Growing Up Special

Parents of Special Needs and Adopted Children Seeking Excellence

Archive for September, 2008

Sep
30

What’s Your Family’s Story?

By Rainy on September 30th, 2008

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        Every family is made up of individuals with wants and needs.  Every family is different.  Add a person…take away a person; and, it changes the family dynamics.  Add a need, or take away a need; and again…the whole composition of the family changes.  This is to be expected in the life of every family. 

         Families that are created out of adoption have a multitude of blessings and challenges.  The same can be said of families that have special needs children…whether they are born into the family or adopted.  The term family falls under an umbrella of accomodations; each person’s wants and needs are accomodated into the family unit (or should be).  Your place in the family is guaranteed out of love, acceptance, encouragement and the occasional nudging towards further personal growth.  A healthy family is designed to be a personal support system. 

         My own family has both adopted children and special needs children.  We have blessings and challenges like any other family.   Those blessings and challenges aren’t JUST related to being a family created from adoption, or of special needs; it is sometimes a mixture of both. 

         I grew up in a large family and my husband did as well.  We are used to understanding that each person is unique.  Each person is an individual, as well as, part of a family unit.  Often in my sibling group we had wants and needs that conflicted with one another…my husband’s family as well.  We had to work out any differences between family member’s expectations.  My husband’s family was impacted by some special needs, my family was not.  Neither of our families were impacted by adoption.   And yet, because we came from large families…some would consider our families to be special needs just because of the number of children.   Each person in a family impacts another; that is typical of any family that consists of more than one person.  There is no such thing as a “normal” family!  :)

          We are blessed with creative thinkers, business minded or logical thinkers, nurturers, artistic individuals, readers, non-readers, free thinkers, outgoing personalities, highly verbal personalities (how come i didn’t get any quiet personality childen?) LOL, musical, non-musical, conformists and non-conformists, high IQ-low IQ, flexible and non-flexible personalities; you get the idea.  We are a creative mix of likes and dislikes.  It is a balancing act at times trying to meet everyone’s needs.  But, it is done because we want to; we desire to recognize each person’s requirements to be successful, to be healthy and happy. 

           Each family has a story; it has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Everyday we are writing new pages to add to the story.  Those stories are of interest to others because we can learn from one another.  We can share in the laughter, the confusion, the joy, the sorrow, the sense of betrayal or anger that fills a family with a lifetime of experiences.  The stories of your family can mingle with other family stories to create a sense of encouragement,failure, discouragement, success, education, or compassion. Experiences can draw people together or set them apart. 

            Isolation is sometimes a part of family life when you are raising adopted children or special needs children; just because of the lack of understanding; or, perceived lack of understanding, of those in your social circles or community.  It is very important to find support in those times of feeling isolated by behavior difficulties or by circumstances.  

           We must learn to live in the moment…not be defined by labels or expectations.  Each day, each moment is open to interpetation.  We can stop, we can reread, we can change directions and we can grow and learn.  Sometimes people get a label and try to skip all of the chapters in between the beginning and the end…they just want to go to the end of the book and see how the story turns out.  It is in the daily living…getting the most out of each and every moment that we are given to live, that we find fulfillment and joy. 

          So, what’s your family’s story?  How was your family created?  Is your family life the way you expected it to be?  If yes, why?  If not why?  What would you change if you could?  Can you change it?  Can you change how you think about it?  What impact does your family have on each other; what impact does your family have on others around you?  What does family mean to you?  What do you love about your family?

Sep
04

Government Support

By Rainy on September 4th, 2008

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        Tonight a speach was given that was wonderful to hear.  Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent person politically; it was good to hear Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for Vice President declare that “when” she and John McCain are elected…families of special needs children will have an advocate or friend in the highest offices in the United States government.  That is something that we families have needed for a very long time!  So, i say kudos to her for raising the awareness of the American people.  She is the parent of a young baby who is affected by Down’s Syndrome.

Sep
03

Time To Teach Independent Living Skills

By Rainy on September 3rd, 2008

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        Ok, I know in practical terms…teaching independent living skills along the way while raising children is just common sense.  However, as one of my children is approaching his last year in high school…it feels like I have an egg timer alongside of each day.

         My son is a senior in high school.  There is not much time left to teach him some really important lessons.  Where we live, in a rural setting, there is not some great program available to him to continue educating him after graduation.  In Michigan, if my son goes for his diploma at the end of the year; as opposed to a certificate of completion…his educational opportunities as a special ed student come to an end.  If he wanted to continue in the school system, he could choose a certificate of completion…but, the only available program for him is a daily living skills program.  While that is a valuable tool, it doesn’t in my opinion outweigh the benefits of going for the diploma.

          Because we live in a rural area….there is not much opportunity for employment, in general, let alone if you have special needs that can hinder your employability.

           The things that are important to my son at this stage of his life…are dual edged.  He wants to drive a car.  He wants to hunt.  He wants freedom to make his own choices.  He wants to work.  There is nothing wrong with wanting those things…but in some cases, those very things are difficult to achieve or not in that person’s best interest.

           My son’s abilities are limited because of several factors.  He reads at a first grade level…and that, is with difficulty.  He has problems with assessing safety situations.  He is wanting to work…but sometimes, has trouble staying on task and focussed.  These issues are going to limit his ability to hunt, to drive, to live on his own without some sort of safety backup plan. 

