Friday, October 30, 2015


How do you get your child to successfully complete their homework with minimum damage to family life?

To ponder:
On the Mystery of Not-Knowing:
What do you do when your bright child can understand and is assigned advanced math and science but still doesn’t spell, punctuate, space words properly, write on lines, focus, care, keep track of work, or have any detectible executive function OR discipline? When, in addition, s/he gets increasingly angry or tearful when you merely try to get him/her to do homework?

To ponder:
On the Virtue of “Helping:”
My friend over at Runaway Mama cracked me up with this one: The Homework Hokey Pokey:
I read, relating, laughing, crying, and commented as follows:
Homework right now, it's fair to say, is almost ruining my relationship with my son. That dance [her “homework hokey pokey”] is entirely too familiar. The balance is so much harder and feels more crucial when your child has learning and neurological differences...He'd be failing without oversight (MAJOR oversight) and yet is highly intelligent. I try to make sure he DOES and HANDS IN his homework, without ever doing it FOR HIM. If that makes sense...That alone is practically a full time job...

To ponder:
On Validation, as a Sort of Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation, from the Asperger Experts (a duo of young gentlemen on the spectrum who tell it like it is {from their points of view} and advise families):
What we want is for our support systems to step in and actually support us by validating our struggles... INSTEAD of always trying to "fix" the situation.
How do you validate someone?
You listen to them.
You hear them.
You take them where they're at instead of asking them to be somewhere or something they're not.
You stop what you're doing and become available for them.
This does not mean offering advice. This means simply listening. 
Period. The end.
I LOOOVE me some Asperger Experts. But this homework situation unquestionably needs “fixing.” When they advise parents – AKA “support systems” -- to listen deeply, to validate, and we do so...Do we then get to do the “homework hokey pokey”? I will keep listening, but how will that get my son to begin to take some initiative with his homework and not fail eighth grade? Surely he is validated by now; in fact, I sometimes think an overabundance of self-esteem is part of the problem.

To ponder:
On the Universal Nature of Universal Design:
Is it possible that Universal Design is not as universal as it is intended to be? This question comes up in my own teaching: which “malfunctions” in the homework department stem from learning differences per se, which are a result of executive function challenges, and which arise from sheer triflingness? And how on earth do we distinguish between these, as students, as parents, as teachers????

To ponder:
On the Practice of Email:
When you are emailing about homework with your son’s case manager [Thank you, C, you are an angel!], at length, more than once, on a Saturday night, is it too much?

Deep, Responsive Thought:

Was that scary enough for Halloween? If you’d prefer, you can read about and even justify holiday candy consumption here.

Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, October 22, 2015


The fall semester brings my favorite season and also, this year, an unexpected bout of teaching Intro Phil, which class only enrolled after registration closed so I was rather unprepared, the class that is by far the hardest class I teach because there’s no room whatsoever for winging it and I have to think “deep thoughts” and understand them, at least momentarily, so it takes a ton of prep, which is hard since I did not think I was teaching and took on other work, and even I don’t know where this sentence is going.

Frankly – and perhaps the above is indicative of this, hmm? -- my life generally feels out of balance, especially because of the difficulty of earning a living in a rural area while raising two high-needs kids. I’ve taken some steps to try to remedy this, but the biggest one was going to be firmly establishing a new, wildly lucrative line of work (Ramp up the editing? Finish book proposal and become publishing sensation? Teacher coaching???) this semester while I wasn’t teaching.

Oh well.

My Laotong (old same, best friend) recently shared some thoughts on balance. She said one of her wise teachers once told her that stable, even balance is a myth. That to really accomplish something you need to pour everything into that bucket, rather than trying to just dribble a little so your other bucket(s) stay(s) evenly filled. Except. If I pour any more energy into my career there just won’t be anything left for my family...and meanwhile my career is a hodgepodge that’s confusing even to me.

It’s also time for G’s three year evaluation. At times like this -- with multiple daily emails, calls, written correspondences, meetings... -- parenting my older child alone feels like another full-time job. Our last three-year eval was a Battle Royale about which I wrote in PROCESS, REPRESENT, TOOT, so grueling I am loathe to even recall it. But recall – and strategize - I must. His current school is proposing more testing, including adding testing for ADHD, which I thought was ruled out by/folded into his autism diagnosis years ago. Their explanation is that with more results they will be able to develop more tools for helping G succeed as he heads into high school next year.*

But I have to balance the school’s need for testing, documentation, and tools with how much G hates testing, how vulnerable he is to feeling singled-out, how much time this barrage of testing will take away from his much-needed academics. And we also must, at the same time, make sure their assessments reflect how G really behaves in real life contexts (he’s great at social skills in a two or three person small group environment, for example; outside of that, not so much; there’s a similar disparity for academics).

