Special Treatment for Those with Special Needs?

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Now, before you think this post is going to be some hateful rant, calm yourself and read on. My brother was diagnosed in 1995 at the age of 3 with Autism, and I’ve been an advocate for the rights of special needs children ever since. However, about a week ago I found myself re-evaluating how I react to those with special needs.

Long story short, my brother has been participating in the Special Olympics for the past couple of years, and every year I try to attend his regional competition, which is located at one of our local high schools. This year, as my family and I sat down in the school’s cafeteria to relax before heading to the gym, a young, special needs athlete named Cole from one of the other teams walked up to our table, introduced himself, and started carrying on a conversation with me and my parents. Cole was hilarious, but at the same time he was very nosy and kept apologizing for asking questions. After awhile, he began to solely ask me personal questions, and it seemed he wanted to be friends (or something more) and know every detail of my life. I can’t lie, even though I spend a lot of my time around individuals with special needs, I was uncomfortable around Cole. Hell, I’m uncomfortable around all strangers! Finally, Cole’s dad realized that his son was talking our ears off and came over to our table to introduce himself and redirected his son to the gym.

The weird and sad part of all this was I felt a sense of relief and a burden lifted off my shoulders when he walked away. Phew, don’t have to deal with him again, I thought. But, I was actually wrong…Turns out, as luck would have it, Cole’s group ended up sitting next to my brothers, so I had to pass him on my way into the gym. Once Cole saw me, he immediately stood up and rushed to my side.

“How are you doing, ma’am?” he said as wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
“Great!” I said, mustering up every ounce of pep I had.
“Would you mind if I sat with you for awhile?” he proceeded.
“Um, I think we’re supposed to sit with our teams,” I replied.
“Well, I don’t have to sit with mine, that’s the point I’m trying to make,” he shot back.

Thankfully, before the moment got any more awkward, one of Cole’s coaches called him over to sit with his team. And, of course, the fun didn’t stop there. After the opening ceremonies, I noticed Cole coming over to my brother’s team. To avoid another uncomfortable encounter, I used my brother’s larger build as a barricade and hid behind him until Cole was finished talking to my brother’s teammates. Seriously, this kid would not let up. He seemed to be doing everything to try and get my attention.

And, of course, once I thought I was free of him, it turned out he was competing against my brother under the same division…that meant I was going to have to run into him again at the awards ceremony after the competition.

Flash forward to the awards ceremony and my brother took first place (of course he did, we’re related). So, after all of the pictures are taken and everyone disappears, Cole came running up to my family, and that’s when I decided to make a break for it. I grabbed my things and briskly walked down the hall to hide in the women’s restroom. Cole saw that I was busting my ass to getaway and yelled after me, “DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME YOUNG LADY!” And then..he proceeded to ask my dad what my name was. Of course, my father thought this whole thing was hilarious and told Cole…who ended up screaming my name down the hallway until I disappeared.

Just at the point where I thought I had gotten rid of him, I realized that the exit door was at the other end of the building, which meant I would have to walk past the cafeteria where I last saw Cole. After a few minutes, I stuck my head out of the bathroom only to find him talking to someone right outside of the cafeteria. Well, eventually Cole’s new found friend decided to head back towards the gym and get some popcorn, which prompted Cole to follow him. I realized then and there that it was now or never. I swiped up my stuff and RAN towards the exit. FREEDOM! I thought as I reached the parking lot. And as my family and I drove away, all I could think was, I’m safe now

As I reflect back on the day that I had with Cole at regionals, of course I feel awful, but I’ve realized that even if he didn’t have special needs, I would have treated him the same way. With this situation, I’m reminded of the VERY FEW TIMES I’ve ever been “hit on” at bars while I was in college by guys that I had absolutely no interest in getting to know. And, what did I do in those situations? I politely blew them off, just like I did with Cole. I had no interest in hanging out with Cole that day. I was there to watch my brother kick ass and take names. And, I have a boyfriend. I’m not looking for any more male companions. And, did Cole suffer? Of course not! Being the friendly guy that he is, when I wasn’t around him he ended up talking to so many more people who were willing to engage in a bit of a conversation with him.

