Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seeing past a Disability is a Lesson on Humanity: Third Grade Memories.

Before I had my children, the world of special needs was something of my own childhood. I grew up around those who needed a little extra love and attention. Back in those days, the special needs children were often in separate classrooms. Occasionally we would have children who had Downs or physical handicaps in our classrooms. In my third grade, my best friend was a boy who had Spina Bifida, who had later died due to other things happening inside his small body. It was knowing him, without seeing the very obvious thing that made him different, that allowed me to see a person beyond the stated or pronounced issue they were having in life.

With that sense, it made me realize, when my own children were diagnosed, wouldn't it be wonderful if people could see past that one distinctive factor. Even though, there have been a lot of advancements in medical science, it still seems that the ignorance of long before, still reigns. 

I  have written a lot about the daily struggles both myself and my children have navigating around in this world, that seems to be, some days, a sea of assholes. But every time I encounter someone that can't quite figure my children out, I think back to looking in on those classrooms that were filled with children, who just wanted to play and have friends. And I think, it really hasn't changed all that much. Sure we are starting to see more and more special needs children within the classroom, but its the attitudes that haven't changed. Policies have. But not the way of thinking. We still have teachers that don't respect the uniqueness of their students and the adults out there that still try to take advantage of those who they think are weak.Bullies that are born from the  way of thinking birthed by those who are around them. Its those attitudes that get passed down, that bother me. 

I take the experiences I had growing up as something to teach my own children. I want them to see people with an open mind. I don't want them to think that just because someone is different from them, that they need to excluded from society. I want them to be able to stick up for someone who maybe can't. As they have a sibling that can't verbalize. Just as I was the voice for that friend, I want them to have that. 

After we got the diagnosis of our third child, I remember all those years of looking inside those special classrooms, thinking to myself, why can't they come out and play with us. I see my son, who is very happy where he is, in one of those classrooms. I hope that the day will come that he will be able to be with his peers. I know in my heart that it will come. 

I hang on to those memories of a person that taught me so much. At the time, I didn't think much of it as I was a child. But looking back I just see a person who was willing to be my friend and I his. Looking  at school pictures, he was always at the end, in his wheelchair and megawatt smile. I remember at his funeral, his mother thanked me for being such a good friend. To this day, I was just happy to have had him in my life. To me, there wasn't any labels or diagnosis. If a person was a good person, that was all the mattered, to me.

It is sad to me that even back then, disabilities were what made a person, no one saw past that.The refusal to educate, segregates those who just yearn to be part of this society, which is no better than those attitudes of old of wanting to put these children away or separated.  To this day, as we fight for acceptance and simple compassion, those same attitudes are still there.. Just a different translation of it. 

I hope that one day, everyone will be on the same page, speaking the same language when it comes to accepting our children. Being kind and compassionate. Looking back, me just being a friend to someone that was different, meant more to me than anything else, as he taught me more about being a good human being than I think he realized.And that is the lesson many people still need to learn.  

Billy, I hope that you know just what kind of lesson you taught me way back then about how to be a compassionate person. I hope that my children can teach someone out there the same valuable lesson you taught me many many moons ago. .You are always remembered fondly.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Hero within...

Normally when we think about Heroes, we tend to think about those who don a cape and have special, unique powers that make them immortal or the ability do things at an extraordinary level. They tend to be those who have fan base or a following of sorts. They are the characters that young children dream of being, wearing their costumes, pretending to save those toys from an evil entity from their imagination. When I think about heroes, its everyday people.

A far cry from your Supermen and your X-Men, but the everyday Joe who makes a difference in their life, as well as the lives of others. It doesn't take superhuman strength or a gazillion gadgets. Nor does it take a radio active spider, to prove to society that you are hero. It takes compassion and kindness. Courage, and internal strength. Heroes are those people who without a second thought, try and make a positive difference in the world. They are the ones that come from their own personal struggles to raise above it and come out of it ok.

They are the mothers and fathers, that go to ends of the earth to make sure that their children are taken care of. The single parents that are working two to three jobs just to make sure there is food in their children's bellies. They are the parents that get devastating news concerning their child, but yet put a brave face on, so their child doesn't worry. They are the parents that have had to prematurely bury their children when they have departed to soon from this earth.

They are the people that swear to protect and up hold the law, still with honor and dignity. They are your members of the military, that bravely enlisted to protect the freedoms you have today. They are the family members that are left behind during deployments. The child that waves the American Flag so proudly while they watch their parent go.  They are the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children that sit in front of a grave stone watching a 21 gun salute.

They are the person who doesn't see the disability that has labelled them. They are people who fight for acceptance. The people who take what is given to them and who make it work.