I need to try to get the right balance between the labels/tools/testing bucket and the acceptance bucket. And it’s hard to even know how to find that balance when I am facing piles like that in Figure I in addition to my work piles (not pictured).

Figure I -
The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning
The Social and Atypical Behavior Questionnaire
The NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale
The Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition

Figure II –
Closeup, Random

When you see such a plethora of tests you cannot help but think as to how this is your child's LIFE! The answers to these questions will be used to evaluate a human being, your beloved child.

You want them to be accepted and celebrated as they are, as well as situated in school so as to best Learn. You wonder how the oversimplifications of what feels like millions of multiple choice or scaled (always-often-sometimes-never, and so on, see Figure II) questions  can possibly reflect your child, and pray the testing will somehow be helpful.

You never, ever, ever want your child to read these generalized forms that aim to identify, problematize (so as to receive services), and label (ditto) and feel bad about him or herself, or judged, or reduced to a standardized series of questions and answers.

You have to go to the bathroom many times while filling them out.

Or maybe that’s just me?

Consider that while I try to find balance in testing and school in general for my son, the time this effort takes shifts the aforementioned balance I am trying to find in work...and the balance I am trying to find with my zooming into teen-land-three-years-early (she just turned 10!) daughter...

I need less in the bucket that holds stuff like me crying in the bathroom for an hour because I suddenly find out there’s a random, last-minute half-day and my schedule is so precariously micro-scheduled that this puts me over the edge. That’s a balance that’s too delicate!

When I look around me, I see that I am not alone in feeling unbalanced. Perhaps that’s because I now know – thankfully! – a lot of other families and people who fill a Full Spectrum of their own. But it’s not just them. As my fall 2015 Intro Phil students say, this system is hard.  It’s impossible for most of us to do as Aristotle advised and become a “happy philosopher,” spending your time reasoning and pondering...

But we get up every day and go after that elusive balance, don’t we? Perhaps that’s what balance is in the real world? 

Full Spectrum Mama


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


In honor of GraceLee Boggs.

Stop. If you only have three minutes, please read the above profile of an astounding and inspiring woman instead. Otherwise, read about her and then come back. Please and thank you.

I’d been writing this post on advocacy and activism (topics dear to the Full Spectrum heart) when I heard that Grace Lee Boggs had passed. A fellow Mawrtyr (graduate of Bryn Mawr College: Ms. Boggs was a Bryn Mawr Ph.D.), she was known for a lifelong commitment to justice and equality for ALL. In a time in which all of the following combinations were practically unimaginable, she was a *Chinese-American *female *scholar married to a *Black man. She was a lifelong feminist, worked hard for labor and the environment and her community, and advocated powerfully and effectively for universal civil rights –HUMAN RIGHTS.

My original post explored how we come to activism: how I’ve watched people with cancer (or loved ones with cancer) become cancer activists, people with sensory processing differences become SPD activists, autistic people and their families and loved ones become autism activists...

But my main point was and is that I believe and hope that people whose hearts and minds are opened up by the particular, personal injustices of the world are inclined to open those hearts and minds further to include the desire for justice, fairness, equality, and inclusion for ALL. Grace Lee Boggs represented this beautiful tendency.

She had the vision to see the humanity and worth in all people. Knowing what I know of that vision, I know implicitly that she would have embraced the concept that autistic and neurodiverse people are inherently worthy of equal rights and respect, and that families of mixed ethnicity are simply, and fully, families, and that people with sensory processing differences experience the world in completely valid ways, and...and...

Perhaps it’s this little word, “and,” that’s key. We choose “and” instead of “or:” because there are enough rights to go around. We don’t have to choose whether it’s race OR ability OR sexuality OR identity OR whatever particular “type” that “gets” to have rights.

We ALL do. 

Those with big, generous hearts remind us of the world's potential, sometimes-hidden bigness and generosity, even when it is hard for others to see. Those of us with growing hearts can look to people like Grace Lee Boggs and take hope. 

Figure I – When We Become Rainbows of Inclusion in a Sometimes Limited-Vision World

I’ve wondered why some people come to activism on their own, through a strong sense of more generalized compassion, or whether most come only through experiences of difference, discrimination, challenge...

I’ve also considered how – let’s face it – TIRING it can be to see injustice everywhere, never mind to combat it with all you’ve got. Grace Lee Boggs (okay, she didn’t have children; however she did care a great deal about them!) managed to truly live her commitment to justice for 100 years!

What is your cause? Particular, universal, or both...? And even when you don’t have the time or energy or opportunity to advocate, activate, etc., do you have a broader vision of who should be considered fully equal and human and why? I dare to hope so.

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!