I had the pleasure of attending the Women In Biz Network Conference in Toronto last week, reuniting with a number of “old” friends and meeting new ones. #WIBN has a very soft spot in my heart as it was through Women In Biz that I truly figured out Twitter and via their networking events, have met dear wonderful people who I truly count as amazing friends now.
It helped me realize how very much I am not alone in the world of solo/mom/entrepreneurship and that many of the challenges I face are very similar to what they are going through. What I love about the Women In Biz Network (perhaps because so many of us are moms) is that unlike posturing at other conferences, there is a group of highly motivated, intelligent women, willing to talk about those key challenges and brainstorm together how to help one another. What I have also found was a group of kindred spirits in moms (who are business owners/bloggers) who have children with special needs. They have been a tremendous source of encouragement, comfort, laughter and that much-needed nod of understanding when you are detailing some of the latest challenges you’ve had with the school board. Their experiences mirror my own and help me get through the moments I struggle with.
It was during one of those candid conversations, as we laughed about some of the judgemental looks we’ve gotten at the grocery store, that I realized how much we have changed habits/behaviours within our life to accommodate Autism into it. None of it is really a big deal but when you start adding it up, you realize how many changes we have made to help keep things on an even keel and keep our family strong.
A few changes..
-We haven’t eaten pasta in god knows how long. We used to get upset with T when he would gag out the spaghetti he was eating (thinking he was being overdramatic) until we discovered that texture can be a major issue for Autistic kids.
-My mother loves buying really awesome outfits for the kids but even she is starting to recognize that T just won’t wear jeans and depending on the day, really hates collared shirts (sometimes he will so there is always hope!) His favorite attire, pajamas (you can find him in them at any given time of the day) and he also can be found wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of a heat wave. Again as we looked further into this, jeans can feel like sandpaper to a kid with sensitivities and sometimes the long sleeve shirt is a response to his heightened reaction to stimuli. The funny thing is is how often before we better understood this, that those were a root of frustration/anger/impatient arguments in trying to get T to do what he was told.
-T goes through obsessions. First it was Thomas, then Lightning McQueen (Cars), then onto Super Mario. We are used to it. The kids at school patiently say “Yes, we know T…Super Mario and Luigi say ka-pow…as they roll their eyes cause they have heard it every day X10 for the last 2 months”, other people are not, and we see them annoyed/confused/amused by his repetitive conversations or simply stuff like “Welcome to the Thomas and Friends DVD Experience. Please press play to start the movie” We roll with the obsessions and often use it as a reward for good behaviour. Trying to fight it has proven to just not work for us.
-We have become quieter in our house. We’ve realized that yelling or loud voices is one of the worst things for him. We use a lot of non-verbal charades to help slow his brain down and get him to focus on looking at us to accomplish tasks. We also recognize that after a while when there are a lot of kids over playing that he will disappear to go play on the computer. Yes, it’s rude but it’s how he copes and we are totally ok with that.
-We work on patience (my husband and I) daily. We try more now to figure things out. See what’s not working..decide whether its T being a 6 year old boy, Autistic or both. We still have some really sad days (usually after an incident at the playground or after talking to the school board) but we know that if we don’t work together on all of this (as many reports show) we won’t make it. Bottom line.
This journey has taken us sharp left…and it is definitely an interesting adventure. Obsessions will change, behaviours will differ, life is ever-changing and we are learning as we go how to work with it. That’s Autism. A different puzzle (or piece to the puzzle) all the time.