Parenting, Social Media, Special Needs, The World We Live In

Raising Them Kind

Kind people are my kind of people.

The older I have gotten I found this to be more and more true. I don’t have the time or patience for pettiness and being mean simply because you can.

When I was pregnant with my oldest I remember telling my husband that our child could be anything they wanted to be, but they couldn’t be the “mean kid.” There would be no bullies in this house. I’ve spent my 11 years in parenting reinforcing that believe in my children.

I’ve tried my best to raise them up and raise them kind along the way.

I’ve taught them to think before they speak– is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If you can’t answer yes to all three of those questions then perhaps you shouldn’t say it. That doesn’t mean they can’t stand up for themselves or assert themselves, but it does mean they do it in a respectful manner.

Becoming a parent of two boys with special needs really puts kindness in a whole different light for me.

We live in a world that isn’t built for those who are different, who doesn’t accept those who don’t “fit” and is quite often unkind because of it. The thought of this is quite possibly what broke my heart the hardest on diagnosis day– that the world was harsh and I couldn’t fix that for either of them or couldn’t always shelter them from the hurt ahead.

We fight every single day for acceptance and inclusion and yes, kindness for our boys. My little guys are the sweetest, most loving boys and just want that in return.

There have been moments like the time at school pick up that Jack introduced me to “Friend,” a little boy who would go on to become his best friend, that have made me feel so hopeful.

There have been those moments of pain when my heart has broken for them like when a neighbor child purposely excluded them loudly exclaiming that she didn’t want to play with them because of how “weird” they are. The response from her mother about it broke my heart even more.

My daughters see this and it has made them both two of the most empathetic humans you could meet. I see their kind hearts reflected in how hard they love their brothers, how they stand up for them and in the friends they choose to surround themselves with.

Kindness starts at home.

It starts with me. I know I have fallen short at times, but I do my hardest to remember the lessons I’ve impressed upon my kids and walk the walk. I’ve give the grace to others that I wish to see and I find myself drawn to like minded others.

This week I connected with an amazing mama who I am so excited to get to know better. We met at a park and the time flew as we chatted about everything– our husbands, kids, families, favorite pediatricians, common therapists and experiences. It was awesome and I am excited to see how we can use our voices and platforms for good.

We live in a world that seems to put a kindness in the column labeled weakness.

I completely reject that notion– you can be kind and not be a doormat. Take a scroll through social media comment sections and you’ll see what I am talking about. I experienced some of it firsthand last month while sharing our story during World Autism Month. It’s disheartening, really.

But, here’s the thing. Kindness isn’t weakness. Kindness doesn’t go out of fashion. Kindness is free. It is up to us to speak up and speak out to make this world a better place and leave things better than we found them.

It starts with you and me.

It starts in our homes.

So, let’s raise them kind as we raise them up.

Lindsay Althaus of The Althaus Life Toledo Moms Jūpmode

Guest Post, Social Media, Special Needs

The Journey From a Hidden Secret Life to Autism Advocate

BY JACQUELINE WAXMAN

True confession: My son is 14. For most of his life he had no idea that he had an Autism diagnosis. Actually, pretty much no one had any idea about his Autism diagnosis.

We saw one doctor, only, at his pediatrician’s office and she knew my preference of not telling my son about his diagnosis.

Any specialist we went to – I would either not tell about his Autism. Or, I would pull the doctor aside and tell the doctor “he has autism but doesn’t know – please don’t mention it.”

My son completed early intervention into preschool disabled into school aged child with a learning disability. As a professional in this field I “knew” he had Autism long before a doctor diagnosed him.

Our first diagnosis came at around age 7. The school pushed for a formal diagnosis to expand services. They paid for a psychiatrist. Diagnosis: ADHD, Anxiety, Autism*.

The report was short, sweet and to the point. Until I read the last line. The *.

Autism*: high functioning with non-classical presentation.

That wasn’t even a real diagnosis. What did that even mean? What is non-classical presentation?!

Essentially, at the time and for the purpose, it meant that he didn’t show enough signs of Autism to diagnosis it but too many signs to rule it out.

