The terrible two’s.
The tween years.
The teenage years.
These times are all markers of our live and the lives of our children. And we as parents are well versed in what to expect or at least what we are TOLD to expect during each these times in their lives.
We know that moods will fluctuate, attitudes will show themselves, peer pressure will mount and independence will be desired.
We are also told what to do, as parents, to guide them, educated them, keep them safe and oddly let them go.
But what does not get talked about or what is not as easily defined are the time frames of life that define those of a child with special needs.
For not always do the actual age of the child match the developmental age.
For not always do the expected moods or attitudes happen.
It is like every child who has special needs has their own game plan.
I speak from 19 plus years in on journey with Elizabeth.
There have been so many times in life that Elizabeth’s actions were not what was to be expected of a child her age or perhaps her emotions were delivered too strongly for what the situation was.
So as a result, the typical markers of life were never as clear to us as to others.
As Elizabeth has grown, it has always been hard to see a mood or hear a comment with a bit edge to it and wonder if it is because of her disorders or is it because she is 12 or 16 or 18 years old. Separating the disorder from the typical is hard.
Sometimes as I was thinking she was upset because of her SPD, my oldest child, Emily, would say something like “Remember Mom, I used to get like that when I was too tired.” Or “Mom, she is acting like I did when I was mad about something.” It was these reality checks, these windows to the typical that I would use when I was in this unfamiliar territory. Sometimes as moms to special needs children, we are so in the proverbial “trees” that we are unable to see the forest.
For the record:
- Elizabeth does have moods- totally unrelated to her SPD or Dyspraxia.
- Elizabeth does have a tough tone to her voice- again unrelated to her disorders.
- Elizabeth has slammed a door, yelled that I am ruining her life and complained the “Nobody cares how upset I am!”
Elizabeth does NOT:
- keep a clean room
- do chores happily
- pull herself away from television or her room easily.
Sounds pretty typical. Right?
But it is mixed in with the times that the moods ARE related to sensory overload. Or that the tone IS because she is frustrated by her Dyspraxia.
I have found that thinking of all the moods, tones, attitudes of Elizabeth, good and bad ones, kind of like sand on the beach that you sift through to get only the shells. It is like I have to mentally sift through the mood or emotions to finally get at the cause of the mood or attitude.
I try not to jump to the reason why.
And then I see the “shell.”
Then we talk more and depending on the “shell,” she is encouraged, hugged and we talk about what to do next or she has a punishment, revoked privileges or a required apology.
I will say that as I play back some really tough teenage moments with Elizabeth, I remember how I used to momentarily smile or laugh at the sound of her feet stomping up the stairs or hearing her tell us all that we needed to just “leave her alone.” It was like I relished the typical for that quick moment before I had to decide how to handle the typical.
I do know that making communication a priority when she was younger was a huge help as she has gotten older, but it is also doing the work to really understand your child, how they work and how their disorders affect them each day.
Our story is shared to make you smile, give a glimpse into our world and maybe help others on their own journeys.
I wish you all a peaceful month.
Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.