Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Support Groups: What’s in it for You?

We are not meant to go through certain events alone- serious illness, loss, kids with disabilities and other events that shape our lives. This is when the power of numbers comes in. Being around others in a similar situation can be comforting and sharing your thoughts can help with processing. It can also help someone else realize they are not alone.

Yoga Class and Hope

I haven’t been to an AA meeting since I have stopped drinking. I considered it but realized it isn’t for me. I have read the Big Book and went back for a re-reading. I did, however, randomly find a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery group on Facebook. I was a bit nervous when I went the first time. I’m a bit nervous around people that I don’t know, so it took me a few Sundays to say anything besides my name.

I’ve gone almost every Sunday since November and I really enjoy it. I don’t speak every week, but I do like reading one of the two reflections that are meditated upon. This meeting gives me a chance to think about subjects that I haven’t thought about in a while or, sometimes, not at all. I don’t mind this, because new thoughts can be good. From time to time, the topics may stick with me throughout the week- not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me think about making myself a better person.

I started attending the group for two reasons: I like yoga (and needed a beginner class) and I was struggling. It’s entirely possible I would have relapsed without going to this group. I needed extra support that only others battling the same thoughts and emotions could give me. In the months since I think I’ve lost a few pounds and I’ve become somewhat more flexible.

My airplane pose will probably always be awful on the right side, but I can do a terrific downward dog. I have to sit out the sideways plank because I appreciate being able to use my wrists, but my tree pose is slightly improving. I’m pretty sure my future hip replacement is going to be caused by too many Sundays in the half pigeon pose.

I still don’t say much, but I do like listening to other people’s stories. I got my two year (and first ever) chip at a meeting in January, and next up is July when I hit two and a half years of sobriety. The stories I hear give me hope on the Sundays that I come in struggling and I hope that when I actually do speak, I do the same for someone else.

Chairs

Finding a Group for You

Support groups can be online or in person. Online can be a great option if you are in a rural area or otherwise unable to leave home to get to an in-person support group. Most groups are held at hospitals, community centers, churches, or other locations. They can also be led by group members or other facilitators like a nurse, social worker or other professional.

These groups are not the same as group therapy, as those groups are a specific type of treatment for people with similar diagnoses led by a licensed medical professional. Support groups are meant to be informative.

As with most things, going to a support group can have benefits and risks.

Benefits:

  • Feeling less lonely or judged
  • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
  • Learning new skills to cope with challenges
  • Improving understanding of a disease/condition and your own experience
  • Learning about resources
  • Staying motivated and gaining hope

Risks:

  • Disruptive group members
  • Lack of confidentiality in some groups
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Inappropriate medical advice
  • Comparisons of “who has it worse”

You can tell if a support group is risky if you are pressured to pay high fees to attend, are promised a cure and/or are pressured to buy products. Information found at Mayo Clinic

You got this

Making the Most of Your New Support

Once you find a support group, it’s time to make it work. Talking about your struggles in front of strangers is hard. You don’t have to say more than you want to, but even a little helps when you feel you can. It may help lift a weight off your shoulder that you may not know you had.

Most facilitators are used to new people in the group and can guide you through the rules and processes. If the group isn’t for you, you’ll find out in a few sessions. You don’t have to do everything that is suggested- absorb what works and let the rest go.

Enjoy the new perspectives in your life and thoughts they bring.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Have you been to a support group? Did it help?

Don't allow your child to be left out of family activities

Helping Your Family Understand Your Child’s Special Needs

Family can be supportive in the best circumstances, but in the worst, can be standoffish and even cruel. When your child receives a special needs diagnosis, it’s hard on everyone. It’s life changing and you will need plenty of support.

Many people, myself included, turn to their family for this support. Some get extremely lucky and their families do everything they can to help out, but some families aren’t as lucky for a few different reasons- distance, lack of family closeness, or just not wanting to get involved because they don’t understand the diagnosis. This can be deliberate.

Storytime!

Julian was diagnosed at five years old and most of Matthew’s family, including his mother, would not listen to anything either of us had to say about ADHD or autism. They thought he was just “hyper” or we just needed to discipline him more.

Okay, then.

He’s been on medication since shortly after his diagnosis, and on sleepovers, my mother in law wouldn’t take those meds with her, even though we explained how to give them. It’s not that hard. One morning, she complained for about the 900th time that Julian barely slept.

Really? I wonder why. He didn’t get his meds.