I pushed the report out of my mind.

Besides, he had just started medication for the first time and it was amazing. The change was unbelievable.

The ADHD medication helped so much that I wanted to write a love letter to the manufacturer. Literally, I considered it.

This calm continued for a few years. Until about age 10. When our life fell apart.

I went back and forth in my brain. He was doing so well. Maybe he didn’t really have Autism after all. Or, at least not the type I had to talk about.

The beauty of disaster is that sometimes it forces you to actually be what you were meant to be.

Let me explain.

My marriage fell apart. My dad died. I was forced to sell my marital home and move to my mom’s house with 3-kids. We all slept and lived out of one room.

The more pieces of life that fell, the more things changed at a rapid fire pace, the more apparent Autism became.

Autism likes stability. My son couldn’t handle the rapid fire changes.

Autism likes repetition and schedules. None of which we had anymore.

The melt downs were new. They were loud and violent. And, in the early days often involving the police. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the frantic 911 calls. Watching it take 5+ officers to calm down my, not so little, boy.

Autism was now not only apparent. It was loud. It was scary. And, it was screaming “Here I am and look at me.”

I could no longer hide Autism.

Ironically, it became something I spewed off frequently. Every time someone would tell me how to parent my child, or what they would do different or what I was doing wrong I would share that he has Autism and is having a hard time adjusting to so many changes at one time.

Something I spent so much time hiding suddenly became my defense.

Autism took over my life.

I’m a social worker by profession. I tell people how to navigate systems and fix challenges. I know every in and out there is to possibly know.

Yet, over and over and over I wasn’t finding appropriate nor helpful services for my son.

I was lost.

I was heart broken.

I was furious.

In order to make a change I was going to have to be the change.

My son is kind, compassionate, fiercely loyal and incredibly intelligent. He’s an amazing kid.

The MOST amazing parts of him are the parts that are influenced by his neurodiversity.

Autism was no longer something I could nor wanted to hide. It was something I had to embrace.

I was so afraid of labeling my son and therefore limiting him. When in all actuality I was limiting him by not being honest and forthcoming. His Autism is no more or less a part of him than my anxiety is a part of me. Or, someone else’s diabetes.

My son was well aware of his differences and limitations. It used to be something he thought was his fault. Something he had done wrong. Which wasn’t at all the case. By giving him the tools he needed to understand why certain things bother him or why he can’t do certain things I empowered him to embrace his differences.

In April, spread Autism acceptance. Because Autism acceptance is the cure.

Thank you to Jacqueline Waxman for sharing this piece with us. It first appeared on her blog page www.facebook.com/walkingthingrayline/

Jacqueline Waxman, M.Ed is a writer, trained social worker and special needs Mom. Her passions include writing, photography and advocacy. Jacqueline is currently collecting anonymous contrinutions for her project “The Secret World We Live In: The Untold Stories of Parenting Special Needs.” For more information, please visit Jacqueline’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/walkingthingrayline/ You can follow her page at Walking a THIN Gray Line.

Social Media, The World We Live In

The Content of Character

I sat down to write a blog post today. It was meant to be about the new year and resolutions and changes. I have tried to be more organized in this new year. I want to be focused and wrote in my planner to sit down and write that post today.

But, today I can’t. I just can’t.

I am sorry if what follows here isn’t your cup of tea. I am sorry if you find yourself offended because I may have a different viewpoint from yours. This blog is a work of my heart and right now I feel like I need to speak what is on my heart.

This world feels like it is on fire.

Yesterday, I tuned in to watch the process being conducting in our Congress. I expected it to be ugly. I didn’t expect what I saw.

I didn’t expect to be watching a discussion in the Senate as the feed cut to black and the footage of what was going on outside the Capital Building began to unfold.

I’ve seen footage of people storming government buildings and calling for the heads of elected officials before…on TV….in movies….in other countries. Not here. Not in the United States of America.

Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
UNITED STATES – JANUARY 6: Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., comforts Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., while taking cover as protesters disrupt the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

It was not right.

