She is not only that

by Shae on May 16, 2016

 

 

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We are going down the diagnostics route again. Different kid, same predicted outcome. Same feelings of exhaustion and like I’m somehow breeching my child’s trust by bringing in a bunch of people who don’t really know her at all. But they do know a lot about autism, specifically in girls.

They ask questions and look for red flags. Want me to go over her anxiety, talk about how extremely cautious she was as a toddler and how she screamed and screamed if anyone different picked her up. We discuss her inability to organise herself and follow simple instructions, how she won’t wear certain clothes because of how they feel or because she is genuinely upset by looking “ordinary”. We speak about how she absolutely adores her friends and wants to fit in, despite it causing her so much stress and confusion, how someone simply moving houses in minecraft can trigger weeks of weeping and insomnia. I fill out forms, answer questions, tick boxes, fork out money.

I feel guilt. Immense guilt I rationally know I should not. How did I think that her behaviour was neurotypical for so long? I feel as ignorant as every other person who has said “but she has lots of friends!”. I know that realistically my idea of what is neurotypical is very skewed, as 2 out of my 3 kids are not. That, and letting kids be who they are by not forcing extroversion or expecting them to be like me has meant I have just assumed that most kids are like mine, and accepted their differences.

The talking, almost exclusively, about her difficulties and differences is exhausting. Diagnostics puts its finger right on the sore spot. And then presses harder. I come out of each appointment feeling tired and weepy. It is so hard.

One of the reasons this part hurts so much is because she is not only that. My awesome kiddo is more than her difficulties and quirks and sensory profile. She is more than her IQ and any fucking check box rated from almost always to never.

We often go out for a cupcake and chai after these appointments. She will ramble on about Katniss Everdeen, what cat videos are making her laugh on YouTube, and what is happening in her minecraft realm. I love to be around her, so do her friends and the adults in her life. I know I’m not the only person who would describe her as one of the kindest people I know. She is passionate and creative and…I could go on and on.

She will almost certainly walk away from this month with an ASD label, but she is not only that.

She is so much more.

 

 

 

 

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Changes after kids I had no idea about.

by Shae on May 10, 2016

 

kids asleep

 

I have been at this parenting gig for a few years now. Actually, eleven of them. Last night as I lay, completely wide awake at 2am, listening to that fucking intense wind outside I was cursing my caveman brain. And not caveman in the paleo diet sense, but that I couldn’t sleep because my brain was on high alert in case we had to flee to a safer cave or something. Except it’s 2016, and I live in a brick house. While I was awake I had some time to think about all the other weird and wonderful ways that I am different now, and that new stuff still seems to crop up even 11 years in.

We all know about the sub-optimal changes to our pelvic floor, and that peeing alone is a dream you don’t aspire to until your kids are going through puberty themselves, but there are so many more.

I am so much more terrified of indulging in risky behaviour now. You may think this would mean train surfing or heroin, but no. More like big waterslides and driving in the rain. Caveman brain at fault once again. I might die and children will surely starve to death back in our cave while man is out hunting or some such thing. I discovered the new terror of heights thing at a waterpark with Tannah. While at the top of the enormous flight of stairs. Less than ideal.

I am endlessly delighted with just how much I truly like my kids. Sure, I love them-that goes without saying. But I really like them as people, and enjoy spending time with them too.

I didn’t realise that getting laid by the man I share a bed with would be so difficult. It is so much more than playing “are we both keen on the same night” roulette. We have to factor in if the kids are asleep, if they are asleep in their own bedrooms, if I am sleeping in my own bed, how exhausted one or both of us may be, and whether it is Game of Thrones night and we are up past Luke’s bedtime.

I was unaware that a child liking a food may not be a thing you can count on for any period of time.

I didn’t know how sad I would be when my kids stopped doing the things I was supposed to be excited about them growing out of, like breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I also was surprised at how exhausting some of their more grown up stuff would be, like Minecraft obsessions and clothes shopping.

I had no idea that complete strangers/the media would  make incredibly negative comments/opinion pieces about our parenting style etc. Or that I would get t a place where I ceased to give a single fuck about what they said.

Do you know what the biggest change has been? It has been to me, as a person. Having kids (maybe even having quirky/tricky ones especially), has made me so much less interested in bullshit. Both my own, and other people’s. I was probably “girl least likely” to settle down. I threw myself into a lot of self-destructive crap, listened to so much of my own self-doubt, and bought into other’s opinions of me and how I “should” be instead. My girls have made me see that “I can” and that I really am worth something pretty magnificent. Advocating and doing what is best for my kids, even if it means making the different choice, has helped me to trust my gut and indeed myself.

Maybe that’s something they should put in the “what to expect’ books.

 

Tell me, what have you learned that wasn’t in the parenting books?

 

 

 

 

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Disclaimer-I’m not an educational psychologist, a teacher, a behavioural optometrist, a tutor, or any kind of specialist in learning disabilities. This post is purely what I, as a parent noticed, which prompted me to seek a professional opinion. This post is in no way diagnostic. 

 

 

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It can be a tricky one. When children have their own timeline and a bunch of interests that probably don’t fit into rote learning, the difference between a child not being at a similar level as their peers and having some difficulties is not always obvious. And when you take away the expectation to perform while seeing all interests as valid opportunities to learn, it can sometimes mask a problem.