Matthew had run out of patience at this point, and he’s a very patient man. He looked his mother in the eye and told her that he did not want to hear another word about this if she wasn’t going to give him his meds. She was well aware of how to give him his meds, she just didn’t want to deal with it. She didn’t see the issue- remember, ADHD and autism aren’t a thing.

Julian has not left for a sleepover without his meds since.

The message behind this story? When you decide not to learn about a child’s medication because you don’t see the need for them, it will backfire. Just because you don’t think it’s real, doesn’t mean it isn’t. *gets off soapbox.. storytime over*

Talking to your family about your child's disability

Educate, Educate and Educate Some More

This begins with you, the parent. As soon as your child has a diagnosis, it’s time to do a lot of reading. Depending on the diagnosis, there are books out there you can read, maybe even a podcast or two if you are a fan of those. Learn how to use equipment, read up on sensory bottles, whatever it takes. If you need to, ask for help from your child’s pediatrician, specialists, etc. They are there to be a resource for you.

The more you know, the more you can help your child. They can’t always speak up for themselves, especially around a family that doesn’t understand. Don’t be afraid to challenge these family members- I’m not and they know it. I’m not saying to be rude in this challenge, but definitely come prepared with answers and don’t let anyone walk all over you. Have someone with you as backup if you’re not big on confrontation.

Some people are simply afraid. If they don’t know how to care for a child that needs medical equipment, has a severe food allergy, or is non-verbal, they stay away. If they are interested, have them come to a medical or therapy appointment. This can help them adjust a bit easier to your child’s world and get some questions answered.

The hardest explanation, I believe, is when your child has an “invisible” diagnosis. Julian is one of these kids, and it can be somewhat draining to explain that just because you can’t “see” ADHD and autism, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. I don’t think they really want to see him in the middle of a meltdown, because they would have no idea on how to deal.

They do not see the years of therapy, meds, money spent on both, my tears, the fights I had with Matthew to even get him diagnosed, the time I have spent in IEP meetings (or time I spent getting him one) and the sheer energy I have put into making sure he is the adorably funny kid he is.

Create Some Space

Some parents just aren’t able to make things work with their families even after trying to educate, and this may be the result of or part of other issues. This isn’t great, but it happens. It may be time to take a step back from these family members until things improve. This may be painful but the best option for you and your child. It may be stressful for everyone involved to continue to try to make things work when it’s obvious it won’t.

Don't allow your child to be left out of family activities

Build Your Own Circle of Support

Luckily, my mom and sisters are a great support. My mom and Julian are very close. I’ve also been able to create a circle of friends who get what I deal with on a daily basis- their kids are also on the spectrum. I know I can text or call them and they’re available. That is a wonderful feeling. I know that even on a crappy day, I’m not alone and one of them is probably having a day like mine. In fact, one has two kids on the spectrum, so his house is never dull.

Outside of that group, I’ve also joined a few Facebook groups, and they have been a good source of support for questions about ADHD. I’ve also joined some subreddits on the same topics. Internet groups can be a wonderful source of support, especially if you are in a rural area. This can give you a sense of community even if you’re not near an urban area.

If you are in a larger city, I recommend checking out parent groups that center around your child’s diagnosis. I participate in a walk every year with a local autism organization and love it. This year, Julian joined me- I was surprised because he hates being awake before 9 AM on a Saturday, but I was happy to get in the solo time with him. You can find these groups by Googling your city + diagnosis + organization, or a similar search.

I do have friends that either don’t have kids or have kids that aren’t on the spectrum or don’t have ADHD. This is also good. It’s refreshing and they keep me laughing. They cheer us on and cheer me up on the bad days. Everyone should have this. I highly advise finding friends like these.

It’s Fine if Not Everyone Gets It

Your family is meant to be there for you no matter what, but sadly, this doesn’t always work out. Do what you can to educate and include, but don’t stress about the rest. You have much bigger things to worry about- taking care of yourself and your child. Your family will be the ones missing out if they don’t want to come along for the ride.

Recommended Reading: Adjusting to a New World

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My Random Musings

Getting Assistance for Your Child: Essential Questions to Ask

It’s Not a Parenting Failure to Get Help

I once told my mother that there is a reason that people spend a long time in school, take really hard tests (in some cases, more than once. I’ve been told the BCBA exam is horribly difficult) and get observed for a lot of hours to become mental health professionals. They are dedicated to what they want to do. They have to continue that education by taking classes and renewing their licenses every so often. States want to make sure these professionals know what they are doing and do so ethically. I also told her that there is only so much that I can do as a parent, even knowing what I do. There are a lot of things that I don’t know, and that’s why I felt that at one point, it was time to get outside help for my kids.

