Category Archives: Celebrating Difference

To the Learning Centre, with love

For the past seven years we’ve sent our eldest son off to school every day and hoped for the best. Some mornings, we’ve held our breath and wondered if/when the call from the principal would come. Other times we’ve laughed with tears in our eyes at the things he’s accomplished easily – things that we thought would be hard, or even impossible.

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He is ready for middle school, but am I?

We’ve worked with new teachers every year and several new principals, but through it all the Learning Centre in our neighbourhood school has been a place of refuge, understanding, and true partnership.

Today is the last full day of school and I’m overcome with emotion at the thought of saying good-bye to the people who’ve helped my husband and I raise our son from a small boy into a young man. Our Learning Centre teacher has been a constant source of ideas and inspiration, our colleague and co-conspirator, a steady hand in the sometimes stormy seas of elementary school. Our son is ready for middle school because of her.

Like us, the Learning Centre has been there for our son every day. Like us, the teachers in that centre have asked a lot of him. They’ve expected him to try and try again. Like us, they’ve loved him, cheered for him, thrown their hands up in the air at times, and then used those same hands to hug him or cajole him or give him a mighty high five. In short, they’ve helped him begin life’s most important journey – the path to finding himself, his own truth, his own way, outside of our family.

How can I possibly recognize the gift that these teachers and educational program assistants (EPAs) have given to our family? My best friend smiled at me as I tried to find just the right thank you – a gift card just doesn’t seem to capture the enormity of the contribution they’ve made.

Before we even had a diagnosis the Learning Centre was there for helping our son adjust to the routines of school life, giving him a quiet place in the midst of the sensory and social overload. And they were there for us too, as we navigated new terrain.

Once we knew about the Asperger’s, we’d sit around the table during program planning meetings and compare notes. What successes were we seeing? How could we tackle the latest challenge? And always, at some point, we’d end up laughing and sharing the stories that made us smile. That’s the part that always brings tears to my eyes – the moment when a teacher, like a grandparent or cherished aunt, shares the same intimate appreciation of your child’s special gifts; when you marvel at the same small things that are almost invisible to others.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t always been a picnic. We’ve all had our moments along the way. Times of intense worry (on my part) or times where the way forward hasn’t been clear. Or times when we’ve wondered if shrinking resources were going to make life more challenging for everyone.

But at the end of the day, the Learning Centre has been a tiny perfect microcosm of the community that I wish all our children could grow up in, a place that:

  • truly sees and celebrates the individual, without losing sight of the collective
  • has caring people who are there to help, but are equally intent on stepping back so kids can stand on their own
  • doesn’t feel sorry’ for our kids! They embrace their strengths and adapt for their weakneeses
  • admits there are at least ten ways to do every task  (especially if you visit the Dollar Store or use video)
  • recognizes that a joke is way more effective than a raised voice (I’m still learning this one)
  • is full of warm hearts and cool heads – a perfect combination when things get rocky

So as I look at pictures of my son’s Grade Six graduation, I know that behind every look of pride and joy and hard-won accomplishment stands the care and support of our Learning Centre staff. I’m not really ready to say good-bye to them, but I’ll never stop saying thank you.

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Filed under Celebrating Difference, Education, Family

The Kindness of Strangers: Part Two

After my first blog post about the kindness of strangers a funny thing happened: those kind strangers started coming out of the woodwork. Maybe it was because the story about prof from Carleton University moved me so much I felt compelled to write and thank him for seeing past the challenges that our kids can present. He responded right away and I was glad I had reached out to him.

That encouraged my husband to make good on his promise to write to the family-run business that manufactures the E-Z Bar, which helped Ryan learned to ride a bike this summer. The owner was incredibly touched by Ryan’s story and how his gizmo had prompted so many joyful tears!

Since then I think I’ve been awakened to the myriad of kindnesses around my family everyday. Ryan started taking an art course just days after my last post and when I shared my usual Asperger’s tip sheet with his instructor she wrote back right away with questions and ideas about how to make his experience more positive. Not only that, her assistant’s mom got in touch with me too to learn more too!

