Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The move across the country back in the spring still affects me in a big way, and it affects me a lot more than I would like. And not in a good way.

I realized over the weekend that I am afraid in a big way. I'm afraid I won't find the right professionals, the right programs, the right opportunities to support our family as a family and to give my child w/ autism the practice and experience she needs to continue to progress and integrate into the community.

Combine my fears with the fact that we moved during a time of transition for my child - moving from elementary school age to middle school age and toward high school - and I feel a lot of uncertainty. And fear. And anger. Anger is the secondary emotion. Fear is behind it.

The progress my kid has made also creates a set of challenges. She is interacting a lot more with less support and assistance than ever before, but she's not experienced and ready for settings with same-age peers. She's not ready for big groups and classes. And she's doing a lot more communication-wise than a lot of special-needs peers, which means finding a good match for her to practice interaction is getting more challenging to find. (And the child is begging for friends.)

Keep adding - add to that the fact that my knowledge and experience bases have shifted from behavioral to developmental - well, finding good matches for her in terms of classes within the special needs community gets a little more challenging.

I began to scout our old location for opportunities and went about the business enrolling and trying them. At the same time, I was researching other potential opportunities. There are some wonderful programs back there. Having them made me feel secure.

And then we were transferred. We moved. We moved to a location without anything remotely like FAR Conservatory or Friendship Circle and Lifetown. No Judson Center, no Autism ASK, no Oakland University.

The opportunities here for the 12-18 crowd are minimal at best when I compare them to what we left behind.

And the fear (disguised as anger) hits me. Will I find what she needs?

Yes. I will. Slowly. In time.

Finding opportunities here is more challenging - there's no big calendar where all of the businesses and non-profits post classes and such.

But I will find them. Quit comparing there to here. Most will be different, but equally effective toward meeting goals and objectives. (Note to self: read this paragraph again and again because you need to remind yourself of that multiple times a day.)

And I will create new opportunities, tailor-made for my kid, in natural settings with natural supports, something we want to do, something that would have been harder to do back there because when you're involved in lots of programs for kids w/ special needs, there's less time to be creative with outside the box opportunities.

That's a huge shift in my thinking. A few years ago, my desire was to create opportunities for groups of kids like mine. (And I have the benefit of coming from a place where there were lots of new opportunities created during my time there. I have lots of connections to give me advice on what works, what doesn't, how they began, how they grew it, etc.)

Now, I don't have the connections here, the energy, or the time to invest in starting something big. And as I look around, I have not yet seen anything I want to support/join and help grow. Everything I've seen thus far feels like a few steps behind us, and I don't want to move backwards. Maybe I will find that something. (I'd love to help start a Special Olympics figure skating program here.)

The thing that I need to grasp and accept is that because of the hard work we've done, we can begin to integrate 'Rella into more 'typical' experiences - and she NEEDS that - it requires a different kind of work on my part. She's not ready for just anything, though, and finding the "just right" experiences for her is a new job for me, one that I am unfamiliar with, and one that a lot of individual homeschoolers seem to be doing really well here. In the past, I learned volumes from disability-group leaders. Now I see a new set of teachers in the less visible homeschool families with children w/ unique needs.

For now, for right now, I must let go of the fear and enjoy our progress and continue to seek natural opportunities in real settings with natural supports. They are out there waiting for me to find them.

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