Personally, I think there’s this argument out there that we have to treat individuals with special needs as a “special case,” or be nicer to them than we would someone who doesn’t have special needs because they “unfortunately can’t be normal functioning adults in today’s society.” And most days, I think that’s a bunch of crap. With all of the special needs individuals that I’ve gotten to know through my years of volunteering and meeting my brother’s friends, people with special needs don’t want to be treated as “special cases,” they want to be seen and treated as though they don’t have a disability. They want to be treated how we want to be treated…like a human being. So, if you’re not interested in forming a connection with them, don’t! They rather have a genuine connection than put up with something that is forced….and wow, what does that sound like? Hmmmm, how about something that everyone wants, no matter age, race, gender, etc. So, at the end of the day I’m not advocating for everyone to go out there and treat individuals with special needs like shit. Of course not! Treat them as they are, human beings, and form a genuine connection that the both of you will benefit from.

Granny Smith – over and out

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Mom..Dad..I’m Home!

After college, I did what 45% of college graduates do and moved back home with my parents.  Now, did I really NEED to move back home? No. But I did because they were more than willing to take me in, and, like millions of other college graduates, I have to pay back my student loans.

Moving back home has been an easier transition than I expected. When I was in college and would come home for a weekend or the holidays, my parents always wanted to know where I was, they bombarded me with questions, and felt the need to cling on to me every moment. I felt like I couldn’t get away from them…and of course, when I would leave to go back to school, my dad would shed a few tears.

But, now that I have a full-time job, I only see them for about four hours a day..and I guess that’s enough for the both of us. Moving back, I thought that my parents would purpose chores, curfews, etc., but they’ve actually backed away from those items. I certainly don’t feel like a guest in my own home, but I do feel like they’ve realized that I’m an adult with a grown up job who’s just trying to make it week-by-week.

However, I realize that my situation isn’t exactly the norm, and that many new college graduates, and even grown adults, struggle when they choose move back in with their parents. So, below, I’ve compiled a list that I’ve received from the lovely internet, with a few tips that should help you survive when you move back in with your parents.

1. Set reasonable expectations. True, you may have been able to come and go as you please, leave your room a disaster, and have a new guest over every night before, but this arrangement may not work for your folks. Set some reasonable expectations — for everyone involved — before you even step through the door.

2. Set some ground rules. Alright, you may have to have a curfew so your poor mother doesn’t think something terrible has happened to you if you’re not home by 4:00 in the morning — but your mom also needs to understand that she can’t just barge in to your room without any notice. Set some ground rules as soon as possible to make sure everyone is clear on how things will work.

3. Expect a combination of a roommate relationship and a parent/kid relationship. Yes, you’ve had roommates for the past several years, and you may view your parents similar to them. Your parents, however, will always view you as their child. Do your best to keep this in mind as you figure out how things will work once you move back in. Sure, it seems ridiculous for a roommate to want to know where you’re going every night. But your parents probably have a legitimate right to ask.

4. Set a time frame for how long you’re planning on living there. Do you just need someplace to crash between when you graduate from college and when you start graduate school in the fall? Or do you need somewhere to live until you can save enough money on your own to get your own place? Talk about how long you plan on staying — 3 months, 6 months, 1 year — and then check back in with your parents once that time frame is up.

5. Discuss money, no matter how awkward. No one really likes to talk about money. But addressing the topic with your parents — how much you’ll pay in rent, for food, to get back on their health insurance plan, or if the car you’ve been borrowing needs more gas — will help prevent a ton of problems later.

6. Have your own support networks ready to go. After living on your own, living with your parents can become very isolating. Do your best to have systems in place that provide you with an outlet and support network that is separate from your parents’.

7. Thing creatively about how the relationship is give and take — both ways. Yes, your parents are letting you stay at their place, and yes, you may pay rent to do so. But are there other ways you can help, especially if money is tight for everyone? Can you help around the house — with yard work, fix-it projects, or technical support for the computers they can never get to work right — in ways that will make your living relationship much more symbiotic?

8. Remember that the person who moves back in with your parents is not the same person who left. Your parents may have a very specific — and outdated — idea of “who” is moving back in with them. Take a deep breath and do your best to remind them that, while you left the house as an 18-year-old college freshman, you are now returning as a 22-year-old, college-educated adult.

9. Remember that time at your folks’ is still an opportunity to build your own life — not put it on pause. Just because you are at your parents’, waiting until you can move out on your own, doesn’t mean your life is on pause. Volunteer, date, explore new things, and do your best to continue learning and growing instead of just waiting for your first opportunity to move on to somewhere else.

