Posts Tagged ‘Positive attitude’

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think about the following quote:

“{Individuals with autism, a child with a different ability, etc} are the ultimate square pegs; and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” ~Paul Collins~

On so many levels, I absolutely agree that we are indeed destroying the peg by trying to make it fit into the hole. But what upsets me the most about this train of thought is that in our society, anyone who doesn’t follow the “herd mentality” is considered a “square” peg.  If you are an original thinker, if you happen to learn differently, if you have some type of disability, most often this is seen as a problem.  Why?  Why the terrible need to force everyone to be the same?

Throughout history, great achievement and growth has come from those wonderful square pegs that just do not fit into the round holes of society.  Thomas Jefferson was considered “uneducable” by his teachers and kicked out of school.  Helen Keller was deaf, mute and blind.  Albert Einstein was thought to be on the autism spectrum.  Beethoven was deaf and suffered from depression.  Yet consider all the contributions these amazing people made to the world. 

My life is full of square pegs.  In my opinion, how we treat people, the support they get and the extent to which we allow them to spread their wings and fly determines how they interact with society and how society responds to them. 

My son who is severely affected by autism is a constant source of joy for all who know him.  He hasn’t said a word in many years.  Yet, he is probably one of the most effective communicators you will ever meet.   Through his actions, his facial expression and body language, he shares his beautiful, loving spirit. 

My stepson has learning disabilities.  He struggles in school academically in spite of modifications made to his studies.  It’s not that he can’t learn, he simply does not learn the same way as most other kids learn.  He recently took his written drivers exam.  He passed it on the very first try!  NONE of our other children did that.  They all took the test mutiple times.  But my husband took great care to sit with him and go over the material every time he was here at the house with us.  Having the material explained to him in a manner he could understand and retain, made all the difference. 

Just because these guys don’t fit the plain round mold doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful.  They are incredible young men that I love with all my heart.  They are unique.  They are just square pegs. 

We are not all the same.  I don’t think we are intended to be.  Why do we always focus on the deficit?  Is it to make ourselves feel better about our own short-comings that we don’t want to admit?  Does it make us feel smarter somehow to knock someone else down?  That not only hurts them but it hurts us too.  There is so much to be learned from those who are different from us.  Especially, in my humble opinion, those with special needs. 

I don’t think you can make a square peg fit into a round hole.  You can pound them down, but they will always stand a little taller than the plain round pegs.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”  -Quote from movie “What A Girl Wants”

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Autism Awareness

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Twenty-one years ago this past Monday, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby boy.  He weighed 7 lbs 11 oz.  He was 21 inches long.  I was so excited by his arrival!  His birth had been easy and quick, on this, the day I had chosen for his birth because nine is my favorite number.  I will never forget the first time I saw him.  His perfect little face.  His chubby little body.  I will never forget the smell of him.  Snuggling him close as he nursed.  The very sight of him was, and still is, pure magic to me.

My son is my hero.  You see, my son has autism.  He does not speak.  In fact, he has a great deal of difficulty communicating even his most basic needs and wants.  It can’t be easy being non-verbal in our world.  Simply existing cannot be easy for him.  The constant bombardment of stimulation from all the sights, the sounds, the smells, the touches.  But he does it.  He has somehow learned to cope.

We have made progress but it hasn’t been without having to do battle.  I have watched him endure and overcome so much.  Sensory issues have always troubled him.  There was a time when he couldn’t tolerate being barefoot in the grass.  He couldn’t keep his clothes on because the touch of them against his skin was an irritant.  We kept the house silent for he simply could not bear the noise from the TV or radio.  For many years, I couldn’t get him to leave the house without carrying a small oscillating fan with him to spin; or worse yet, a blender without the lid.  If you haven’t been exposed to autism, you probably think that sounds crazy.  Maybe it is.  But it is what it is, and just like parenting any neurotypical child, you choose your battles wisely.  Some days, everything is a battle.