What happened was wrong and so many levels. It wasn’t peaceful protest. The peaceful part of the protest ended when a mob of individuals made the decision to march to the Capital Building, storm it, and get people killed.

This “peaceful” protest turned into an act of insurrection and a literal coup. It was wrong. This should bother everyone regardless of who you voted for or what you support.

The aftermath was quite possibly more disturbing.

Immediately, social media blew up. A simple scroll can find you all sorts of incendiary tweets, posts, memes, and conspiracy theories.

Worse than that, was all the people coming out to justify the actions. My mind was blown by the excuses. I was called a sheep. I was told to stop drinking the Kool-aid. I was told that the actions and words of people don’t matter. I was told all the hate flying around didn’t matter as long as the economy was good. I was told that the actions of these people yesterday was okay because they are mad and they are frustrated about these election results. And what about anti-fa? What about BLM? What about? What about? What about?

What about it?

When did deflection become a defense of the indefensible? When has “whataboutism” replaced calling out bad behavior? Why is anyone trying to defend this?

My four year old doesn’t get out of punishment for pushing his brother because his sister yelled at his other sister months ago. An attempt to justify by pointing out the behavior of someone else doesn’t work from children and it certainly isn’t acceptable for full grown adults.

Now, I try to avoid political discussions if I can. I believe we are all entitled to our opinions and views and that is fine. I don’t think me harping on you about my political policy views is going to change any of yours or vice versa. I would just rather not have those conversations especially when all too often they become disrespectful.

I will say this, I believe it is okay to think differently than me or your parents or your neighbor. I can respect we all don’t think alike, but there is a line where it becomes more than a difference of opinion.

But, I will tell you what I believe and what will never change.

Actions have consequences.

Sometimes, as difficult as it can be, there are grey areas between what is right and wrong, but yesterday was not one of those times.

Kindness and love will never be out of style. I believe they are attributes and not weaknesses.

The content of one’s character matters.

Words matter.

A few extra pennies in my 401k will never be worth more than the price of my soul.

If you want change in the world, you need to be part of that change. Vote. Advocate. Run for something. Be the good and be the change.

Hate will always be in the world. But as long as love exists, hate will never EVER win.

Be the good in the world. Be a helper.

Parenting, Social Media, Special Needs

The Why Behind I

I have always been a lover of the written word. I love to read and I love to write. I spent my college years studying communication and the art of crafting it.

Post college graduation I ended up stuck in a job I hated that was the furthest thing from creative. I still read, but I had pretty much abandoned my writing aside from a rambling Facebook post here and there.

In Spring of 2018, my oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Around that same time my husband landed his dream job and the dream of me being able to stay home with our kids became a reality. By that October I was a full time stay at home mom.

I love being able to home with my kids. I am grateful for my husband’s hard work that allows us this opportunity. The transition from the workforce allowed me to also think about creative outlets again.

I had been toying with the idea of blogging for a while. I wrote a guest post for one of my favorite blogs and constantly formulated blog ideas in my head. But, to be honest, every single time I came close to taking the leap, I talked myself right out of it.

Enter Toledo Moms

Earlier this year Toledo Moms launched in my area and I was an absolute fan from the start! It is an amazing resource of moms in my area that covers all sorts of life stages and topics.

They put out a call for writers in February and I applied. I was hopeful and nervous about putting myself out there, but so excited to be welcomed on their team. I am proud every day to be one of the amazing Toledo Moms.

Joining up with Toledo Moms and writing with them relit my fire. It gave me the push I needed to start my own blog and put my thoughts out there.

So I did it. This little work of heart launched this summer. It is a work in progress.

That’s the how, but what’s the why?

So, I have explained how I got here, but what’s the point? What is my point? Why do I put my thoughts out there like I do?

Well, it is my passion. I love to write. I love to create. I love the craft with words. I don’t think I have the great American novel in me at this point, but I do have some pretty big thoughts and opinions.

And, Autism. I have two boys who are on the spectrum. They are at two very different places in their journeys and their autism manifests in very different ways. One very important thing I have learned on this journey with them is that even though autism is fairly prevalent, it is still very misunderstood and the resources are still very limited.

