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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Being different is awesome



It's very exciting times in our house as Benjamin is preparing for kindergarten. We've gone school shopping, to the dentist, made sure immunizations were up to date and picked out a new back pack. Even though I indicated it was exciting times and Ben is counting down the days to kindergarten, there is worry  in the back of my head as we start this chapter in his life.

My son is going to kindergarten labeled special needs and on an IEP (individual education plan) which is rare. Most kids don't get an IEP until first, second or third grade but we had concerns early on about speech and his behavior and how those tied together. We figured, the sooner we figured everything out, the better chance he'll have at learning.

Ben made these for his grandpa. He was 4!
I haven’t written much about the long saga of Ben and his speech delay/problems. It started when he was two and the preschool he was attending kept indicating he was having behavioral problems. He was tested at Healthy Beginnings and everything appeared normal to their specialists.  The preschool then specially indicated we call in a behavioral specialist from a state funded program because they felt something wasn't quite right still. Healthy Beginnings linked us with a Early Intervention, Early Childhood Center (EIEC) who observed Ben in the classroom.

At the time, EIEC felt the preschool wasn't a good fit but there were some concerns regarding his attention span and speech and they wanted us to wait until 4 years old for further testings. We switched to a larger preschool setting where he could socialize and learn with kids his age instead of a mix of ages. He also had regular visits from a speech language therapist (SLP) and behavioral specialist to help with socialization. Over time, he made friends and starting having regular play dates but there were still some concerns.

One of the reasons I haven't talked about this publicly was I didn't want to be bombarded with advice I wasn't asking for. I want to use this space to tell the story and just have people listen. Maybe you or someone you know are struggling with something similar like I am.  Everyone is quick to offer advice ... read to him more? Do you have flashcards?  Do you know everything I've been doing for my child? The testings. The special books recommended from the SLP. The many appointments we've had with behavioral pediatric specialists.   Can't we all just listen for once and not comment? Hence, why it's taken me almost two years to write about this.

Ben's sea creature art!
I think my biggest struggle with this is I compare him to other kids and I shouldn't. I caught myself in awe of a friend whose child is starting kindergarten one whole year early. She saw my face and said "Ben is so artistic!" She is right -- Ben is super creative. He can draw anything better than my 38 year old self. He taught me the name of every fish in the sea. He's the most kind and loving kid. If he makes you sad or angry, he genuinely wants to please you and make you happy again.

You know what is a common thing they don't tell you about when becoming a parent ... having major anxiety of the unknown. They need to print that large and make that the first sentence of all baby books, right? I'm worrying about the following: What else will he be labeled? Will he be bullied because he's not like every other kids? What if he doesn't make any friends? What if no one sits with him at lunch? Then I have to stop and think about all the cool qualities my little Benjamin has that I mentioned above. What is normal anyway?

When I was growing up, I didn't want to be anything like the other kids. My life would have been easier if I was just like all the popular kids. I really didn't figure this out until junior high. I was just different. I wasn't good at sports.  If the kids in my class listened to New Kids on the Block, I would rather listen to the Cure or U2. I'd rather be a band geek than try out for cheer leading (even though I did go to one day of cheer leading try outs just to prove it wasn't my thing). I wanted to be friends with the goth chick in my gym class (she wasn't having it). Sure I had anxiety about who I was going to sit with at lunch but it all worked out in the end. Look at me now -- my dad is proud of me and I know my mom would be.

Then it hit me ... EUREKA! What am I worrying about? It will all work out for Benjamin. He is different and I need to remind myself different is OK. Different is awesome. It is what makes us who we are! If you want to run a marathon, I'm cool with that but don't make fun of me for driving eight hours to see my favorite band! It's what makes me happy! It makes me who I am. Drawing, discovering the ocean, making Lego art -- that is Ben's personality. It's what makes him BEN.

As for Benjamin, if he struggles in school, I vow NOW to foster what ever makes him happy. Sure, we'll have homework struggles but if he loves to draw, I won't make him spend his summer in school taking math classes -- he'll be doing art.

I know years from now, he'll read this and probably be embarrassed as most teenagers would be. Here's my note to you, sweet Benjamin:  your dad and I wanted to give you the best start in life we possibly could. You were a champ through the testings, and us trying to figure out being parents for the first time. I wrote this blog post just in case anyone else was dealing with a quirky kid who loves to draw and dreams of the ocean every day.


If you're worried about your child's development, talk to your pediatrician or call your school district for referrals to early childhood intervention programs in your area. They will be able to link you to services like we have in Bend, Oregon like Healthy Beginnings, The Alyce Hatch Center (EIEC) and KidTalk


6 comments:

  1. Beautiful post... thank you for sharing. I can relate to wanting to do the best for Ruby and wishing someone had told me how emotionally overwhelming parenting would be at times. Ruby is NOT a girly girl loves super heros, cars etc she always asks "is it ok that I like boy things" I just keep telling her you are awesome and perfect and you can like what ever you want. This is a beautiful reminder as we also enter K next week that different is cool, its awesome and its perfect!! Thanks again for your post.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michelle! I was hoping it would help others which is why I wrote it.

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  2. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your heart here.

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  3. I am the mom of a 25 year-old special needs "child". There is much you can do as your child's #1 advocate. You need to stay on top of everything and never take "No" for an answer, but I am confident you have what it takes to help make your child's future the most it can be. I got through the maze as a single mom with few resources, so you are already in a better position to help your child. All the best, and I'm here if you need a sounding board.

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