Friday, January 29, 2016


Team Friendly Face (links: and, convened at the beginning of Middle School, was represented the other night by a few friendly faces as I walked apprehensively into the orientation for parents of incoming ninth graders.

The auditorium was significantly less full than I would have expected, given the size of the incoming class of first year high school students. To this casual observer, it emerged that there were basically two types of parents who chose to attend this event. Both sets looked keyed-up, nervous. But one set looked excited, too, whereas the others, my Friendly Face peeps, looked TERRIFIED. We know how hard transitions can be for our kids, both for individual reasons, such as anxiety around new things, executive function challenges, and so on, and for larger-scale reasons, such as the inevitable jostling and alienation that come with new social situations and groups. (Guess who’s usually targeted in high stress situations? People who are different? Yup.)

The future  AP parents, the ones who indeed legitimately signed the Honors English agreement that was in the million-page high school transition packet – the Honors English permission form that I’d signed because, why not? Hey, my kid is GIFTED, – kept asking questions about things like “prerequisites for calculus.” The rest of us cringed, kept quiet. Sure, the school administration and teachers seemed welcoming and nice, but we all knew our kids might need a slightly different – probably more extensive - set of guidelines.

After the presentation, I felt shellshocked. Team Friendly Face member J came over to me, crying. I felt a migraine descending. We tried to prop each other up. Team Friendly Face members K and C reminded themselves and us that our future ninth graders have such a gift for finding the good in every situation. That our fears don’t always manifest – and often go blissfully unshared by our children...

Then my shy, sometimes uncertain, Team Friendly Face friend J walked up to the Special Education representative and, before my eyes, turned into an articulate, assertive Warrior. While I stood mutely by, gazing through narrowed eyes, trying not to sway or vomit (migraines are fun like that), she introduced herself (and me), asked some really smart, important questions, and just basically advocated her butt off for her son. I was so proud of her! And a bit ashamed that I’d just written a whole post on advocacy...But then sometimes we need to lean on others when it gets too much. I was super grateful for those Friendly Faces at this event! I know I will be getting plenty of chances to advocate in the next few months and, thanks to J, some of my questions have already been answered.
It was also a comfort to know I could jot down some reflections on this ordeal in my 300-page and growing Full Spectrum Mama draft file. I publish only a fraction of my writing, but somehow the luxury of writing things down, along with the opportunity to process this writing provides, and then – when appropriate, when I have the time to polish the writing, etc. -  I am grateful to be able to have a part in the wonderful blogosphere phenomenon of letting others know they are not alone.

That being said, I’ve always seen THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT as a place where ANYONE can share their experiences. I will be publishing a plethora of COMPLAINTS in the upcoming yearly post. Please email me your tisk-tisks, your triumphs, trials, tribulations, tales of woe and so forth at 

Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Every year, this time of year, I get to indulge in a series of posts that use my most beloved mode of thinking and organizing: LISTS.  The first in the series has always been on ADVOCACY, a subject central to most everything I believe, ponder, and do, as a mother and as a writer.

I’ll be heading into both three-year IEP evaluation meetings and high school transition meetings in a few weeks. Considering the week I have just had, where I
1. noticed on page 27 of a 40 page IEP informational packet that G’s services were being cut from 24 hours per week to 11 for this fall when he starts high school;
2. noticed that G was once again failing several classes and had to engage intensively with him and his teachers and paraprofessionals and case manager* to get him back on track, mostly around executive function matters; and
3. travelled 45 minutes to an away basketball game to watch G play, having attempted a four-tiered system to help him remember his gear (for the record: written list, email, lecture at breakfast, and quiz in car) only to find that he’d forgotten his shorts.**
            ...this was a great time for me to review my advocacy lists and get prepared for what’s to come! As my Meeting Friend can attest, this sort of schedule of minor disastrophes is all too typical for we atypicals, so any time can be a good time to sharpen our advocacy skills.

Here are my previous anniversary posts on advocacy, chock full of tips for success (and some choice “don’ts”) in delightful list form:


You can also use the “search” function at right to find more posts pertaining to this important subject.

Since I’ve been blogging awhile now, I’ve more and more had the privilege of being asked for advice and support from near and far around advocacy. It’s probably the thing I get the most queries and referrals about, and I am pretty sure that’s because we all get intimidated as well as confused by powerful, sometimes-inflexible, institutional systems that are larger and more complex than us, and full of people who have their own agendas, not to mention the need to become well-versed, quickly, in completely new subjects...All the while dealing as individuals and/or parents with navigating a world that is not always welcoming of difference.

I’ve come up with this handy-dandy three point list to summarize the key aspects of advocacy as I see them, after almost a decade of advocacy:

...And now for a little elaboration:

1. By INSIST, I mean, to go with what you know is right, whether anti-bullying or pro-services and –adaptations(–accommodations), whether at school, at work, in the larger world...Oftentimes you might not even know what the law or rule or adaptation/accommodation or service or policy is...but you know in your heart that you or your child deserves better. Is your or your child’s neurology, sensory profile, or other difference significantly impacting or impacted by your/their school (or work, or...) experience? Then something needs to change. Part of this step is finding out what can be done – finding a way to make things better – and then INSISTING upon it.