When my Jack was diagnosed I was sent out into the world with basically a wing and a prayer. I learned to research. I learned the lingo. I sought out other mothers who were navigating similar paths. I learned a lot from some amazing moms who have chosen to share their hearts and families with the world on Facebook and blogs.

I also learned to advocate like a mother. I learned very quickly what it means to be the driving force and push for evaluations, push for funding, and to seek out the right interventions and providers.

I choose to use this blog in part to be a voice for my sons and for others like them. Education is key and understanding is so important. If I can spread some awareness, sprinkle some kindness, and help someone else along the way, I will consider it a success.

I am me first.

I don’t just intend to blog about autism. It is a big part of my life now and a huge piece of our family dynamic, but it isn’t everything. My boys have autism, it doesn’t have them. So, while it is always there and always with us, it still isn’t everything.

I’ve got a pretty awesome husband and I have two amazing girls to go right along with my boys. We have some pretty awesome (mis)adventures that I like to share too. There is a lesson in everything.

While we are living in a moment in time where the world seems so heavy and sad and angry, my message is kindness and hope and the power of yet. I hope that always shines through.

Parenting, Social Media

When There Are No Words

This blog has been quiet lately. It hasn’t been because I’ve forgotten about it or abandoned it. I simply haven’t been able to find the words.

Things in our world seem so heavy. There are literally cities burning. There is social unrest and passionate pleas for justice. There is COVID. There is a disturbing, disappointing, and disgusting election cycle well underway.

This is all on top of our daily lives. We each have our own struggles that we are facing down. It feels like there are just so many proverbial balls in the air at once.

All of this is giving my anxiety its own fresh set of anxiety.

There are some topics I try my darnedest to avoid, but sometimes silence is compliance. Sometimes we have to use our voices and our platforms to speak up and speak out. Sometimes we have to do this even when it is heavy.

I am just a mom. I am a mom who is doing my best to raise up her children as good humans. I am also a mom who has two little boys who fit into a marginalized segment of society. I am a mom of two young ladies who I want to raise to be fierce and strong and unstoppable.

I am a mom and a woman and a human who is existing in a world right now that seems to openly tell some of us we’re wrong. It tells us we are wrong because of the color of our skin or because of who we love or because of our gender or our social status or because of our different abilities. It tells us we are wrong because we care too much.

Yet, these same loud voices that tell us we are wrong for simply being who we are made to be refuse to accept that it is the content of character that one should be judged by.

Those loud voices are wrong. Racism is wrong. Sexism is wrong. Xenophobia is wrong. Homophobia is wrong. Discrimination is wrong. Harassment is wrong. It is all wrong.

These loud voices hide behind computer screens and keyboards and find themselves emboldened by the current state of affairs. They lob insults and words of hate towards others who feel differently, who think differently, who believe differently, and who, in some cases, are just different from them. It is all wrong.

Those loud voices fail to accept that it is your actions and your treatment of other people especially those who may be different from you that tells me more about you than anything else.

Somewhere along the line being a bleeding heart, having a heart, or just caring for others in general became a bad thing. I refuse to accept the “screw you because I got mine” mentality as the status quo or even as mildly acceptable. I doesn’t sit well within my soul or my heart.

I speak openly about kindness and how it matters. I speak openly about choosing your words carefully because they have impact and they matter. I advocate for love and acceptance. I believe in these principles in the core of my soul.

Regardless of the powder keg that is social media and society and our leader, I truly believe that kindness still matters. Words should still be chosen carefully. Love still wins.

The whole world can be divided. It can feel like it is on fire. The hatred can rage. It won’t change me or my heart or the content of my character.

If anyone of us want to change the world, it starts at home. It starts in how we raise our families and in how we treat others. It starts in sometimes stepping back and learning from others and getting a little uncomfortable. It starts in understanding one another. It starts with kindness and love and being a good human.

Be kind.

Love one another even when it is hard.

Be a good human.

Parenting, Social Media, Special Needs

The Power of a Word

Words. They matter.