For years my son, who is very orally defensive, had only a few items he would eat.  Now, I am going to tell you this drove me crazy!  I was in a constant state of horror over the quality (or lack thereof) of the food he was eating.  If it wasn’t round, brown or crunchy, forget it.  And he had some type of internal rule.  Being crunchy was good if you were a potato chip, but not if you were a carrot stick.  Being round was great if you were a chicken nugget, but definitely not if you were a pea.  And brown was great for french fries, but not so good for oatmeal.  I can only imagine how horrible it would be to not even be able to enjoy your food.  We worked long and hard with occupational therapists to build his tolerance.  Today, there’s not many healthy foods he won’t eat.  He loves fruit, raw vegetables, and meats.  We have gotten past the preference for round, and the preference for brown, but he still prefers crunchy.

There are a million different struggles we have had to face.  There will be a million more.  Short of Divine intervention, my son will not be able to live independently without constant care and supervision.  This is something that I have had to learn to accept, while still doing all I can to offer him every opportunity for progress and as much independence as he is able to achieve.  I’m not gonna lie and tell you it’s easy.  Every day of my life I worry about what will happen once I am gone.  Who will watch out for him?  Will there be money to provide for him?    How will I make sure that he is kept safe and surrounded only by love?  There are good days; there are bad days.  There are days when I still hurt from the diagnosis even after all this time.  But I am so thankful to have this child in my life.

No, things aren’t how I thought they would turn out 21 years ago when I held my baby and admired him.  All I can do is work hard while I am here.  I try to soak up every minute I have with this beautiful boy and I thank God for the wonderful blessing that he is to me.  He is such an example of tenacity for me.  He makes me want to be the very best person possible.

 

There is a poem that I have kept on my refrigerator for many years.  It reads:

Kids Who Are Different

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids who don’t always get the A’s,

The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers,

And noses that go on for days…

Here’s to the kids they call crazy or dumb,

The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit,

Who dance to a different drum…

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids with the mischievous streak,

For when they have grown, as history’s shown,

It’s their difference that makes them unique.

One of the highlights of my morning is putting my son on the school bus.  Not that I like to see him go.  Quite the contrary.  I enjoy every minute of our time together.  What brings joy to me every morning is the little, smiling faces already on the bus when it comes to get my son.  Beautiful faces with bright smiles.  Little hands that wave to me as the bus pulls away.  I love these children.  Pure.  Innocent.  Full of love.  Love the way I believe it was meant to be.  Accepting.  Non-judgemental.  Genuine.

I have long admired the love that comes from my son and other children like him.  Those with “disabilities.”  I don’t know.  Are they really the ones with the disabilities?  It is true in some cases they are not able to do the many things we take for granted.  Many have trouble walking.  Some do not write.  Or speak.  They may have difficulty understanding instructions.  Many need care and assistance for even the simplest daily tasks.  But what I see are beautiful people with hearts of gold.  Able to do what very few of us can even comprehend.  My son could care less whether I drive him around in a beat-up, old pick-up truck or a Mercedes Benz.  Doesn’t matter does it?  As long as we get safely where we need to go?  If I serve hot dogs for dinner or steak, he is happy to have food and eats heartily.  Clothes from Wal-Mart, a consignment shop or the Gap?  He could care less!  As long as he is in soft material that is easy on his skin and has his favorite colors, all is well.  How I long to have more of his character.

Over the years, I have learned much from my son and from other people with different abilities.  I trust my gut more when meeting people.  Maybe I am a little more present when I am with those I love, really taking the time to take them in and appreciate them.  I give thanks every day.  On the rare occasion that my son gets upset with someone or something, he makes his objection known, and then he lets it go.  He doesn’t hold a grudge.  He will welcome your apology and offer you a hug or two.  How I need to learn more forgiveness.

I always say I have two heroes.  Oprah and an my son.  Oprah because she inspires the world to change for the better.  My son because he inspires me to do better.  He is just so full of love.  So full of joy.  Such a gift to me and those who know him.

Thank God for allowing me to see the beauty every weekday in those little angel faces.  Thank you for allowing me to share my life with someone so much wiser than myself.  Please watch over all people with different abilities.  Help the world to see and embrace all they have to offer.  Amen.

This wasn’t always the case.  Some of my long time friends and work associates will tell you that at one point I considered a funeral and a wedding nearly the same event.  I know, it is morbid, but that’s how I felt.  In my eyes, it was a certain death, either way.

Blame it on my background.  My mom and dad divorced when I was three and my dad quickly disappeared from the picture.  Actually, he disappeared from the entire state to avoid having to pay child support.  At that time the State and Federal child support programs didn’t exist.  My mother remarried.  I spent the rest of my childhood working my butt off in some twisted real-life version of Cinderella.  Only there was no handsome prince.