2. By PERSIST, I mean: don’t give up.  Sometimes our efforts at advocacy are flat-out exhausting. Sometimes they don’t help us or our children but they help others down the road (laws, do I have examples of this). If possible, keep trying: sometimes it might just take one more call, or google search, or email to another parent or a friend to push things over the line to full or partial success. Yes, there are a lot of things working against progress (on both smaller and larger scales), but there are good guys out there, and rules and laws that are meant to support equality and fairness...we as individuals can make a difference in the creation of and changing of attitudes and laws, too, but it takes time. PERSIST, dear reader, and find these people and these policies (or be/create them!) and let’s level the playing field!

3. By EXIST, I mean: you are a person! Yes, you! Take care of yourself. I don’t do this. None of us do. But we should. Especially when the world needs MORE from us, and we feel we’ve Nothing left. Sleep. Good, nourishing food. Taking a break sometimes and just reading or going for a walk...Am I ringing a bell here?

Life can sometimes feel like a roller coaster, all the more so when you and/or your child has/have atypical learning styles and/or neurology and/or abilities. When I contacted G’s case manager* to review his grades from the depths of a reasonable yet debilitating funk, she responded on that subject and then, later, sent me this:
I forgot to write it in my last email but...I have been meaning to let you know how amazing [G] was during his Socratic Circle in English class with [teacher]. He related the poem 'Kindness' to his negative experiences in [pre-move, reason-we-moved, elementary] school with bullying and was able to speak to how it made him understand kindness more. He also said that because of this experience he has become a more compassionate person. I was so impressed and moved by his thoughtful input. He was serious and thoughtful. It was just wonderful!
...This email kind of made up for the other disastrophes that week, my point being: take joy/comfort/light where you may need it! Seeking out and really listening to those who recognize/acknowledge/celebrate your or you loved ones’ real gifts are a part of self-care and feeding of the soul.

You know – roller coaster alert - I had mixed feelings when this (very kind and hard-working) case manager* subsequently told me that “[G] could be in an advanced language arts class if not for his issues with organization and writing.” I mean...what’s not happening for him at school that you are not helping him enough with these very issues (learning differences [a.k.a. disabilities – the language we choose is part of advocacy!]) to realize his potential??? Wait...It’s time to advocate...Ciao!


Full Spectrum Mama

* Ok, “Case manager” makes my son sound like a “case.” Yuck. Note to self: another advocacy goal for when things slow down....??
**The fact that G is on the basketball team is a subject for at least seven or eight future posts, which I will likewise write when the proverbial things slow down...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


“F*cked up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.”

Dear Persons,

Boundaries keep us healthy.

Boundaries can be any shape (including partially open), thick, thin, obvious, subtle, situational, universal, expressed, internal, pleasing and convenient for others– or not, ordinary, extraordinary, permanent, flexible, temporary,...Boundaries can and should be of any type that promotes our health and healthy relationships. Boundaries consider and encompass ourselves and others as PERSONS.

Figure I – Visual Rendering of a Full Spectrum of Boundaries

A lack of boundaries finds an interesting overlap between neurodiverse people, who, for a variety of reasons, may be unaware of the possibility/necessity of certain boundaries, and unhealthy-to-toxic families, where vulnerable members (such as children, or, sometimes [and by no means only], women) may be abused or exploited partially because of weak or nonexistent boundaries in the family dynamic.

People who desire full health can learn about healthy boundaries and enact them. This can be challenging, especially at first, because new routines and behaviors always are (hello, transitions!), but also because sometimes others may take boundaries as a personal offense, or as selfish, or a burden.

Refer those chumps to the above quote. .

Basic well-being in life also embodies healthy boundaries (eating habits, personal safety, fitness...). For people who are highly sensitive, people with sensory processing differences, and people on the autism spectrum, among others, healthy boundaries may further include a diverse range of choices, such as:

* Not shopping at big box stores (this may hold, too, for people who have boundaries around consumption, or around economic ethics regarding working conditions of employees and/or manufacturers);
* Limiting the number of steps in any set of instructions, whether at school, work, or home;
* Allowing fidgets, pressure devices, what-have-you to be integrated in the classroom or workplace;
* Limiting or specifying social interaction;
* Avoiding fluorescent lighting, certain smells, loud noise, crowds....
* Finding mutually satisfying means of communication;
* Choosing clothing, food, etc. that does not hurt, distress, or irritate us;
* Deciding the conditions under which we will choose to share our unique circumstances and needs...

We have the inherent right to deduce and determine what feels safe, healthy, and appropriate in our lives. We can and should ask those who value our mutual health and relationships or who are charged with our wellness, working conditions, and/or education (and/or the education and/or care of our children!), to honor those boundaries.

Incidentally, healthy boundaries also allow us to more abundantly exude and take in all the good stuff.

Figure II – 
Person with Healthy Boundaries Enjoying The Good Stuff

I never knew all this; that’s why I am sharing.

Full Spectrum Mama

[EDIT, 1/13: My dear online friend Kmarie  Audrey posted this deeply thoughtful and interesting post after reading the above:]

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!