Soon after that, there was the neighbour who told me how Ryan’s great behaviour at a noisy basketball game blew her away – she didn’t know I’d been worrying about his relationship with his peers all night and how her casual comment helped me regain my perspective.

The skating badge of honour! Courtesy of Emma the amazing instructor.

Then I got to thinking about Ryan’s swimming instructor – who builds small towers with flutter boards for him to destroy when he reaches a goal.

Or his skating instructor who promptly showed up with a white board when I told her that giving Ryan a list of tasks to complete during lessons really kept him focused. I almost fell on the ground with gratitude when she showed up with that dollar store whiteboard with the happy faces drawn on it. Yesterday, Ryan got his second skating badge. If his instructor had seen him three years ago lying on the ice and refusing to get up she would have wept ‘happy tears’ as Ryan loves to say.

I’m writing these little gems down, so I can take them out at a later date and admire them all over again. They are a good reminder that there’s plenty of kindness out there, just waiting to be recognized and appreciated. Happy Valentines Day everyone!

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Filed under Celebrating Difference, Education, Sports and extracurricular activities

The Kindness of Strangers: Part One

I think what makes the kindness of strangers so powerful is the fact that it’s unexpected. We’re not looking for people we don’t know to go that extra mile for us, the way we hope family and close friends always will. And that’s why those small acts of kindness have the power to sweep us off our feet.

Take for instance, the incredible story forwarded to me this week by a friend at Carleton University. Confronting Asperger’s in the classroom is a lovely gem, wonderfully written, that tells the tale of several Carleton students who have Asperger’s Syndrome and how they, with their professor’s help, are navigating the maze of university life.

I was struck by two things right away: first I was moved by how a bit of extra effort on the professor’s part yielded such incredible dividends on the part of the student. The time he took to understand his student and adapt his style meant the difference between someone just ‘getting by’ or reaching their full potential. I was also struck by the reciprocal nature of his gift – how his kindness enriched him and opened his eyes to Asperger’s students and their particular needs and abilities.

I can imagine when dealing with students how difficult it must be to build relationships and how much easier it is to focus on things like ‘outcomes’ and ‘compliance’ and ‘socially acceptable behaviour.’ 

Now I See the Moon, by Elaine Hall

I’m reading a book right now called Now I See the Moon. It chronicles the journey of Elaine Hall, an L.A. acting coach for kids who adopts a young boy from Russia and soon finds out he is autistic. Her story is full of wonderful insight, starting with the book’s title, which finds its origins in a Japanese haiku:

 Barn’s burnt down –

now

I can see the moon.

That poem just makes me giddy with unexpected delight – how something you assume is awful is actually a hidden gift. Hall devoted years of her own working life to her son’s education and I was struck by her focus on meeting her son ‘where he lived,’ rather than trying to pull him into our neurotypical world. The people working with her son weren’t focused on changing his behaviours at first, they were focused on understanding those behaviours, matching them, and then using the resulting connection to build a relationship with her son. Once that relationship was established trust was able to grow and new doors opened.

When I read the article about the prof at Carleton University I felt the same way. He took the time to listen and learn, and the doors opened wide – not only for him, but for his students too.

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Filed under Books & articles, Celebrating Difference, Family

Now Playing: ‘Mind Over Matter,’ our music video about Asperger’s Syndrome

On Friday night our parents’ group celebrated a special milestone – the premiere of a new song and music video created to shine a light on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and tell a slice of our story as parents and families.

The project began as part of the new Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival, an incredible undertaking that brought together filmmakers, mental health professionals and the community to explore the role that film and filmmakers can play in wellbeing.

Although ASD is not a mental illness, it’s common for kids and adults on the spectrum to experience mental health challenges due to their difficulties with social interaction and communication. The festival was a ready-made opportunity to spread the word – too good for us to pass up.

The video was a big step for our group and the families involved. It’s one thing to share our hopes, dreams, and challenges in our meetings; it’s quite another to stand up in front of our community and do the same.

But this project was clearly meant to be. Every step of the way, doors opened, connections were made, and things just got done.