During my school years I could best be described as a bookworm.  I read daily, I wrote, I painted.  Books, art and animals were, and still are, passions of mine.  Dating was something I didn’t do until I was out of school.  And then, sparingly.  I was a free spirit interested in learning about people, places, things.  Come to think of it, I still have those free-spirited tendencies.

Having watched my mother’s marriage to a very controlling man, I always thought there was no way I would marry a man like that!  Well, at the tender young age of twenty-one I ended up pregnant, and then married to a man just like that.  For the next twelve years I was like a caged lion.  Pacing, pacing, pacing.  Work and my children were my constants as my husband and I lived vastly different, and separate lives, out of the same home.  The only “real” marriage I had to use for comparison was my Grandparents.  But those were different times, right?  And what would happen if the children didn’t have their father?  This thought in particular tormented me.  I only wanted the best for them.  At the time, I thought that had to be two parents.

Now, being married to someone you have no desire to spend any time with does have its perks.  Almost every weekend I took my children on outings; children’s museums, children’s theater, events with their favorite characters…we had so much fun.  At work I excelled in whatever projects I was given.  I was focused and driven.  I was well paid.  But still, at the end of the day, something was missing.  When I looked in the mirror I saw a woman who lived a big, fat lie!

I finally screwed up the courage to divorce him.  No easy task mind you.  The one thing I learned during my divorce is that controlling people tend to get a little crazy when they lose control.  But in the end, when it was over, he disappeared too.  No contact with our children at all.

To give us a fresh start I bought a new home.  A small house outside of town on an acre.  Lots of trees.  Gravel road.  Quiet.  A good place for a single mom to raise two beautiful children.  Work was going good.  The kids and I were back to our weekend adventures.  It was grand.

So who can blame me when my daughter and her best friend started bugging me about meeting their Science teacher and I told them both to get lost?  I wasn’t interested in dating someone.  Why would I mess up this great little life I had going on?  And to top it off, he had four kids.  Four small children and an ex-wife.  No thank you girls!

Thankfully, I didn’t stick to my resolve.  After about six months of pestering, they wore me down.  I gave in and agreed to meet this man.  It struck me that my daughter was so insistent that I would like him.  He couldn’t be all bad, right?  I could at least enjoy a cup of coffee with him.

The rest is history.  Two things moved me that morning; my husbands obvious love for his children, and his patience.  As we sat and swapped stories, compared history, talked about our marriages and our divorces, I couldn’t help but relax.  He touched my hand and he touched my heart.  Eleven years later he still touches my heart.  More than ever in fact.  Even after we have gone through so much.

How is it that I can have a bond this strong with a man who I met while my heart was so hardened?  We often say that it is because our first marriages were so unhappy.  Maybe that is some of it.  It takes more than simple appreciation but I believe that goes a long way.  I know I am thankful every day to be so blessed.  Thankful for the love he shows all of our children.

This marriage bears no resemblance to my first save perhaps the real legal document filed at the courthouse.  My husband and I have no biological children together.  We simply didn’t feel the need or the want to add to the six already here.  Maybe that is a big part of it.  We don’t have any “ties” that bind.  We are together because we want to be together.  We are together because trust each other.  We respect each other as separate and independent people.  We allow and honestly encourage each other to pursue our goals and dreams.  We have freedom.  Freedom to embrace who we truly are and that which is important to us.  That to me is the definition of true love.

It’s a new day…a new week…a new month!  Take time to stop and count your blessings. In all circumstances, you are loved!

“This is when the magic happens: right when you feel like everything is going wrong, shift your attitude to accept that it’s actually going right. Our judgments of how we think our life should be are preventing us from reaching our Highest Potential. If you’re going through a storm, hold the belief that it’s the perfect storm for you to be going through and that you’ve been given everything you need to weather the storm. When the chaos subsides you will experience the Truth that is forever true; you are always taken care of, exactly where you need to be and your efforts are rewarded exactly when they need to be. Remember this Truth the next time a storm is on the horizon and you will grow wings and be able fly right over it and towards the calm waters of Trust and Universal love.”

– Jackson Kiddard, author