Monday, September 28, 2015


Dear Persons,

Z has always laughed every time she hears or reads the word “persons.”

I finally sat her down and explained to her that “persons” is a word that has a deep and complicated history. That personhood was for many millennia and in many places reserved for only a certain type of people, such as men, or landowners, or white people, or people of a certain caste or religious faith or neurology...

I explained that even though it might seem silly or old-fashioned when you read or hear that word, it’s a strong word that carries a lot of goodness and respect. That she, as a female of Chinese descent, might -- in many settings over the course of history --  not have been considered a Full Person. That even now she will not necessarily earn as much as a man, or be accorded equal respect.

We are reading Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, I AM MALALA, together, and she is learning how hard life can be for girls and women in many parts of the world. She has already experienced instances of racism at school. Knowing she’s a Full Person gives her grounding and power to stick up for herself.

This conversation inspired me to begin starting my posts with “Dear Persons,” because my readers are dear to me, and because they are all Full Persons.

Full Spectrum Mama

Friday, September 18, 2015


The Full Spectrums went to see a movie a few weeks ago, which is, in itself, a rarity. We went with my Meeting Friend and her family, and chose the only movie that was playing in a matinee, Mr. Holmes.

During a sad, moving part of the movie where Sherlock is really, really old and feeble and decrepit and does something pathetic, Z suddenly laughed aloud. I cringed. Perhaps she was uncomfortable, but it just felt very awkward and inappropriate...I tried to convince myself it was a mistake, but it happened again a few minutes later during a similar part. Everyone else in the theater was quiet...real quiet.  

“Good luck getting old,” said my Meeting Friend as we left the theater. As we always do, my dear MF and I looked for the bright side: “She’s very practical and realistic!” we assured one another; “Great sense of the absurd!”

On another note, the Full Spectrum children are very into any and all Secret Agent/Detective-y stuff, and were absolutely fascinated by the way Sherlock Holmes can detect things about people just through observation. As we walked back to the car, I asked them what Sherlock Holmes could know about them just by using his powers of discernment.

Z answered immediately:”That I’m a sister, and that I was adopted.”

All G had to say was, “That I’m awesome!” [See forthcoming post, “AND MODEST, TOO.”]

I wanted to hear more from both children, though I found Z’s response quite touching, so I told them, “For me, I think Sherlock Holmes could tell that I am a mother, wife, and artist. Those are the most important things to me.”

“I’m awesome,” G repeated.

“I’m mean,” said Z. Though it’s sometimes true, I don’t think mean is who Z is. I looked at her skeptically. “Well...I can be mean,” she amended.

“Don’t you want to change that?”

“What do you mean?” One thing that IS who Z is is a master obfuscator.

“Don’t you want to not be mean?”

She paused. For a while. “...Yeah.”

“Do you think you can change? I do! You’re just a kid still!”

“I think” – very matter-of-fact – “I will always be a little bit mean.”


“I don’t know, but I can tell I always will.”

“Well...that is something you will always have to work on then,” I assured her. “I know you can do that.”


Hmm. Guess that conversation was over. (WHO, exactly, is in control all up in here?)

When I started writing this blog, I did not know anyone “like us;” I felt alienated, alone, and, much worse, so confused about parenting my two very different – from each other, from the “norm” -- children.

I felt like a failure in the most important role I’d ever had: motherhood.

I did not know, back in the day, that Z’s seemingly cruel laughter, her obfuscation, her self-proclaimed meanness are all attachment-disordered behaviors. I would have blamed myself for not raising her to be kind...I would have blamed her for being unkind and manipulative.

A number of factors (my own kinds of detective work: reading, researching, developing an online community, meeting others through the blog, finding a good specialist in attachment disorders, having a Meeting Friend) have helped me to become someone who is able to share the fruits of my detective work  in hopes of reaching people who feel as I have felt in the past (confused, alone) and feel now in the present (confused, alone, AND inspired, connected, and – every so often – just a little wise in my old age).

As for Z, if I were to name a third fundamental aspect of her identity that Sherlock Holmes might have discerned, I would say that she has a fabulous, quite broad sense of humor. That may be her, and OUR, saving grace.

Full Spectrum Mama

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


I read a lot (a LOT) of posts – whether in adoption communities or neurodiverse ones - about how people’s children are “making progress.” Progress with sensory differences is one major theme, and uplifting, inspirational posts can be found in abundance. I find a lot of news around “progress” with a range of challenges in autism as well.  Since I tend to only follow writers who start with the basic assumption of accepting their diverse selves (and the diversity of their children) unconditionally, as they are, I typically enjoy such posts, and think they give us all hope.

I've read and learned a lotlotlot about adoption and attachment disorders, too; and I'm grateful to have done so since it felt like we were desperate and failing as a family until we gained some context and strategies for my daughter's behaviors. For Z, who was adopted and has struggled with an attachment disorder, progress means healing - gradually - enough to let go of attachment disordered feelings (distrust, panic), and the habits and actions that come with those feelings. Progress, in Z's part of the Full Spectrum, is a unilaterally good and necessary thing. 

I think a lot (a LOT LOT) about how much I do for my son, who is on the autism spectrum and has motor and executive function challenges, compounded by raging teen hormone fog (that’s a medical term). I wonder how much my “help” is actually enabling him -- in a codependent, non-helpful way -- to not learn how to do things, take responsibilities, etc. I try to remember that, but for safety concerns, it’s generally best for him to learn to take responsibility for himself and do his own stuff (dishes, cleaning, “organizing”...) even though he may actually make a much bigger mess doing so...

He’ll never learn to live even partially on his own if I keep waiting on him hand and foot – something I do basically because it’s easier for me. As G takes on more day-to-day tasks, that is PROGRESS – and it’s a good thing.

He’s also made huge strides socially, verbally, in athletics...His momentum in all these areas is a testament to his hard work and efforts.

As a neurodiverse adult, however, I sometimes question a narrow view of the necessity and function of progress. I also I see myself making so much less “progress” than my son does…

Big breath.

I wonder if, for me, it’s at this point more about acceptance, whereas for him he’s still growing so, so much.  While his presence during this period of great growth certainly benefits those around him in increased awareness and good company, it’s primarily about him. Teaching people is not his job, being his best G is his job.

My job, as his mother, is to help him become the most content, competent person he can be, while respecting his unique wonderfulness. I would also like him to “progress” in self-advocacy: both in learning what he needs to succeed socially, academically, and so forth, and in being able to express those needs in order to grow into who he wants to be. In any case, much as he has never, ever been interested in even the slightest efforts at “passing,” he wins most people over with his exuberance and huge heart and humor.

Me, I’m still growing inside to some extent, but my PROGRESS is really more about learning about neurodiversity and spreading that awareness, as well as advocacy in general -- and for my son and me.

In images, I think it might go something like so:

Figure I – Progress for G and Z

Figure II – Progress for Mama

Like so many phenomena, progress may be viewed as a Spectrum: for my daughter, it's a straightforward positive; for my son and me, it's more complicated. We need to make sure that our attempts at progress are in line with our inclusive values, rather than succumbing to the biased standards of a neurotypically-inclined mainstream. Ideally, my efforts at public advocacy, along with those of others in this blog hop and beyond, expand the possibilities for defining -- and celebrating  -- our own progress, goals, and selves.

Full Spectrum Mama

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!