I spent the better part of my post-high school academic career studying the written and spoken word and how those words matter.

I also have three children who struggled to find their voices. They have worked through intensive speech therapy to be able to find and use words.

The power of a word is not lost on me.

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I teach my kids to think before they speak. Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it necessary? If they can’t answer all of those questions with a yes then maybe they should think about saying whatever it is before they do.

This is why it bothers me so much when people say, “They are only words.”

Words have power.

The way we talk to people isn’t a reflection of them as much as it is a reflection of ourselves. The way we talk to and about our children becomes their inner voice.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot for a few months now. It seems like in our current culture it has become a social norm to be a “keyboard warrior” online and to excuse really, really awful behavior because “they are only words.”

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I really got to thinking about this last night after what turned into a heated social media discussion, if we can call it that, with someone I respected. I generally try not to engage and avoid hot button issues- especially when I know the other parties aren’t particularly receptive to different points of view. I know it was 100% it was my fault for kicking the proverbial bees nest, but it was most certainly not a respectful discussion on either side. I am not too proud to admit it wasn’t a good look for either of us.

Follow me as I dig just a little deeper here…

It isn’t just the written word that matters. It isn’t just what we see each other write online that matters. It is true that social media has empowered a lot of us to say things, really unkind things that we wouldn’t necessarily say to someone’s face and we should think before we type, we also need to think again before we speak.

The Power of a Word

There have been moments in my life where words have been really influential on me: The words contained in the acceptance letter to my dream college. My husband asking me to marry him. My Grandmother’s marriage advice after telling her I was engaged. My Dad’s wedding toast to my husband and me. The first time my children told me they loved me. Any time someone told me “You can’t” or that I would fail.

I also can think of moments where words didn’t just have an impact on me, but also on my view of the world or someone in it.

Once, after the birth of a new baby, some relatives came to visit and meet him. One of them had been wanting a baby of her own and working their way through the options. She mentioned how she was slightly discouraged because another family at their church had received yet another foster placement while she was still longing for her first. Her husband responded with a remark about how that child had autism and that family was able to get another child because they were willing to “take whatever garbage is thrown at them.”

Now, it was a passing conversation and comment and the people involved probably don’t remember it, but I do. Six months later as my oldest son received an Autism diagnosis, it resurfaced in my mind. It took up space and it lives there. Every interaction this person has with my child, his words come to mind.

A few summers back a new family moved into our neighborhood. My girls were thrilled to have more kids their age to play with. It was great at first. They played frequently and I was all for it until I started to hear the way these children were speaking. They were being mean to my girls- cruel, really, and thinking they were funny.

Their words weren’t welcome and it was tough to navigate, but my girls learned they needed to speak up for themselves, but also to believe in themselves and they were worthy and capable of great things.

Around the time of my first son’s ASD diagnosis I reached out to the few mamas I knew at that point in time with children on the spectrum. I was lost and looking for guidance. Out of them, most were encouraging, offered support, and gave some advice. One, however, told me to get over it and not make it about myself. She had nothing to offer and I would figure it out just as she had.

That stung. It put up a wall in our friendship. I often think about her words when I am sharing my perspective on our life with the spectrum. I hope that should another mama ever come to me looking for a lifeline as I had been that I remember her counsel and offer better.

Canva - Two People Forming Heart Sign to Sun

 

These are only a few examples of the power of words, but they were impactful enough to bear mention. They were moments said in passing that have an echo that remains.

Lately, this world doesn’t seem built for kindness. To have a soft heart or to admit your hurt almost instantly is met with more insult or a suggestion to “toughen up.” I don’t agree with that, but I am also not saying that we should all walk around in bubble wrap with fragile egos and tiptoe around people. But maybe, speak less and think more before you do.

Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it necessary? If our answer is no to any of these questions, then maybe we need to rethink our words.

The old childhood rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” comes to mind. Maybe words can’t break a bone or cause visible damage, but words do in fact matter. Words can break and words can damage.

Words have power.

It is up to you whether or not you choose to use your words and your voice for good.

Choose your words wisely.

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