The first ‘good sign’ was meeting Amy Spurway during a brainstorm session organized by the film festival. Then the idea of doing a music video just ‘came to her’ as she was heading out for our follow-up meeting over coffee. That night, the song ‘Mind Over Matter’ came to her too, as whole and perfect as an egg. I’ve included the lyrics below. I told Amy last night that I often find myself humming the song, sometimes during tough moments, and I find it very comforting. What a gift she has given us.

Then came the good graces of Kimberlee McTaggart – a Gemini-award winning editor and long-time fixture in Nova Scotia’s filmmaking community – and a woman I am fortunate to count among my closest friends. Even though she was in the middle of editing the third season of Call Me Fitz, Kim gave her very precious weekends to editing ‘Mind Over Matter.’ She also called in some favours from two very talented filmmakers: John Hillis and Caley MacLennan, who made our kids feel like movie stars with their attention, praise, and patience.

I also have to single out Dr. Andrew Starzomski, a psychologist at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, who organized the festival. Andrew supported our project from the very beginning, and gave more of his time to arrange, play, and record Amy’s song. One of my favourite shots in the video comes toward the end when Andrew is recording our kids singing; he looks up at the camera with a stunning smile, full of joy. His passion for helping others find their own joy is part of what made this whole process so meaningful.

On Friday night every parent marvelled at the beauty of the video, which captured the essence of our kids with warmth, humour and dignity. We also talked about our kids, who struggle with transitions, waiting, and following instructions, yet who were absolutely in their element on shooting day.

The project brought so many benefits the video itself is almost gravy! Making the signs for the video with our families was a great process. And getting together as a group is always good – I never fail to feel simultaneously lighter and more grounded after our gatherings.

But it was connecting with Andrew, Amy, Kim, John, and Caley, and all the folks who saw our video on Friday that made this matter to me. It’s all about telling our story and making the circle bigger for our kids. Stay tuned: a sequel is sure to follow!

Mind Over Matter by Amy Spurway

Imagine waking up each day with a feeling
no matter what you say or do you don’t belong
The bright light burns,
you can’t take turns,
they don’t get the way you learn
What you though would make you special, makes you wrong.

So it’s mind
Over matter
That’s what it takes for you
to face the world each day
It’s all mind
over matter
Why can’t they see your difference
in a better way.

Imagine waking up each day with a mission
to help your baby find some ground upon this earth
but folks don’t bend
don’t understand
they try to make them just pretend
Not seeing who they are, or what they’re worth.

So it’s mind
Over matter
That’s what it takes for you
to fight that fight each day
It’s all mind
over matter
Why can’t they see your strength
in another way

Imagine knowing that you could make a difference
you could help somebody spread their wings and fly
Give a little grace
and a little space
know a heart’s not lost or out of place
Just because someone can’t look you in the eye.

And it’s mind
Over matter
That’s all it takes for you
to change the world today
It’s just mind
over matter
Why not see our spirits
in a whole new way.

We can see our beauty in a whole new way.
We can change the world.
We can start today.

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Filed under Celebrating Difference, Family, Films & docs

Join us at Atlantic Minds Wide Open on Friday, Nov 25th

Atlantic Minds Wide Open: Friday, Nov 25th

Next Friday night Ryan is going to be in his first music video! In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned that several families in our parents group are participating in the Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival next Friday night at Alderney Landing.

The film fest starts earlier in the day and features workshops, short films and an awesome feature. And it’s all for only $15!

Although Asperger’s Syndrome is not a mental health condition, many people with ASD have mental health challenges as they grow older because of the anxiety caused by their neurological differences.

We wanted to make a short film about ASD for the film fest and one of the parents came up with the amazing idea of doing a music video – and then she actually wrote a song about Asperger’s. The song is just beautiful and once the video has had its ‘premiere’ I’ll post the lyrics here, so you can see what I mean.

But for now, visit the Atlantic Minds Wide Open website and see if you can book a babysitter for next Friday night. Tickets are $15 and our film will be shown in the Neighbours & Neighbourhoods segment at 6:45pm.

Hope to see you there!