            Our plan is to work with him on planning meals and grocery shopping; he also likes to hoard food and eat it almost as soon as it is purchased :)   That won’t be condusive to living on his own if he cannot somehow understand the concept of planning and executing a plan for purchasing and divying up the food purchases to make up meals for a set number of days at a time.  He will have to show more care with personal hygene; it isn’t high on his list to change his dirty clothing when going away…he just doesn’t think about it.  He will need to learn to think ahead for those situations.

            We are wracking our brains trying to come up with some type of job that he is able to do and excited about doing.  Many of the types of jobs he wants are not realistic.  We have enrolled him in an class that will be working towards teaching him an employable skill.  I think he will take pride in this; if he continues to enjoy it once he gets into the curriculum.

            Housing, we are blessed that we were able to plan ahead for this years ago.  We purchased a house next door to us years ago with the intention of using it for independent living skills for our boys as they became ready.  This will allow close supervision but also allow for them to feel independent and “free” to be a grown up.

           This year will hold many surprises and advancements.  It is an exciting and scary time for him and for us.  We all have a lot to learn as we transition to adulthood together!  Here is a great link of things to consider when easing into independent living:  http://www.teachersfirst.com/sped/parents/transition/eric-lifeskills.html

Sep
02

Is There A Need For Support For Families Of Adopted And Or Special Needs Children?

By Rainy on September 2nd, 2008

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        My husband and I are the proud parents of six adopted children.  We have 3 girls and 3 boys.  Each person has their own gifts and blessings.   Some of those children are special needs children; and some are not.  We have children with special needs issues ranging from bi-polarism, to ADHD, to learning disabilities, to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, some have behavior related issues.  One is homeschooled, one is in special education classes, one should have been, and some have benefitted from regular educational services. Some are adults living their own lives very successfully.  Others struggle in some areas of  day- to- day activities.  A couple have to be supervised or encouraged every waking moment of the day to help keep them focussed on being the best person that they can be.  :)    They are all loved, supported and have brought much to our family. 

        Each person has their abilities and their challenges.  None of them did anything to deserve the life they were born into; they had no control over the very beginning of their life.  Yet, each of them must strive to have a loving, healthy, productive and happy life.  It is possible.  Some adaptations may be required for some of my children to have an independent life; but, it is possible.   Since it IS possible, we will do whatever we can do to help make that happen.

          Adoption is a complex thing.  It serves many purposes and yet…it has an ability to wound, to heal, to lift up, to destroy, to save lives, and to shuffle lives.  There are always imprints of a life that was supposed to be; melded into the life that is gifted and aborbed into another family.  There are moments of: celebration, sadness,  regrets, and purposeful choices; adoption is a wonderfully, painful mixture of the emotional buffet of life!  It is a parent’s responsibility to seek excellence for the quality of life for their children.

        Our family is special and unique; I bet your family is too!  We have had many successes as a family; as well as, some twists and turns that were unexpected.   The dream of a new parent doesn’t usually include the expectation that things could turn out differently from the dream of a picture perfect family.  A birth family or an adopted family does not get to choose from an ‘ala carte menu, of challenges it may or may not face.   As most parents would say, we live and breath for our children; and yet, we are not ashamed to say at times…we wonder…did we do the right thing?  Our children didn’t get a choice in life in which family they would grow up in.  There are shades of grey for each person…balancing the pros and cons of adoption.

         Whether a child is brought into a family by birthing it into the family, or by adoption…the child is received with awe, with excitement, and with hope for a beautiful future.  There are unexpected situations at times regarding health issues, behavioral issues, attachment issues, emotional issues and even loyalty issues.  Those things and more can affect the foundation of a family.

         Many families are jolted to learn that their child has special needs or that their adopted child has issues that will affect them and their family for years to come.  It is a difficult time for parents and other siblings to struggle to learn about the issues facing the family…because…none of us go it alone. 

          Family is a support system all unto itself…but, sometimes the issues can seem overwhelming.  That is the time that families need to reach beyond their boundaries that are self imposed, because many do not understand what we face as families with challenges.  Don’t let that stop you from reaching out.  You just might be surprised by the impact that you could have on another…or vice versa.

          Really, for many people going through the shattered reality that their family is not following the dream of perfect completion…there is a sense of isolation and a perceived lack of understanding from others who have not walked in the same pair of shoes.

          So, is there a need for support and information for families who have experiences that can mirror each other?  Is there a wealth of understanding that is untapped because we have not had the opportunity to join forces and absorb techniques and encouragement from one another?  I think there is.  I have heard so many comments that would break your heart.  Families that are under so much strain that they threaten to break and disintegrate under the pressure.  If one person or family can benefit from sharing and encouraging each other here; then, the blog will have served it purpose.

         Do you know someone who has things to share?  Do you know someone who could benefit from a little support or information?  Do you know someone who is facing a future with a special needs child and is struggling?  Do you know someone with rose colored glasses that is thinking about adoption; but, isn’t willing to accept anything less than perfection?  Bring them to a place that will enlighten them, encourage them, and embrace them!  Families should be celebrated and enjoyed…not everyone is blessed with people to share their love with.

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