They are the fighters and dreamers who try to make this world a better place. They are the figures that personify just what equality and peace is. They are the Dr.Martin Luther King Jr's, The Ghandi's, the Dali Lama's of this world. They are the people who never gave up. The Rosa Parks', The Nelson Mandelas and the Harvey Milk's of this world.

Heroes are everywhere. They are the people that hold the door open for you. They are the people,who when they see you struggle  are there to help you back on your feet. They are the good Samaritans that help in an accident or who help you calm your nerves. They are the people,who pay it forward. They are the people who don't care where you come from or who you are but are willing to respect you as human being.

So when we look at heroes, very rarely do we look at the person staring back at us in the mirror. Most of us don't think we are the all that special, but in reality, we just might be a hero to someone and just don't know it. Within ourselves there is a hero that is either waiting to emerge or they are part of who we are.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dear Impatient Person....

Hi there!

I am sure you don't remember me. I am one of the countless people you have encountered in your day that you have not given a second thought to. That is ok. I wouldn't expect you to remember those people who's day you have made worse because you didn't have one ounce of decency towards your fellow human beings. Its ok, I get it. Most of us get it, the world moves at a slow pace than you do, and you being the most important person to ever live, we must somehow must step aside and let you do your thing.

But here is the trick with that way of thinking, it well sucks. I am going to blow your mind here.You are not the only person on this planet that has places to go and things to get done. Let that sink in a little bit.

So when you are the person that calls the bus company to complain about a school bus taking up too much of your time, because you are running late or that you want to get home, this is what happens. That bus now has find another way to drop the kids that it's transporting back and forth to school. Sometimes the route they have to take is the safest to get the kids on and off the bus. But little did you know that the bus you called to complain about is a bus that is carrying special needs children and that maybe, just maybe the route they were taking was the safest for both parent and child to get on and off the bus. So now, that parent and that child have to get on a bus on one of the busiest streets where most people don't pay much attention the bright yellow bus with flashing lights. Getting stuck behind a school bus slows you down. But think about this, if this was your child or someone you loved, getting on and off a bus, won't you want them to be safe?

So when you were so quick to complain about one school bus, I bet you didn't even stop to think why this bus had the route it did. I don't expect you to understand. But let me tell you why this bothers me. I have a child that bolts. He is autistic. And if there was ever a chance that he got out of my grasp and bolted into the street in front of the bus and into the traffic that doesn't pay attention, then what happens? And who is at fault? Not you. Not the person who didn't care enough about the safety of the children on that bus, as it inconvenienced you for all of five minutes if that. And I am sure you are the type of person that curses and swears when you get stuck behind the bus or the person who thinks its ok to not stop when the bus is flashing it's lights.

So I hope that one day, if you have children or children in your life, that you love as fiercely as I do my children that you hope to god they make it safely back and forth to school. Whether or not they take the bus. As your complaint about my son's bus inconveniencing you on your daily drive, because you are impatient and can't wait for a child to get off a bus safely, shows me just what kind of person you are. One that needs to slow down and be considerate to those who are around you. And then maybe, when the tables are turned and we have to wait for you, you just might get a dose of an impatient person. Good luck with that.

Very Respectfully,

Mother of a Bus Rider.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When is it going to start being an issue...

By now most of the football loving nation has been aware that Ray Rice, the running back for the Baltimore Ravens, has been cut from the team, due in part because of a video that depicts him punching his then fiance out as if he was in a boxing ring and he was going rounds with Mike Tyson.  I am deeply sadden at the way this has all been reacted to and how poorly it has been taken care of.

Mr. Rice is just one of many superstars that have gotten away with something that is illegal. Since the dawn of time, domestic violence has been looked upon as something that can be swept under the rug, ignored like the make up that covers the bruises. But this is now something that even the NFL and other organizations cannot ignore.

As hard as it was for me, as a survivor of Domestic Violence, to sit and watch a man in a very small space, knock out his woman, like a neanderthal, failing at the attempt to drag his woman back to his cave, I can't even fathom what its like for her. Janay Rice, now has to sit back and see all the comments that condemn her because that video pretty much killed her husband's career. She is now the ending joke to asshat reporters on FOX news, who have no idea what its like to be abused by their spouse. But the sad reality of it is this, there are millions of people out there who are abused by their spouses, every single day that are sitting in their own misery watching this play out. And like a shitty play by play that gets repeated, most of us who did manage to find the courage to walk away, are sitting here, know exactly why Janay Rice went ahead and married him anyway.