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Atlantic Minds Wide Open: Friday Nov 25 @ Alderney Landing

Last weekend some members of our parent’s group got together at Alderney Landing to shoot a music video – yes you read that right. We’re participating in Atlantic Minds Wide Open , an exciting film festival focused on mental health and building vibrant communities.

The one-day festival is open to everyone and features screenings, panel discussions, and a showing of Crooked Beauty, a documentary that chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from childhood abuse to psych ward inpatient to pioneering mental health advocacy

You may have read about the festival’s organizer, Dr. Andrew Starzomski, in an article in the Herald last week. This is a man after my own heart, who is using his own love of music and film to help folks tell and share their own stories.  

There’s a great quote on the film fest’s Facebook page that feels like such a good fit for ASD kids:

“I attribute my sudden boost in scholastic achievement to the fact that I had finally become comfortable with myself through my movies and cartoons… I had a better self-image and my grades went up.” – Robert Rodrigues, American filmmaker, “Rebel Without a Crew”

Cartoons are a huge hit in our house and I’ve heard of several ASD kids whose self-confidence has been unlocked by theatre and film. Last week’s ‘film shoot’ was a perfect example: kids who normally shy away from the spotlight were there, eager to stand up and share a slice of their own story. They, and their parents, had created bold black and white signs with messages about their gifts and challenges and there were many take-your-breath-away moments when they stood side-by-side grinning in front of the camera.

I can’t wait to see our kids’ faces on the big screen and I thank Andrew and everyone who is supporting the fest. Creating the film festival has already widened our Circle of Friends by introducing our group to a great new ASD family, connecting our group with three awesome film industry folks who donated their time on a sunny Sunday, and given us some exciting opportunities to think about in the future. And it’s given us yet another opportunity to marvel at the many talents of our beloved kids.

The festival is just about to launch its website, but you can keep in touch with the latest on Facebook. See you on the 25th!

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A tour of the Aspergian mind with John Elder Robison

I had the honour of hearing Naomi Tutu speak at a conference I attended recently inVancouver. Her message was powerful on several fronts: first, she called on each of us to be a ‘voice of courage’ in the face of injustice.  She also urged us to celebrate – not hide – our differences.

I was thinking of her words as I finished reading John Elder Robison’s latest book, Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian¸ on the plane on the way home.

Robison’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye, was one of the first books I read about Asperger’s after Ryan’s diagnosis, so I had high expectations for his second effort. I wasn’t disappointed.

LikeTemple Grandin, Robison has mined his own experience to help fellow Aspies, parents, and teachers better understand life on the Autism Spectrum. Today Robison is a successful author and businessman whose passion for electronics has helped him build a fulfilling life for himself and his family.

His approach won me over at first glance – here is a man who is celebrating the gifts that come with Asperger’s and sharing ideas for leveraging those gifts.  “Asperger’s was a disability – that’s what the books said. I’m still not sure I believe that,” he writes early on.

He then goes on to catalogue his first-hand experience of the brain differences that come with ASD and their benefits: his incredibly visual mind, his ability to remain calm and unemotional in taxing situations, his intense focus, concentration, and ability to learn quickly in areas of interest, his use of logic to solve social problems and his attention to detail.

But make no mistake, the knowledge Robison shares with us is hard-won. Before his Asperger’s diagnosis in his 40s, he spent at least some of his youth knowing he was very different from his peers (but not the reason why) and wondering if he was going to grow up to be a serial killer. “Learning I was a perfectly normal Aspergian male (and not a freak) was a revelation that changed my life,” he says.

Robison gives us a great guided tour of the Aspergian mind, reminding me of the wiring differences that explain some challenging Aspie behaviours:

  • Not responding when called: hyper-focus on internal thoughts, special interests, or sensory sensitivities
  • Negativity/pessimism: smaller range of emotions in a short time period, difficulty with perspective, planning for the worst to reduce anxiety, getting stuck on thoughts
  • Inappropriate responses to difficult situations: hyper-focus on internal thoughts, inability to read others

He wraps up his book with a theme that I’ve read about before – Aspergians identifying and using their special interests to find meaningful work after school. But Robison adds two other, equally important elements, to the equation – focus and hard work and resolve. And as a parent, that’s the challenge that lies ahead.