10. Enjoy yourself! This may seem completely unthinkable if moving back in with your folks was the last thing you wanted to do. However, living at home can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally learn your mom’s secret fried chicken recipe and your dad’s amazing way with woodworking tools. Live it up and take in as much as you can.

Granny Smith – over and out

Love and Loss

Lea Michele

So, if you’re a pop culture junkie like I am, you’ve obviously heard about the tragic death of Glee star, Cory Monteith…and you’ve probably watched the speech that his girlfriend, Lea Michele, gave at the Teen Choice Awards on August 11th.

Now, I may come off as a person who has a heart made of stone, but in all honesty, I’m very emotional, and nothing gets me more emotional than the passing of a loved one. So, when I first heard that Cory had passed, I immediately thought of Lea, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. And, when I watched the speech that she gave at the Teen Choice Awards, I admittedly started tearing up.

As someone who is currently in a relationship, Lea’s loss made me think, what would I do if I lost him? How would I go on? Unfortunately, my thought process regarding this topic isn’t new. My uncle lost his wife about three years ago in a tragic car accident, and it took such a toll on him that my family members began to wonder if he was contemplating suicide.

So, what do you do to help yourself move on after the love of your life, your best friend, has passed away?

Below are 10 suggestions:

1)      Before you move on, fulfill any request that your significant other said before passing away.  If there was no time as with a sudden death for a final request, explore ideas to gift or honor your late partner. This will give you a peace of mind, and will ensure that you will not have any mental obstacles in your new life.

2)      Know that it will take time before you can begin to feel a sense of normal again. It will not just disappear, and it will not heal itself. Be patient with yourself as you work through the process of grief. Grief is a journey that lasts as long as it takes to reconcile all issues pertaining to death, your loved one, yourself, your relationship (good/bad) to bring peace and understanding.

3)      Understand that there are stages you will go through and they are not linear. You will experience denial, anger, resentment, yearning, suffering, sadness, and eventually an acceptance. However, you may not do them in this order and you may, much like a roller coaster ride, go over these stages repeatedly over the course of your grief journey with regard to the same loss.

4)      Do not pay attention to those who try to tell you that you are not grieving properly. Instead, thank s/he for their concern allow them to know everyone grieves differently. Grief is as individual as you are, as your partner was, and as your relationship was. Specifically, you will likely deal with some who thinks you are healing “too fast” and those who think you have become “stuck in your grief”. If you have concerns about either, talk to a grief counselor or therapist, s/he has training and experience to help you navigate through your grief as well as help you build self esteem.

5)      Realize that you have choices. There is a time when you need to cry and go through the suffering to get to the other side. There will come a time when you are ready to actively participate in grief work to bring healing to have a new life.

6)      Do not worry that you will forget your significant other.

7)      Ask yourself what it was that you have always wanted to do but something you never had time to do because of family obligationsNow is the time to do it! Be anything you want to be. Become an artist, a pilot, or a scuba diver. Take a ride in a hot air balloon. Most of all, strive to be happy and fulfilled. Your dreams can become a reality and help fill the void in your life. You will meet new people and realize that life can be satisfying and exciting even if you are alone.

8)      Be patient because this change may not come quickly or easily

9)      Adopt a pet. If you don’t have the energy to give a great amount of attention to a pet, consider a cat. They make great companions. They are clean and do not have to be walked. They give you love and affection. They give you someone to care for and care about. They will greet you when you come home, and lie on your lap while you watch TV. If you are not a cat person get a dog, or whatever pet makes you happiest. Understand that the pet will not replace your love, nor is it meant to, but animals can make you smile.

10)   Volunteer. When you are ready or have energy, volunteer your time to a cause or something that you feel strongly about. Helping others can have a wonderful effect on ourselves. Join the library and read. Most libraries have library buses that bring books to your neighborhood. Or you can rent a DVD, or watch movies on the TV. Write letters, or become a phone companion, a group that is backed by the Police Community Service. They make daily calls to shut-ins, to make sure that they are safe. Talk to them to keep them company and they will be keeping you company as well.

If you have recently lost a significant other, I hope that these tips have been helpful, and may you find peace.

Granny Smith- over and out