of time explaining Henry’s disability to people — teachers, coaches, other parents. I try to do this proactively, before there is an issue or a problem, because I want to be sure that everyone understands that I’m not making excuses for him. He occasionally needs specific accommodations in order to succeed, but beyond that, I don’t want anyone letting him off the hook just because he’s different.

But it can be hard to distinguish an explanation from an excuse, and Henry and I are both having to work to see the difference.

The summer before sixth grade, we took Henry back to the psychologist who initially diagnosed his ADHD (when he was five) for another round of testing. This time she gave us a slightly new set of labels to work with: generalized anxiety disorder, disorder of written expression (or dysgraphia, if you’re old school like I am), ADHD (again) and sensory processing disorder. Taken together, she told us, it added up to Asperger syndrome, and she gave us some recommendations on ways to talk with Henry about being an Aspie, as well as resources and strategies for helping him connect with other kids like him.

We had known two things going into this round of evaluations: the first was that we would need to talk with his teachers about his quirks and how they affected his ability to function at school, both socially and academically. The second — and in our minds, the more difficult — part was going to be talking to Henry. Because the last thing any kid wants to hear, particularly in middle school, is that he’s different from his peers.

Read the rest of this entry

3 Things Not To Say To The Parents of a Special Needs Kid

Categories: children, special needs kid, support system

No Comments

I’ve always been protective of my children’s privacy, largely because they go to a very small school. I’ve been extra cautious about what I tell other parents about Henry’s issues in particular, because I didn’t want anyone to judge him — or me. But when he started middle school, it became clear that unless we were honest about his struggles — with him and with the people around him — he wouldn’t get the right kind of help.

I tell people that he has an anxiety disorder; that’s the most salient part of his profile. And for the most part, everyone is kind and accepting. But a lot of the time, even the people who are going out of their way to be nice will say the wrong thing. They mean well, but they’re not being helpful. At all.

What should you not say to parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders? Here are three things to avoid — and two things we’re happy to hear.

He’ll grow out of it. Disabilities like Henry’s can be hard to process because they’re invisible — he doesn’t talk with a lisp or walk with a limp, so it’s hard to see that he’s not like other kids. Well-meaning adults will also say It’s just a phase and They all act like this. But the truth is that he won’t and it isn’t and they don’t, and dismissing his disability, even in a supportive way, doesn’t help him — or me.
Read the rest of this entry

Why My In-laws Don’t Get a Say In How I Parent

Categories: family, mom guilt, parenting, support system

No Comments

It takes a village to raise a quirky kid — or at least to keep that quirky kid’s parents from losing their minds — and my husband and I are fortunate: We have a wonderful support network of friends and family who are there for us, all the time. And while it would seem that there would be no down side to that, there occasionally is, particularly when we talk about people who are super invested in our son and his life, and who have strong opinions about how we should be raising him.

For example, the grandparents.

We’ve always known that Henry was different, but it’s only been in the last few years that we’ve clearly identified what is different about him and begun to find strategies that really work for him. When he was younger, we would talk with our parents about how hard it was to raise him and how much we were struggling. And they were always there with a sympathetic ear and a suggestion.

My mother-in-law thought we were just too hard on Henry, too strict, that if we would just relax a little, we would all be less stressed. My dad, on the other hand, recommended that we push him a little harder, make him do more things, challenge him a little more. Their suggestions, while always thoughtful and well-meant, often left us feeling even more defeated, because we had tried all those things and nothing worked. Clearly we were failing at parenting — everyone could see it, even the grandparents.

Read the rest of this entry

90 Days, No Worries; Or, Why Therapy Matters

Categories: parenting, stress, support system, therapy

No Comments

Not long ago, I wrote on my personal blog about some advice my therapist gave me: She told me to stop worrying about anything that was more than three months away. (More about that in a bit.) And a very helpful commenter said, “If you can afford a therapist for your first world problems (it’s called LIFE) then you have had a very cushy life.”

Honestly, that made me laugh. I had written, in the same post, about how I was giving up eating wheat and really missed scones, and how a pair of not-inexpensive J. Crew pants were my new favorite thing to wear. Of all the first-world issues to pick on, seeing a therapist seemed like the least frivolous of the things I was sharing with my readers.

From a material standpoint, my life is very comfortable; my husband and I both have good jobs, and we live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood. Our children are healthy and intelligent. We have wonderful family and terrific friends. We are, as my Oklahoma neighbors say, very blessed.

So yes, my life is pretty “cushy.”

Read the rest of this entry

Why I Drink (And Why I’m Trying to Stop)

Categories: mom guilt, parenting, stress, support system

No Comments

wine glassYesterday, when we left the house for school, it was 22 degrees with a brisk north wind. I suggested that the boys might want to wear their winter coats, which we almost never do because it’s almost never that cold here. The coat Charlie is wearing is one I bought Henry last winter — he outgrew it before we even took the tags off.

Henry’s coat, on the other hand, is brand new. I bought it a month ago and he tried it on then and said it fit. I did a little happy dance because the whole thing was so easy.

I should have known better.

Yesterday, as we were leaving the house, Henry put the coat on and announced, “This coat is too small.”

“Ok,” I said, a little skeptical, “can you wear it just for today?”

“Sure,” he said.

In the car on the way to school, he started to flip out. “It’s TOO SMALL! I can’t wear it!”

“It’s not a big deal,” I told him. “Just wear your sweatshirts today. You’re not doing to have recess if it’s this cold. You don’t really need a coat.”

“Stop talking,” Henry said. Because clearly, the talking was making it worse. For all of us.

This is a fairly typical morning at my house. Henry’s anxiety means that little things — like clothes that don’t fit exactly right or his backpack not holding everything he needs or a contact lens not going in perfectly the first time — seem overwhelming and horrible. His day, he will tell anyone within earshot, is ruined, already. And he hasn’t even gotten to school yet!

Yesterday was, on the scale of things, not a particularly bad morning. On the best days, I feel edgy and anxious; on the worst days, I wind up crying on the drive home from school. Either way, I usually text one of my other quirky mom friends with a joke about how it’s 8:00 am and I really need a drink. Already.

Read the rest of this entry

It Takes a Village

Categories: children, friends, parenting, support system

No Comments

My next door neighbor and I like to joke that we might as well be sister wives; we share clothes and borrow things out of each other’s refrigerators Our kids — who are 13, 11, 9 and 5 — adore each other and go back and forth between our houses all the time. They know where we keep the snacks and the drinks and who is allowed to watch what on television and which rooms are off limits during Nerf gun battles.

My sons refer to Rita as their “backup mother,” and we call her daughter (the only girl in the group) their “pretend sister.” Last summer, we tore down the fence between our yards, partly because it was falling over, but largely because it just made it that much easier for the children to get where they were going.

She is the best sister wife a girl could have — but not just because she has a trampoline in her yard and I have a basketball goal in mine and we both always have wine in the fridge. Our sister wife bond was really cemented by the fact that we’re each raising a quirky kid.

About a year after we moved in, Rita asked if I could do her a favor. Her son had been having some issues at preschool and she and her husband were going to meet with the school’s psychologist. Could I keep an eye on him during the meeting?

I said, “Of course! I would love to.” I mean, that’s what neighbors are for.
Read the rest of this entry

Subscribe to blog via RSS