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Posts from the ‘Special Needs’ Category

Which books have chosen you?

The wand choosing Harry

The wand chooses Harry

I’ve been waiting for this moment for many years.

Both the boys have been disinterested.  I thought for certain one of them would come around to it.  But my youngest daughter has revealed her adventurous side and agreed…

to allow me to read Harry Potter to her!

We have only just begun our semi-nightly ritual of reading, side-by-side, under the covers by the dim light of her lamp. (I must change that bulb!)  Harry has just found out he is a wizard and is on Diagon Alley getting his school supplies to start at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tonight we read of the pageantry that is involved with choosing a wand.  Or rather, allowing the wand to choose it’s owner.  Fascinating! Of course, Harry’s wand is very unusual, made of holly and containing the feather of a rare phoenix bird.

As I tucked the kids in and came down the stairs to write this, I thought of those wands simultaneously with the books that I wanted to write about.  I wondered, what if there was a connection?  What if books chose the reader?

Of course, there really isn’t any magic involved to it.  But still, it often does seem like books find a way of reaching us where we’re at in life and revealing the truths beyond us.  Or maybe it’s just me.

But, just for arguments sake, let’s suppose that the books on my nightstand have chosen me.  What do they reveal?

Bill Bryson's, The Lost ContinentThe first book  is actually something I’m rereading from about 18 years ago.  It’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson.  There’s no denying it, I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan.  I discovered him as an expat living in London and at the time, he was too.  He wrote this book about journeying back to the states and I devoured it in a homesick stupor.

I chose to reread this book now because my family and I are about to go on a road-trip this summer and I wanted to prep for some of things we might come across.  But of course that’s not exactly what I’m getting out of it.

What I’m getting out of it is how he speaks of the memories of traveling in his youth.  He talks of going back to places he used to frequent and finding them changed.  I can relate.  I’ve moved around a bit and am always startled when my memories don’t match what I experience when I return.

He also reflects about his father, and how they would travel.  Funny stories of the frugal hotels they used to roll into and where they would make pit-stops.

It made me remember my own dad and how we’d make the trek from our home in Wisconsin to his home in Kentucky every summer after my parents divorced.  Now that my Dad has passed away I find myself scrutinizing each of my memories with him, and road trips were a big part of our time together.

Who could have guessed that the 40 year old me could have gotten a whole other layer of this book that the 20 year old me couldn’t?

This book chose me!

Ron Suskind's book, Life Animated

My Kindle version of Life Animated (along with T.C. Boyles, Tortilla Curtain- which is next on my reading list!)

Another book I just discovered is Life, Amimated: A story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism by Ron Suskind.  I had caught the tail end of an interview with the Pulizer- Prize winning journalist as he talked about this book on NPR.  I was intrigued and ordered it for my Kindle.

I was intrigued because I have a son with autism who is obsessed with Disney, just like the author’s son.  And, like the author, we have struggled to find ways of helping him to communicate beyond that narrow scope.

What I wasn’t prepared for when I began reading was how Disney permeated all the boy’s thoughts and emotions and yet, gave him another language in which to express himself.  The family used (and is still using) Disney to communicate with their son and allowing him to explore his feelings through it.

It made me wonder if this is an avenue we could further explore with our son.  We are patient in listening to him discuss Disneyworld and all the rides he wants to create for his own Disneyville (a Disney park he is proposing to build in Cleveland someday!), but do we use this language of his to delve deeper into his own psyche?  It’s hard to say.

Again, this book chose me!

I could keep going with the books that have reached inside and tugged at my soul, and maybe in the future I will.  But, for now I’ll leave you with those two recent examples.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  What books have chosen you?

Have a Wonder-filled Week!

Finding Hope

StrollerThis week I am putting aside my art to discuss something near and dear to my heart.  It begins with a story:

About 7 years ago the kids and I participated in an Autism Walk at a nearby park.  We had only just moved to the area and I was still trying to find my footing.

Many of you know that my oldest son has Autism.  He was 7 at the time.  The others were 4 and less than 1. By attempting the walk, I had hoped to meet people and gather some resources to help me better navigate “the system”.

But all I did was chase after N. while trying to keep the double stroller with the other two from getting stuck in snow banks.

While this was happening, a woman pulled up in a car.  She told me that she knew that there was an Autism Walk going on and wanted to give some advice.  She then proceeded to tell me about the difficulties with her teenage Autistic son.  Her advice was a warning that the teenage years were extremely rough.

I thanked her (because that’s what I do) and watched her drive off.  I’m sure she felt happy to give her advice to someone, but I felt terrible!  The only thing I got out of that Walk was the knowledge that it was only going to get worse for my son.


Now that I am a seasoned Mom and have navigated “the system” for some time now, I can see that day for what it really was. I probably should not have attempted to do the walk without my husband (who was out of town) or another adult to assist me.  Then I could have talked with others and gathered resources with less stress.

And.  That woman was not giving advice- she was looking for help.  It took 7 years for me to realize that.

