Monday, May 16, 2016
No parent outruns these thoughts. We all race to provide enough of a foundation, enough education, enough wisdom to see our children off onto a future we may or may not join. We all feel, from time to time, that we cannot possibly be enough. And if your child has special needs, there is another, terrifying thought, "what if they CAN'T make it on their own? What if life claims its promise of us before we can prepare them to make their way, or protect them from those who could harm them if they can't?"
So we run harder, faster from the fear and towards the hope of help from "experts" and those that came before. Hoping that their answers will be THE answer to see us through.
Early on in the "race," my husband and I started to sense that "fear" and "hope" were far more the enemy than inadequacy. Our son's brain is unique. There is no expert who knows him as we do. Our templates for how life is "supposed to be" and our "hopes" that he could have the lives we've had, needed to be re-examined. What does HIS life look like? What does HE love? What is that thing we are filling in between jumping on and jumping off of this ride? Do we want a life of constant therapy, working to fit into a school system that we don't see as all that useful, even for typical kids, towards a future we might have wanted for ourselves, but may not be at all useful or happy for him?
It can be hard to walk away from institutions and even well-intentioned friends, family and others "with children like yours" nearly shouting at you that, "you want to do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE for your child, don't you - because look how well it's worked for other people and some people don't even have access to these services and what if he wants to go to college someday and I know someone who did this and their child is graduating with honors now and you have to try gluten-free, chelation, RDI, Dan Protocol, ABA, Special Oils, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Allergy Testing, or you AREN'T TRYING HARD ENOUGH!"
One thing my autistic son is, is very present in his NOW. He is usually happy in his NOW. What if we let go of the supports and the voices telling us what we should be doing and let his strengths, joys and struggles guide us? What would it be like to free-fall? Scary? Of course. But liberating too. Realizing that there is no ONE WAY to do something - that the ride is as different as each brain is different, is a source of power.
And that may sound lonely, but we've found that there are others walking this path, without judgement, offering friendship and sharing stories to take or leave if it serves us. Facebook groups like Unschooling Special Needs and Homeschool/Unschool Bloggers offer tips and advice and you can ignore posts that don't fit. There are blogs by adults on the spectrum that shed light on their personal experiences and what helped or hurt them.
And once you find some like-minded folks, you can even meet some of them in person. Maybe there will be one group that is great for outings, another that has some learning ideas, or unschooling support.
And you will learn that the eclectic life you create with your child and family in mind, is perfect for you and for them. And you'll learn to ignore the critics, and those with methodologies too rigid for your needs. You'll find a community you never knew existed, and a life that is nothing like what you imagined, because you never imagined what free-falling would feel like - glorious, terrifying, surprisingly fun, sometimes disorienting, but FREE.
For those of you along on this jump - welcome. If I learn any cool tricks, mid-air, I'll be sure to pass them along. And you are always welcome to share your own stories, ideas and observations in the comments section.