Monday, September 28, 2009

Standing Up to My Number One Critic

I wish I had a machine that lit up every time my husband and I disagreed but I was really in the right. Then I would know that I should pursue it and that my idea will prevail. Alas, I have no such machine and if I "put my foot down," I'd do it with trepidation, knowing that if the outcome was negative, he would likely throw it all back in my face with an "I told you so." Sometimes, he'll complain about something that happened when he never voiced any opposition to the idea in the first place. To him, not voicing consent is passive disapproval. To me, it's just plain irritating.

My husband is a good guy but like me, he's not perfect. Of his notable imperfections is his tendency to be conservative. Let it be said that it is also a gift and one that compliments my greedy a.k.a. ambitious nature. However these days, I have been pushing back his criticisms more often. Could I possibly be more comfortable with myself? Now, that's quite a fantasy.

Either way, I'm living on some sort of dream because lately, I have been obsessed with finding a setting for Logan to improve his social skills and have fun afterschool. I live in New York and so in the late fall and winter, it will be very cold. I am concerned for my own sanity because I just know the ADHD brothers will need some place to let off steam. I searched far and wide and called dozens of places but nothing seemed to work. Why?

1. Schedule conflict: If your child rides a school bus to a special education program like mine, he may be on it for over an hour and that means he might be home as late as 4 PM. How does a child go to an afterschool program after that time? He needs a little bit of downtime after he gets off the bus so afterschool programs are tough. Moreover, it's not like there are a million programs suitable for Logan in the neighborhood so this means more travel time after all that time on the bus. No thanks.

2. Conflicting interests: For this family, I need a place for my special needs (crazy like the wind) toddler to play while we wait for the big brother. Does anyone else have this issue? Ugh. This is another reason we can not do anything afterschool unless I have a babysitter. It will be a hard winter for us, I can see it already. They will be stuck at home with me yelling at them not to run and upset the downstairs neighbors.

3. Cost: Programs for special needs children just kill me. Really.... how can one social skills group cost $1,500 for 8 sessions? I also found a soccer class for special needs children that cost $45 per session but a class for the same age group for typical children costs just $27 per session. I know that working with special needs children requires more hands and trained personnel but how much more money can we bleed from our noses? It just plain hurts.

Lastly, I know I'm ridiculous and pathetic when I say this but my neck hurts today so let me be ridiculous and pathetic as I say: When I meet parents of typical children and they tell me about how their kid is having swim lessons or tennis lessons on Saturdays thus they can't meet us until so-and-so time or month... I get a little sad. I want my kids to learn skills too but it will have to be at a different pace if we even pursue it at all. The one that hurts the most is when a friend takes their child to Korean school or Chinese school. I love the fact that I can speak more than one language and I always wanted my kids to be at least bilingual but who could think about these things when you are begging your child to go under a sprinkler or put his hand under a hand dryer in a public bathroom? And when is the last time you saw a foreign language class for special needs kids? I'm sure I wouldn't be able to afford it anyway but I'm not giving up this dream. I just have to remember that we have a different schedule than other families do.

I want the colder months to be fun too. I tried to persuade my husband that we need to find something for Logan to do on the weekends so that he can have more opportunities to learn new skills. After a long and hard search, we finally found a social skills group in a community center (JCC) that had strong special needs programs. The cost came out to be about $30 a session and he will have the chance to go to a very low-cost basketball "class" afterwards. It will total about 2.5 hours of fun for Logan and I am so excited for him. I think my husband is too in his own conservative way.

At first, he was really against me. He felt we had too much going on already (we really do, I'll talk about it some other time) and he wanted to keep things simple. He even complained about driving in bad weather... wah wah wah wah...

Of course, I disagreed and in the end, Kai agreed with me to put him in this social skills group. I always try to aim for consensus and only push if waiting means we'll lose something valuable. The good part was that it was low cost and met every other week so my commitment-phobic husband didn't have to feel tied down. The biggest downside was that the community center is not in my community so I have to drive a bit but it's worth it. Of course, Kai complained about gas costs.