In Lily’s case, there wasn’t much of an option. Her delays were severe and required outside help. She needed help learning how to walk, talk and do other tasks that I couldn’t have taught her on my own. In the beginning, I really did blame myself, but after hearing that there was no way I caused her delays, I felt a lot better.

Julian definitely caused some debate. I knew what I was working with after he was diagnosed, and yes, I could have worked with him on my own. With two other kids and a full-time job, plus not really knowing what to do or how to do it, it really was time for the pros. He’s been to group therapy for social skills, which helped a lot. Every Tuesday for almost his entire third-grade year, he got out of school early to go to group. He learned how to interact with others appropriately, to speak up, along with other things. Julian is a quiet kid by nature, and we’re okay with this.

I just don’t want him to be so quiet that he is ignored or entirely left out. He has also seen a psychiatrist, and we loved her. Unfortunately, she had to stop seeing patients after some post-birth complications, so now he sees a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

It is okay to get outside help. We’re not just parents- we are also humans. We don’t know everything, and that’s okay. Your child will benefit greatly from outside services.

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Finding Assistance

There are many ways to find providers, it mainly depends on what you need and if you already have someone helping you, like a social worker or someone similar. If you’re looking on your own, it always helps to start by asking other parents you know that are in a similar situation. You can also ask your child’s pediatrician.

That’s where we started with both Lily and Julian. We moved around a bit by referral. It just so happens I used to work with the psychiatrist that started the practice that Julian is at now. (He’s absolutely great, but for obvious reasons, he can’t see Julian.) If nothing else, there is always Google. Google is everyone’s friend.

A Few Definitions:

Provider- a professional that provides some sort of service for your child

BCBA- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (these people do great things, lots of behavior modification, addressing challenging behavior, among other things)

DSP- Direct Support Provider (people who come into your home and work with your child on life skills, social skills and other things they may need. I worked as one for about a year and it was a lot of fun.)

Respite Care- to give parents or other caregivers time to care for themselves, run errands, etc while their child is being cared for.

I highly recommend checking with your health insurance carrier/Medicaid to see what is covered. These services can get very expensive, and insurance paperwork can be a huge challenge. Waiting lists are a thing and can be very long. It can be a bit weird seeing people you don’t know in your home and working with your child. This may take a while to adjust, especially if there are multiple people. Lily had three therapists a week at one point and it was a very weird thing. If you need to set limits, set them and be as firm as you need to be.

What You Should Ask

There are some questions that can’t be missed like:

  • What is your availability?
  • What experience do you have with this population?
  • Are there behaviors that you feel are too challenging for you? Everyone has their limits, and this is okay. My personal limit is spitting. Can’t do it.
  • How do you view your relationship with the rest of the family- siblings, parents, etc?
  • Best way to reach you? Phone, email, text?
  • How will you update me on my child’s progress/needs?
  • Emergency preparedness? Most agencies have trained their workers on a plan for this, so make sure to ask. The practice I worked for had a very detailed plan for injuries, weather and other emergencies.
  • References.

Of course, follow your intuition on the people/places you look at. If it doesn’t look right for you, most likely it isn’t. You will know when you find the right place or person for your child. Call those references. Read through the notes you made during the interviews. Do your research. You’ll thank yourself later. If you are looking for your child to be part of a practice, the questions above will be slightly different. Most places will allow a walk-through and give you someone to talk to. They’ll be able to answer questions, give you information to take home, and follow up.

The road of parenting is sometimes a rough and bumpy one. Looking for outside help is just a small speed bump.

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Information courtesy of Seattle Children’s Blog

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

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Broken Wings Part 2: Divorce Preparations

Broken Wings, Part 2: Divorce Preparations for Your Special Needs Family

by Bonnie Harris Price & Wrae Meredith Sanders

Special needs and divorce; these two words shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Yet more and more families split up because the demands are overwhelming.

Counseling didn’t work. The long vacation meant to help your family reset didn’t work either. It may even seem like your prayers to reconcile went unanswered too.

Then, the inevitable happens. You and your significant other decide to divorce.

Ending your marriage is hard particularly if you have children. Yet when your child has special needs, the task is even more difficult.

The transition to a single parent household won’t be easy. There will be feelings of anger, doubt, fear, frustration, and even betrayal. After all, the two of you took vows to work things out.