Standing BoyAutism is not an easy pill to swallow.  With it, we have traversed many hurdles.  But, the teenage years aren’t necessarily horrible.  They are actually kinda fun!

If you would have told me even a few years ago, I would have said, “But what about that woman who drove up to me at the Autism Walk?”  That’s how much power she had over me and how much I had come to dread the teenage years!

N. is now 14.  He is wonderful.  That’s not to say there aren’t growing pains and some teenage angst going on.  But what I’ve learned is that you’ve got to look past the disability and past the teenage angst.   What he and any teenager needs, regardless of their disability,  is love, patience, support, and kindness.  It’s not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

I feel sorry for that woman.  Who knows what her situation was?  I can only guess.  Perhaps her husband or partner just couldn’t take it anymore and left her to care for her son alone. (Some sources claim there is an 80% divorce rate among parents of autistic children.)  Perhaps she was not getting the services she needed for her son, or perhaps she was just tired of the daily grind.

But I also feel sorry for that younger woman with the 3 kids trying to do the Autism Walk.  She needed encouragement, not gloomy advice.  I’m glad she could eventually find the support that she needed..we needed. (and found with the countless wonderful individuals that have assisted and advocated for our son over the years!)

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.  It’s not just an awareness day for the 2 million affected individuals in the U.S. (and tens of millions worldwide), but for their parents, teachers, relatives, and friends.  The message is this: There is hope.  There is a network of people out there that have navigated “the system” and have walked the same path.

Holding HandsA good place to start is Autism Speaks.  Included in their website are FAQs and resource guides.  One resource that was added within the past few years is the 100 Day Tool Kit.  It was created specifically for newly diagnosed families to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child’s diagnosis.  I wish it had been available to us back then, but I’m so glad it’s available to others!

Do you have a loved one in your circle of family or friends affected with Autism or showing possible signs of it?  I ask you to please share this article with their caretakers if it may give them hope.

Have A Great Week!

Find out how the world will be Lighting It Up Blue on April 2nd



Everyone Has A Story

Aminah Robinson Mixed Medium

The Columbus artist, Aminah Robinson, weaves stories into her spirit-filled mixed medium artwork.

Last weekend I went on a Women’s Retreat.  It was fabulous on many levels.  Here are just a few:  1. Having my own room and meals taken care of with the freedom to take a nap, go for a walk, or just be still without having to justify it to anyone.  2. Interesting topics, stimulating ideas, and space to meditate and pray. 3. Meeting fascinating women and getting to know them on a deeper level.

What I also enjoyed at the retreat was how I began to hear people’s stories.  I love a good story.  I especially love it when I hear a story and it completely changes my perceptions or perspective.

I’m not going to reveal the stories I heard last weekend.  Many were personal and told in confidence.  But I admire and thank them for the courage it takes to tell them.

Instead, I’d like to highlight some more public stories that have inspired me.

This is Aminah Robinson.

I first became acquainted with her story many years ago through an article in Columbus’ Capital Style Magazine.  She is a local artist that has gotten international acclaim for her prolific work in paint, sculpture, mixed medium, and many other forms of art.

But life didn’t always come easy for her.  She married young and divorced soon after her only son was born.  She worked a minimum wage job and had to go on welfare at times to make ends meet.  Then, when her son was only 27, he took his own life after battling with depression.

Through it all, Aminah continued to create with any materials she could find and made sculptures out of a substance called Hogmawg, a mix of mud, grease, glue, and dyes.  She wove the stories that she heard as a child and in her community throughout her work.  Her work is magical, spiritual, and leaden with colorful imagery.

If you’d like to see more of Aminah, her process, and her stories click here.

This is Tim.

Tim from Tim's Place

Tim has a fascinating story.  He owns a restaurant.  Not just any restaurant, a diner that gives out hugs.  Isn’t that wonderful?!

That, in itself, is a story.  But here’s the underlying one.  It’s obvious from his picture that Tim has Down’s Syndrome.  This means that he had to put a lot of extra effort into obtaining a restaurant and creating it what it is.  He’s had to pull in his family to help and allowed his community to enter into his world to make his business successful.

It’s obvious from the video below that he has done just that.

I have shared Aminah and Tim’s stories because they touch a core in me.  Aminah is a an artist who has allowed her community and her heritage to shape and drive her art.  I love her spirit.  I’d love to plant a seed of what drives her into my own life and work.

Tim is inspiring on many levels.  I think the main one for me is that my son also has a disability.  Autism.  Tim’s story gives me hope that my son can achieve wonderful things as well.

That’s what stories do.  They draw us in.  Sometimes they touch off something in ourselves that we can relate to.  Other times they just fascinate us or help us to see the world from a different perspective.

Stories are the threads that sew our lives together.

Can you think of a story from your own life that has bubbled up to the surface lately?  I challenge you to do something with it.  Write it down, illustrate it, or create a poem or song out of it.  Feel free to keep it private or, if you’d like, to share it. I’d love to see it!

Have A Wonderfilled Week!

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