I couldn't be more grateful for this community center for offering an affordable program so that Logan can have fun and learn the skills that he really needs. Another vital point to make is that either Kai or I would have some time to just breathe for two hours. Maybe I can even read a book! We pretty much never get that kind of time on weekends because we might as well rename Saturday and Sunday, "Logan and Spencer Day 1," and "Logan and Spencer Day 2." May we give thanks all those community centers like the JCC, the YMCAs, the YM-YWHAs, and YWCAs out there for offering affordable programs that help children and families like mine survive and thrive.

Photo: My husband and I squabble about buying Spencer things because there are so many hand-me-down clothes and toys from Logan. I wanted to get him a scooter because we didn't have a "first scooter" but Kai didn't want to buy him one, let alone a new helmet. Luckily, someone gave us a scooter for free. This picture of Spencer is quite the minor miracle. Spencer screams to no end if you put a helmet on him but somehow he let me put it on him today. No doubt his OT visit this morning helped him but there is more to that. His therapist says that it is definitely a sensory issue and I'll write more about this some other day.


stace-c said...

I have been following your blog for a few months now and I always find something I can take away from it in my dealings with my own ADHD, SPD, ODD 4.5 year old son. This post really resonated with me because I have gone through the same grieving process due to having to give up some of my dreams for my son. It is really hard when you hear of other parents who can do things with their children that you cannot. I struggle with this all the time. I'm so glad you found a program for your son--I hope he enjoys it and excels at it!

Mrs. M said...

Good luck with the new program. I hope he loves it!

Karen Griffith Gryga said...


One think I really struggle with and I would love to hear your thoughts ... the saying of "finding the gifts in your special needs child". How do you do that when you are so busy trying to address the mainstream and the day-to-day. Of course some kids have screamingly obvious natural abilities -- be it art, sports or music but for the rest of us ... how do we, on a practical basis, find those special gifts when we are so busy trying to address the day to day?

Keep in fighting the good fight!! Maybe you should start up a teaching a foreign language class for special needs kids ... is there a church basement or something you could borrow ... and make it very tactile and interactive? Just a thought :-)


Hartley said...

I am in exactly the same boat.

For years I felt awful because I was taking my oldest (PDD/SPD) to his classes--social skills, speech, OT, visual therapy, etc. and I just couldn't take my other two any where because their older brother couldn't handle waiting--yet they have had to wait while he did his "fun" stuff their whole lives.

The good news is that it does get better. Hard to believe, but I promise it does.

We all continue to grieve the life that we didn't have. The life that our friends or neighbors take for granted. I always come back to the Holland poem (you can find it on my blog if you don't know what I am talking about, no matter how beautiful the windmills or tuplips are, I really did want to go to Italy.

Hang in there Jenn, and remember that we all have the same concerns with our husbands. LOL


Hartley said...

Hi Karen--I just thought I would throw in my two cents.

I have three boys, who all have varrying degrees of talents.

We spend a great deal of time talking about what my oldest (SPD/PDD) is good at: mostly we focus this on the things that HE *thinks* or *feels* he is good at.

Example would be that he is a GREAT climber--so we did gymnastics so he could show off that talent. Or he loves science--so we did an after school science class. Or he LOVES to ride his bike--so we always say he is a GREAT rider and could be in the Tour de France.

All of those things are the gift in your child. When you tell your child he is special for anything he already can do, he feels proud and his self esteem raises triple fold. There is so much day to day discussion of how to help our children with their skill deficits, but really--my son will never be into writing or reading, his weakenesses, so instead of focusing all of our time on them, we try to focus equally on things he can do easily and succeed at.

Good luck with your kiddos!

Jenn said...

Thanks everyone. Karen, you raise a tough question. All I can say is that when they are young, maybe we should be looking for those basic skills that can be applied to various talents. Additionally, we can look to their inclinations. Logan is inclined to doing tricks on the scooter. He is fast on his bike. He likes being around other kids. He is bossy but likes to serve others. He likes learning new languages and he likes math. I don't know how this translates into passions but I guess I will just have to find out. Maybe he'll be the first Asian American President of the U.S. who also likes to do BMX bike stunts and can speak Chinese and is a calculus expert. One can only hope but maybe guessing is the fun part.