Sunday, September 25, 2011


When you don't listen to me, you hurt me.
When I don't listen to you, I hurt me too.
There is a saying:  All politics are personal and local. 
We focus on the world, on issues, and on others, based on our own concerns and experiences.  We frame the opinions of others based on our own ideas and thoughts.  Our perception of the world is the only as valid as our own experience.
I know what I perceive as the color “red”.  You know what you perceive as the color “red”.  We might both refer to the same thing as “red”, but in reality I have no idea if you experience ”red” the same way I do.  That is just the truth of the human experience.  We are, for better or worse, trapped in our own heads.
There has been an on-going ‘dialogue’ the last several weeks regarding the nature of advocacy and the disability community. 
di·a·logue:  a conversation between two or more persons;  an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue…. with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.
I have found this conversation exceedingly frustrating, as I know many have.  Both sides (the original posters and subsequent commenters) have tried to communicate.  There has been a problem, however, and I think I have figured it out. 
It is The Big But. 
It goes something like this:
I hear you saying X, Y, and Z….. BUT you don’t understand A,B,C and you should think A,B,C before X, Y,Z.
Oh, yes, I hear what you are saying about A,B,C, ….. BUT I am concerned about X,Y,Z….
A dialogue requires an exchange of ideas with a goal of understanding the other side of the issue and coming to an agreement of some sort.  To do this, we have to start by listening.
lis·ten   : to give attention; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear, to pay attention; heed.
You will note that this definition has nothing in it that denotes you speaking or expressing an opinion.  It is merely taking in information.  From listening, you are working toward understanding.
un·der·stand : to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; comprehend; to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of.

Note that listening and understanding do not necessarily mean agreement.  In fact, listening and understanding have nothing to do with your opinion whatsoever.  Listening and understanding are about the perception of others, which is terribly difficult for us humans (for reasons stated before).   But dialogue will never be successful without close and feverish work toward these two goals. 
How do we move toward listening and understanding effectively?
Stop speaking. Yes, you.
Ask questions without your opinion interjected.  Seek knowledge. 
When you receive an answer, listen.  The moment your brain goes “But I think…”, stop.  Ask again.  Listen again.  When your brain goes “But what about…” STOP.  Remember that listening and understanding are not about you.  Understand their position. It is real and valid. You don’t have to agree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand.  And once you truly understand, you can accept.  And you may find common ground.
You may be saying…. BUT what about my opinion???  Stop. 
di·a·logue:  a conversation between two or more persons;  an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue…. with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.
A true dialogue means you will be asked questions.  Answer them.  Do not rage at the other side.  In fact, as best as possible, do not mention the other side. It puts the recipient on the defensive. Present yours calmly.  Explain what it means to you. Explain what you hope to achieve.  Explain what you need help with.  Be open to educating.  Expect that they may not understand at first.  Be okay with that.  Allow their humanness.
And with all of this, approach others with compassion. 
I fear that this community is not really ready for dialogue.  I think questioning and listening with a simple goal toward understanding maybe needs to be where we work.  Stop talking.  Start listening.  It is terrifically hard for us, but a struggle worth working toward.
The world is really good at tearing us apart.  We are really good at tearing ourselves apart.  Let’s not allow it to happen.                                                                                   

(sorry abou the formatting issues.  HTML hates me)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Reason I Have a Headache

The following are excerpts of conversations had with J-man over the course of the day.  See if you can detect a theme.

Me:  Wanna go potty?
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Want some raisin bread?
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Let's put on your shoes and go see Mumu.
J-man:  No way!

(at the Walk for Autism Speaks today)

Me:  Let's go back and see the giant frog (a character he loved)...
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Want a cookie?
J-man: No way!

Me:  Time to find Daddy.  We are going this way...
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Time to eat!
J-man: No way!

Me:  Let's play cars...
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Let's watch a movie..
J-man:  No way!

Me:  Let's pray for world peace and all the chocolate we can eat...
J-man:  No way!!!

Me:  Time for bed!
J-man:  No way!
Me:  Oh, most definitely, YES way!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids

I have some exciting and crazy-ass news. 

Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum (Volume 1)
Click me to buy.  Pretty please!
 My very first, official, honest-to-goodness, published-on-paper essay has just come out!  I have been honored to be part of this amazing group of writers! 

I am not sure I am terribly witty.

And wise?  Doubtful.

But humbled and honored...  most definitely. 

I will be passing on more about this compilation in the near future, but I just had to tell you right away. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Patron Saint of Potty Training

Okay, I am not Catholic.  But if I were, I think a Patron Saint of Potty Training would be an absolute necessity.  I mean really...  if you are potty training a child, you need a little divine grace.  Or a lot.

And I will admit, whether it is sacrilegious or no, I have been on my knees doing some serious praying.  And most of that praying has been here:

I hate this flooring.
Hate. It.

And most of it has been in the form of "oh please oh please oh please God let him potty in the potty chair".  I would imagine God has much more important things to attend to.  So a Patron Saint of Potty Training could... you know, take a message. 

But I can now say with much pride and thankfulness, we have had a potty miracle.

J-man peed on the potty yesterday.  Twice.  And today.  Twice. And yes, he even did one #2!  I mean, come on!  That deserves some serious thankfulness, praise, and drinking of the wine.  We spent approximately 5 hours in the bathroom yesterday.  Yes, in that ugly ugly bathroom.  I spent most of it on the floor.  Yes, that ugly ugly hard floor.  But it was allllll worth it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Bully Seed

They cruise our neighborhood on two wheels, riding the street in an erratic, swerving pattern.  The older boy (8) dominates the road as he swings up and down the pavement.  He glides into various driveways unbidden, using the slopes of the asphalt to accelerate at break neck speed back into the street.  The younger boy (5) chases after him like a shadow.  However, he stays at the edges of the cul-de-sac, riding round and round the circle in an effort to keep up with his mentor. 

This has been their summer, these two boys of 8 and 5.  And largely, they have passed by me unnoticed.

So we take our Miss Dolly for a walk, J-man and I.  J-man holds the leash proudly, sliding the loop up his arm nearly to the shoulder as we head down the block.  He doesn't really understand the purpose of walking a dog, but he does understand the basics.  And lucky for us, so does Dolly. 

Along the way we stop at a neighbor's home.  The mom is relaxing outside while her daughter (6) plays with chalk and her son... the younger boy... rides the loop with his friend. We stop to chat.  J-man heads to the toy bin in their garage, pulling out a toy gun (of course).  Makes shooting noises at no one in particular.  The boys arrive and circle us like hawks.  The older boy's eyes are sharp on J-man.  He sees the different in him.  He pulls the younger boy over and whispers in his ear, casting glances at J-man.  The younger boy's eyes widen and he stares at J-man with new speculation. 

The exchange goes by me on my periphery.  I barely notice it until I see their eyes.  How they look at him.  With suspicion, contempt?  Can a five year old look at another child with contempt?  I am not sure, but some quality of 'less than' was in their eyes. 

I heart stops and I go cold. 

Nothing has been said.  Or done.  Just those eyes staring at J-man. 

I try and shake it off.  I move to taking J-man home, but he will have none of it.  These toys are too cool, the evening air too sweet, to go home and have pizza.  After a considerable amount of protesting, I finally get him moving toward our house.  He is pissed.

The boys follow us with their bikes, passing and circling back.  They stop to whisper to each other again, shooting glances at him as they do.  I hear his name emerge from this click and my head whips around.  I make steely eye contact with the boys.  The younger one flushes bright red and speeds off.  The older one looks me in the eye for one beat longer than he knows he should, and then leisurely rides home. 

J-man is oblivious to all of this.

I go inside and cry.  J-man sits on my lap with a wrinkled forehead. 

"Areyouokay?" he asks in his lilting way.

"I'm fine, buddy.  Okay.  Don't worry." I say, trying to calm myself.  I mean, nothing has happened!

"Smile!" he insists.  And I do.  Really, what choice do I have when this little slice of heaven commands it?

Later I ask myself:  Have I just witnessed it?  The bully seed being planted?  The seed of difference, of other, of contempt, being planted.  Is this where it starts?  Passed from an eight year old to a five year old. 

A five year old. 

And where do we go from here?

This is just craptastic.


View My Stats