Many unschooled kids read and write later than schooled kids. In fact, I would say that most do. Lots of unschooled kids have a really broad knowledge base, but it often doesn’t look like reciting the times table. None of these things necessarily mean that a child has a problem or a difficulty in that area, and we all know that types of intelligence are not limited to “being good at taking tests” (don’t we? I hope that more people do), but for some kids, they might need a bit of extra help.

One of the best bits of leaving the school system, in whichever way you may choose to do it, is that you can tailor the education to meet the child. For some kids, it might all come really naturally and organically. And some kids might need a tutor, or more structured approach, or at least to practise a little bit more. Does this still make it unschooling? I don’t care. Call it what you want. I guess we are currently “eclectic, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason inspired natural learners who do some bookwork”. Whatever. The longer I do this the less I get hung up on needing to make other people more comfortable by fitting a label.

One of my children has a bunch of learning difficulties that range from dyscalculia and dysgraphia, to problems with working memory and processing speed. It doesn’t mean she is any less awesome, but that she does need specific strategies, and support to make progress.

So what things did I notice?

 

That she was not progressing.

This is not always easy to spot when not using a linear curriculum. It was, however, obvious to me that she was “stuck” for a very long time on a concept or reading level.

Poor memory.

Words that were read one day, seemed forgotten the next, or not recognised if seen in a different font. Unable to recall multi step instructions or remember what was happening the next day, despite being told several times.

Getting frustrated.

So much frustration! She was so keen to master reading-and it took so long! Even with a tutor. All of her hard work would often still result in confusion or lack of understanding.

Not understanding basic concepts.

The level of explanation and repetition on things like 30 coming after 29 and that 3+3+3=9 and 3×3 also =9 were obviously extreme.

General poor gross motor skills.

Not something I knew linked up before-but it is a major red flag.

Difficulty with comprehension.

Not always understanding what she had read, and losing interest in long chapter books with small font as would lose place in the story.

Just generally noticing that everything was hard.

Pretty much across the board picking up concepts, written words, and moving forward while retaining what she had learned was a struggle.

 

We ended up doing a full educational profile with a psychologist. This was not without problems as they don’t often see children who are not using curriculum, but it gave us a lot of answers and now I feel more equipped to help my kiddo.

Which is what it’s all about really. Tailoring the education to fit the child.

 

 

 

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Leaving the path

by Shae on April 27, 2016

 

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I can’t say I’ve ever really stuck to the path, but I guess I’ve kind of wandered on a track? While I am a massive fan of parenting without absolutes, there has been a certain amount of comfort gained from at least being able to have some sort of recognisable philosophy to attach myself to. If only somewhat.

The last year, for me, has been pretty jarring. The depth of the needs of my children and the reality of how long term their quirks and difficulties are a lot to come to terms with. I guess I thought that many of the issues we had been dealing with were something that would be grown out of or made better. And I had to face the fact that I needed to change the way I parent my kids.

Does this mean I’ve gone to hitting, arbitrary punishments, and standardised school-at-home? Absolutely not. But we do have visual charts, pretty strict morning and night routines, and a tutor. So basically, nothing like how I planned.

Suddenly even the tracks I had been treading seemed awkward and even the somewhat philosophies didn’t fit.

Also, what of blogging? I started writing here because I loved reading other blogs of people who walked a similar path and I wanted to add to those voices. I let people peek into our lives so that our version of normal would be more visible. To let people see that they could make different choices for themselves and their families.

When we started down the path of “what the actual fuck are we doing and we need to change lots of things” I knew I couldn’t put it into words, and some of it was simply to raw to share. And where would I fit in that online sphere? I’m not an unschool blogger, but we don’t school at home either. I am not going to solely focus on my children’s neurodiversity, but not to speak about it is to ignore a massive part of our lives and silence conversations that need to be had. My kids are too big to be talking about homebirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping etc, so do people want to hear about chores and being on instagram with my kids? Maybe. I decided to just let it be for a while.

 

Fast forward to now.

We are the same family we were a year ago. We left the path and forged our own which has been equal parts terrifying and empowering. Still being my own guru and simply trying to make the best choices for us on any given day.

Then I came back to the blog. I was ready! I wanted everyone to take a peek again. I wanted families walking a similar path to see that they are not alone, and I wanted to add my voice to those already out there. So I tried to write and nothing came. I was getting so frustrated-until I realised that I was trying too hard. Trying to write these big, profound posts.

I thought about it, and actually I don’t have anything very profound to say.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of the internet, talking shit.

 

But hey, maybe the very boringness of our quirky life is worth blogging about.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is this thing still on?

March 31, 2016

Hi. Remember me? It’s been about a year, I guess. And what a year! I’m not even sure how to start. Everything is pretty much the same, but there have been a few more official diagnoses added to the fold. Childhood mental illness, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, and another kiddo on the spectrum. This […]

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Just don’t

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  It seems I’ve been visited by the “everybody make uninformed comments” fairy so I just need to get some stuff off my chest. OK? Thanks.     JUST DON’T say that “Harper seems fine!” or her diagnosis is wrong. Even if you know us a little bit. You are not her pediatrician and you […]

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  From comments I get and articles I read there seems to be a misconception that if you take away the firm rules and punishments of traditional type parenting then all descends into chaos. That if you don’t put your foot down about everything then your kids will be disrespectful assholes who are never guided […]

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