I hope Robison keeps on writing and I’ve got my fingers crossed that he will one day visitHalifaxfor a lecture or book tour. Maybe I’ll invite him myself. I’m sure we could fill a hall at SMU or Dal with parents and kids who would be eager to hear his story and his ideas firsthand.

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Filed under Books & articles, Building social skills, Celebrating Difference, Non-fiction

Growing up with Asperger’s: A Sibling’s Perspective

 As parents we wonder what the impact of Asperger’s Syndrome will on the siblings of our Aspie children. Are we giving them enough of our attention? Are we asking too much? Do their needs take a back seat to the more urgent (or vocal) needs of their sib?

I had an opportunity to ask these questions when I was virtually introduced to Elizabeth Granby, an exceptional young woman who is pursuing a career in developmental disabilities as a result of her deep love for her brother, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was a teenager.

Elizabeth Granby on her brother: "I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can make me laugh like he can."

Elizabeth recently completed an internship at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab inToronto and sat down to speak on the phone with me one evening after work.

 Tell me a bit about yourself.

I started off studying media studies and worked in the field for a few years, but it wasn’t where my heart was. 

My brother’s experience made me want to learn more. I feel like Autism Spectrum Disorders are a bit overlooked because they don’t necessarily fit into development disabilities and therefore they don’t really get the support that they need – or the right kind of support.

I’m really passionate about my work now and I want to eventually focus on how to expand services available for people with AS. 

Tell me a bit about your brother and your relationship with him?

 He is 22-years-old and even though he is my half-brother, and there is 10 years between us, we couldn’t be closer. He’s one of my best friends.

He lives on his own now in an apartment that’s close to my parents and he has a support worker who checks in with him once a week.

Right now he’s working on trying to find a job. That’s been a challenge and he tried using different agencies to help. With one agency, his co-workers knew it was a so-called ‘special job’ and they teased him. Now his support worker is focusing on his gifts – like music and wrestling – to try to find a more suitable job. It’s really important to him that he finds real work.

 How would you describe growing up with a sibling with Asperger’s?

It was always interesting. There was never a dull moment. My brother and I are really close and always have been.

It took a long time for the doctors to find his real diagnosis. When he was really young said it was ADHD, then they changed it to Tourette’s Syndrome, but my mom never felt that was quite right. He 14 or 15 when they finally said Asperger’s Syndrome. We started reading more about it then and said ‘Yes, this is exactly what it is.’ It was a relief to finally have a name for it.

I’ve always been a nurturer and that’s what I did with him. When he was young, he got anxious very easily and things could really set him off and start him pacing. I would instinctively grab him in a hug and hold him until I could physically feel him calm down.

What did you learn from the experience?

It really taught me to be flexible. It made me learn early on to be adaptable and go with the flow.

As I teenager I think I felt it more because I required more of my parent’s attention. I got good grades and didn’t cause too many problems. At that time being so flexible became a bit of a challenge.

I spent some time with my grandparents off an on, getting one-on-one support from them and that helped. They always talk about respite support for the family, but it’s sometimes siblings who need it too.

What was the most difficult about the situation?

Sometimes having a brother with AS can make our relationship a little one-sided. We talk on the phone every day. I spend lots of listening to him and supporting him, but I don’t always get the typical support back and that can be a challenge.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized he does support me and love me. But he shows it in different ways that other brothers and sisters might. Sometimes I have to look for it.

He knows this is something he needs to work on. When he calls me on the phone now he knows he can’t just launch into his stuff…he asks me how I am. We’ve been working on that for a year. He’s really trying to work on the one-sidedness.

What was the best part?

The laughter. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can make me laugh like he can. We both enjoy the same things like live music or funny movie. Just having a good time.

How is your brother doing now?

After he left high school it was hard. He went to community college but nothing seemed to be sticking for him. He would stay up half the night playing video games. He wanted to move on to the next phase of his life but had no idea how to go about that.