I am not going to sugar coat things or make domestic violence look even remotely pretty. Because its not. It is an ugly, rage-ful, controlling aspect of certain human beings that need to feel better about themselves. And for us people that find their way into their web, it is a struggle to get out of. Not only are you griped with the fear of pissing this person off, but you have absolutely no self worth to say to yourself that you deserve better. This person has beaten you down both emotionally and physically. To the point where you start believe them, when they tell you that you deserve nothing better except what they are offering. They break you, until you are nothing but the shell they can control. So when you sit there and ask "Well why don't they leave?" Its not as easy as getting up and walking out that front door. You first have to find within yourself the courage to do so. You have to find that part of you that still makes you, you. But when you find that, whether it be instantaneous or if it takes awhile, you then can start realizing that you are worth more than just someone's control thing.

For all the Janay Rices out there, You are not alone. Not for one second. There are places you can go. There are numbers you can call 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 ( National Domestic Violence Hotline)that will help you and keep you safe. It isn't going to easy and it is going to suck a whole lot of shit. But know that there are people out there that will be there to catch you if you fall.

I needed to write about this. Domestic Violence is never ok. Not Ever. It is never, ever ok to even joke about it. And for those who seem to feel some sense of sympathy for Mr. Rice, I want you really take a long hard look at the man you seem to want to support. The man that almost got away with beating the shit out of his wife. Eventually, it will all come back to haunt you.

As for the NFL and other big organizations, the fact that you are now just making a stand about this, is truly sad. Because if that video hadn't shed some light on the misogynist game you all play, I am willing to bet that you wouldn't have players to play your game.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Standing on the outside, looking in...

It is not a big secret that people with Autism have a hard time trying to find their footing in the social sphere. Either their stimming or social awkwardness tends to put people off. Which very quickly makes them the targets of the bullies of the world. But has anyone ever asked a person with Autism what it is like to try and navigate through this world that doesn't fully understand them, yet let alone accept them?

I ask these questions, as more and more stories are becoming news worthy of bullying those with special needs. As a parent of a children who are special needs, I often wonder what its like for them trying to make friends or trying to fit in to clique. Imagine standing outside of a place that you so desperately want to get into, not having the tools or the courage to either get in or walk inside. They try and try to find a way in, but in the end it is unsuccessful. Watching your ASD child go through this is heartbreaking, as you know just what kind of special person they are. In fact its quite painful.

Watching my daughter, especially trying to become her own person in a world that doesn't understand her, is both terrifying and enlightening. It is a learning experience for her as much as it is for me. I remember when I was her age and the cruelty of the children in my class towards those who were different. It was a different time, but attitudes remain the same at this level. For her, I see the emergence of self awareness. Knowing who she is, but with that comes the vulnerability of letting the outside world see her for who she is. Watching her try to figure out why she is excluded from things. Or why she gets dropped when a cooler kids comes around. I can see those gears turning inside her head, but she has that look of being on the outside looking in. That sense of maybe this is not where I belong.Trying to find people who will stick by her.. I know in time, she will find her own tribe. The people who will love her for who she is. The people that will see past what makes her different. The people who call upon her to share in laughter and friendship. But right now, she is trying find a way in. Trying to find those people who will open the door and let her in. As she is learning how to deal with the social sphere of being an Autistic, I want her to know that she is important. That she is worthy of people who accept her and see past the autism. It will be a hard lesson for both her and I to learn. It doesn't stop with just my daughter, even though, my youngest is still young, its how the world accepts him that I worry about.

Children with Autism, are misunderstood. Society sees the meltdowns, the over stimulation, the delays or every other thing that is associated with Autism. They see the non verbal child as dumb or unresponsive. But what they don't see, is this child that is full of life. Full of love. Full of so much to offer as a human being. They are unforgiving to those who shun them, for all they want to have is companionship. A friend.

Teach your children what it means to include and accept someone that is different from them. Children learn from example. Even though my children may seem different from the rest of the world, they are taught to see everyone as an equal. No one is less of a person because of how and who they are. They are still human beings with emotions and the ability to feel. Just because they might not have the tools to express fully how they are feeling doesn't mean they don't feel sad or hurt when you treat them differently or negatively.

Do me a favor... 

I want people to imagine standing outside a place you really want to go into. A restaurant or a store, whatever that place may be, and for what ever reason you are not capable of going into that place. And as you are standing outside trying to look in, what do you feel? That desire and need to go it but can't. Sense of defeat and sadness right? Damn I wish I could go in there. Looks fun. That is what it feels when you exclude a person from your social sphere. And sadly, that is what many ASD children feel like when trying to fit in. Be that person that opens the door and welcomes them in, to place that is supportive and accepting.