When we think of super powers, we usually think of the ability to fly, see through walls, or be exceedingly strong. We don't usually think about special needs being super powers. But they are. Our precious littles work differently just like the superheroes we idolize. If someone had told me when Will was two that he had super powers, I would have laughed and said, "of course, his powerful scream that he uses to deafen anyone nearby!" I was certainly not considering that he had positive super powers. You guys, the early years are NOT easy. The hours long meltdowns and inflexibility with children who can't reason, or speak much of the time feel impossible. They are lonely, depressing, and desperate. Special needs parents are in pits alone. Sure we have people who offer to babysit, bring meals, help with time off work, but it is not the same as saving space for us and climbing into the pit to commiserate. Sometimes, someone babysitting isn't worth the hassle of creating instructions and dealing with the inevitable fallout after the fact. Picky kids mean people bringing in meals isn't terribly helpful. Time off work might result in less pay which means decreased ability to pay bills. What we really need are people who hold space and listen while we vent about our challenging lives. People who hear our pain and just listen. People who don't judge because we're complaining AGAIN about the challenges we face. The early, toddler, and preschool years are hard for typical kids and parents. Between learning to communicate and toilet train, parents have a lot to combat. Throw in epic meltdowns, precocious questions, and intense stubbornness and the result can be disastrous. I felt utterly alone. I was alone in parenting Will with autism and Mack with severe food allergies. I didn't have advocates outside my husband for either of them. I didn't have anyone to sit in the pit with me. As my kids have gone through the stages, and grown in who they are, we have been privileged to watch them develop passions. We have also begun to embrace their challenging rough edges. We call them super powers. And we are teaching them to use their powers for good rather than evil. So, what are these super powers? How can massive meltdowns that last for hours over the color of a cup be a super power?! And the constant movement and inattention of ADHD?! But we can use these things to help them. Those meltdowns signify intense emotions which can be honed for the well-being of society. The motion and struggle to focus on singular efforts can be used in multi-focal disciplines where things move quickly and change often. Teaching them to use these powers begins with understanding. Rather than changing who our people are, we can embrace their unique qualities and help them grow through them. Will is still highly emotional. He no longer has hours long meltdowns, though. Instead, he processes his feelings, takes some calm time to himself, and moves on. Utilizing martial arts and percussion, Will is able to more quickly process and communicate his needs most of the time. He also understands what it looks like for him to have success and is beginning to ask for situations to adjust to help him achieve that. We go three times a week to podschool where I teach and Will has realized that that is too much for him. He asked to stay home one of those days. As Leigh works from home, and Will is responsible, we were able to say "yes" to the adjustment. Will is much more successful in being able to compromise and play amicably now. Mack is still the constant motion machine, but he can now sit for short periods and focus on specific tasks. Those tasks must be to his caliber, though. If I ask him to perform something perfunctory, he is unable. He also needs time to move his body, so I make sure he has outlets that won't result in home destruction. And, I have helped him learn what his thresholds are for calm focus and he can now ask for movement time and brain breaks. Similarly, Sawyer can ask for time to move and let me know when he has reached his limit. This will be a hard won battle, for sure. But it is worth it to help the kids be happy, successful (according to them) members of society. I can be their safety net while they learn to control their powers and fail frequently. I can catch them, give them processing time, and help them learn what they need to be successful. They don't have to sink or swim as adults because I supported them as they learned to swim and fly as children. I watched them discover their worlds and supported those aspects they dove into. Even as their passions changed and evolved, or remained, I was able to surround them with (often free) resources to aid in their discovery. If you want to know how to watch your babies learn their world in a meaningful to them way, let me know. I am more than happy to help you help your littles be the superheroes they are!
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