When he started looking at his special interests things started to change. He loves wrestling and he started taking lessons and making friends there. On New Year’s Eve my Mom and I were on the phone crying because for the first time he was out with his friends.

What advice would you have for parents who are struggling to parent two different kids in as consistent and fair a way as possible?

Communication is really important. You’ve got to open up those channels and keep talking with them. My parents actually got some great insights into my brother from me because siblings know their sibs in a different way. 

We also had a ‘no lie’ rule after my parents tried to protect me from some difficult information about my brother. I felt really excluded and we all realized that covering things up only made them worse.

 It was also okay to have different rules for different kids in our house – we tried not to keep score! We appreciated being treated like individuals.

My parents would also do special things just with me from time to time to give me a little one-on-one attention. They knew us well enough to see the signs and know what we needed.

Are there any resources you would recommend?

The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood because he actually talks to people with AS and provide good insight into how to work through conversations with people with Aspergers: tips about redirecting and how not to escalate situations.

 I also like watching Temple Grandin’s talks and presentations online.

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Welcome to Holland: a parent’s perspective on disability

We’ve met some fantastic new friends through our Asperger’s parents network – if you don’t have a network in your area, I really encourage you to start one of your own. Our psychologist helped get us started by asking parents if they’d like to participate and another Mom and I just took it from there!

I love these parents so much – their humour, their ideas, the stories they tell about their kids and themselves – they really energize me. I have learned so much from each of them. Recently, a mom in the group sent me Emily Perl Kingsley’s well-known explanation of what it’s like to give birth to a child with a disability and asked me to share it on my blog, since it really spoke to her. I’m reprinting it here and wanted to share an interview with Kingsley that appears on a blog called Love that Max. Kingsley, a multiple Emmy-award winning writer for Sesame Street, has a son with Down Syndrome, who is now 36-years-old.

I’d love to hear your comments on this piece…and I should say right away that tulips are my favourite flower.

Welcome to Holland: by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this . . .

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?” you say, “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland, and there you must stay.

The most important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for awhile and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

The pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

 

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Celebrating the wonderful world of Meems

Ryan just celebrated his 8th birthday and a good friend made him a spectacular t-shirt with the words ‘Meems Rule’ emblazoned on the front. He was still wearing the shirt today – three days after he received it – because the meem (omnipresent in our house) is Ryan’s signature invention.

The best birthday gift ever!

Ryan coined the term ‘meem’ when he was probably three-years-old and it’s been part of our family lexicon ever since. A meem is any kind of a happy face, but without a nose (this is important…happy faces with noses do not qualify.) Puffles are meems. Ugly dolls are meems. Monster Factory toys are meems.

I find it fascinating that a boy who is not supposed to ‘get’ faces recognizes and celebrates them in all their various forms. Yet another reminder that a diagnosis is just a collection of symptoms – not a definition of who a person is.

Preschool was sometimes tough for Ryan, but I remember one day hearing the kids in his class talking about meems and I had to smile. His little language was finding its way into their hearts and minds, just like it had in our own household. In Grade One the ‘meem mystique’ took hold once again – with the entire class creating and talking about meems. The word is still part of that classroom’s vernacular and even though they’ve all advanced to Grade Two I still hear them mention meems on the playground.

To me, a meem is a celebration of Ryan’s unique way of looking at the world. His experience doesn’t defy description – it just has his own personal definition.

After I wrote my post about Enough House, a neighbour wrote to me about Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche movement. Vanier deeply believes that people with disabilities are our teachers. They are here to transform us – not the other way around.  

Ryan’s meems have taught our household so much – they don’t judge. They love unconditionally. They right wrongs. They comfort and calm. They make us giggly and goofy. They even help us eat our peas and brush our teeth.

Oh to have the powers of a meem! Every now and then I hear Ryan apologize for some transgression (usually minor) and I catch myself – am I correcting him again? Am I asking him to alter his behaviour again? Is it really necessary? Is it really important?

At times like these it is abundantly clear that I still have a lot to learn from Ryan and his menagerie of meems. But that’s okay. I’ve got the will and Ryan is clearly going to show me the way!

 

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Filed under Building social skills, Celebrating Difference