But sometimes things don’t work out

It’s important that you know it’s not your fault. And your child’s disability isn’t to blame either. As Iyanla Vanzant says, it’s time to do the work to get your lives on track.

Going through a divorce is like going to war. You don’t want to show up for battle without your protective gear. Don’t confuse this post for a lesson to destroy your soon to be ex, instead, treat this as a blueprint to prepare you for the tough days ahead.

Divorce Action Plan

How much child support should you ask for? What if your child requires special care beyond the age of eighteen? Am I doing the right thing?

These are legitimate questions and at the same time, they don’t even scratch the surface of what’s involved in a special needs divorce case.

Here are some suggestions of what to do when preparing for divorce.

Special Needs Divorce Checklist

  • Find a divorce mediator
  • Find a special needs attorney or an attorney who specializes in family law
  • Bring your child’s records
  • Prepare an after divorce budget
  • Custody arrangements
  • Living arrangements
  • After the divorce

Mediator

In the heat of the moment you might want to run straight to an attorney, but first, try a mediator. A mediator can help you arrange an acceptable divorce agreement. A mediator should be experienced and willing to let an attorney sit in without any hassle.

Your mediator should remain neutral and help keep the peace. Mediators aren’t free but some will offer a free consultation. Check Yelp reviews or get a recommendation from a friend who’s been through a divorce.

Special needs attorney

Next, you want to find a divorce attorney who specializes in this area. Custody, insurance, medical and counseling appointments are areas that must be addressed as soon as possible. Efforts to continue your child’s care takes priority over who gets the house.

The goal is to prevent dumping the burden on one person. Lack of support probably plays a huge role in breakups. To make sure you don’t get overwhelmed after the divorce, address this issue first.

Records

If you haven’t already been doing it, document everything about your child including the relationship with the other parent. Family court is also known as the mother’s court, but fathers have rights too.

You want to record all interactions, including the not so good days. Again, this is not to make the other person look bad, but this is to show the court what the child needs. Documentation is especially helpful in abuse cases.

Budget

Your income will definitely change. Income for divorced women is a not so surprising fifty percent. Another ugly statistic shows men tend to get richer after divorce.

Either way, you must prepare your after our divorce budget now. You need to figure out what your expenses will be if you’re going to have any kind of future.

Some things to consider are:

Can you afford to keep the house once the divorce is final?

How much money will I have to make in case I don’t get the child support I need?

What services can my child do without if I need to make ends meet?

Custody and Visitation

Other than the divorce itself, this is the most painful process. What happens to the kids? In Texas and Tennessee, one parent gets custody and the other gets visitation.

If you’re lucky, the two of you can agree to co-parent. Sometimes this is just isn’t case. Worst-case scenario one parent ends up abandoned despite a court order for regular visits.

Understand the court will decide what’s in the best interest of the child. Mothers tend to have more rights than dads, but if you find yourself on the wrong side of the decision be prepared to fight. If you know in your heart you’re the better parent, don’t give up.

Living Arrangements

Once you have decided who and where please make sure the place is suitable for your child’s needs. New divorcees are plagued with the task of finding somewhere affordable, but it has to be right.

New homes should reasonably accommodate the child. If your child has physical limitations, the other parent should move to a place that is handicap accessible. You should also know if the neighborhood is child-friendly.

Another thing you want to consider is to make sure in your divorce decree that you have permission to move. For example, if there is a doctor or facility two hours away that would be beneficial for your child and you wanted to move closer, your ex could stop you if it isn’t in the paperwork.

You want to put that card on the table because as Dr. Phil said, the person you married is different from the person you divorce. For your child’s sake be prepared.

When It’s Over

The ink is dry. Maybe it was an amicable split. A new chapter for you and your child begins.

Ideally, it would be great if you could seek counseling during this trying time. Most people I know don’t seek counseling until years later. Don’t wait years, get help as soon as it’s over.

Don’t be under the impression that life is going to be grand because the pain is in the past. The pain doesn’t heal until you deal with it. It didn’t work out and you’re left to pick up the pieces.

But Guess What?

You got this. Your child is going to need you more than ever. Despite your child’s emotional and/or physical challenges, they are resilient.

And so are you. Thomas Edison failed over two-thousand times when he tried to invent the light bulb. When asked, he said he didn’t fail, he found over two thousand ways it wouldn’t work.

You will get through this. I have faith in you as a parent.

Comments

What’s your story? Are you going through a divorce and have special needs children? Leave a comment below.

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