Tuning into Your Children

Tuning into your child

by Jackie Pantaliano~Like most moms, when it comes to my child, I’m a fighter, and will venture into the wilds, alone if necessary. When you’re a people pleaser AND want to convince yourself and others that you’re a good mommy, however, it gets pretty complicated. Here’s my litmus test—-my child’s reactions. If you watch and listen really closely, your child will always show you when you’re on the right track, even if the “majority” tells you otherwise. Fighting against the tide isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the best course.

The Wisdom of Children

Here’s what my very astute son who has Asperger Syndrome (affectionately referred to as an Aspie) has been telling me from early on:

“I can’t and won’t do homework. It’s too overwhelming and I’m too exhausted after school.” After years of screaming, crying and raging tantrums, we finally had his prior special needs school eliminate homework. The results? His classroom behavior and grades improved! Not to mention no more hysteria at home.

“I can’t be in the mainstream science class in elementary school (even though I‘m really good in science).” Steven was in there with an aide, but spent most of his time under the desk or in other unproductive ways, because he was overwhelmed by the number of students, sensory overload and the pace. I insisted the school pull him out of there and teach him science in the self-contained classroom. They disagreed, but I prevailed. The result: calm all around and greater productivity for Steven and his fellow classmates

“I can’t drive because it wouldn’t be safe, due to my processing delays and focusing problems.” I attended a special needs workshop on the decision to drive, and after working through the checklist, which included many other aspects my son hasn’t mastered, determined that my son knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I’m too overwhelmed to put all this laundry away.” Yelling, threatening and disbelieving him didn’t work. What did? Giving him a way to break up the task with step-by-step instructions, so it was no longer overwhelming

Steven is still in high school, until age 21 (one more year), as anyone with special needs can legally remain. Although he’s naturally bright and has long since met all of his graduation requirements, he has developmental delays in behavior, emotions and maturity. He’s primarily receiving job coaching and training in his final two years of school, and is considered a post-graduate student.

Steven is happy and feels he’s exactly where he belongs. Litmus test 1–Check. Here’s another litmus test. My child is not depressed, stressed or anxious and has strong self-esteem. He will gladly explain to anyone about his Asperger Syndrome, and the challenges and strengths that come along with it. Check 2 on the Litmus test. This is significant, as I sadly know of too many Aspies who are deeply depressed (some suicidal) struggling with their identity and fitting into the mainstream. Before diagnosis and acceptance my son expressed similar despair.

Today, Steven is looking forward to his graduation and going directly to work, preferably in baking, combined with sales/customer service, in which he excels. I also don’t doubt that he can one day write a creative story or succeed in other interest areas. In the meantime, he’s benefitting from extra time. Given dismal statistics about the number of Aspies who are able to remain gainfully employed, due to their social communication challenges and delays, regardless of their IQ and educational level, I’m pleased that Steven is getting all the help he needs in this regard.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Every child is truly unique, and this is no less true when you have a special needs child. I’m weary of having to respond to people who think I’m holding my child back, because other bright Aspies are going to college and driving. Not everyone is a driver, nor is everyone college material, and not doing either does not make you a failure

So my message to all of those who insinuate that my son should/could do “more,” because he’s so charming and verbal and smart, I say, we are not creating limitations. On the contrary, we are following his lead and allowing him to be who he is and loving him all the more for it. We are giving him all the supports he needs to get where he wants to go. While we encourage him always to stretch beyond his comfort zone, we understand his challenges and will not push him to the breaking point, just so we can check off society’s list of “shoulds.” Steven is fabulously unique and will arrive at his happy destination in the time and manner that is right for him.

 

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About Jackie Pantaliano

Jackie Pantaliano is the proud mom of Steven, step-mom of Jeff, Melanie and Jessica, dog-mom to Lady and Freddy, and wife of Bob since 1989. She is the former leader of the Camden/Burlington County Chapter of ASPEN (Asperger Autism Spectrum Education Network) www.aspennj.org and has her own Public Relations firm, ImPRessions, LLC, www.impressionspr.net.

9 thoughts on “Tuning into Your Children

  1. paula susan

    How brave and loving you are. You had the courage to value and follow your deep intuition and you raised a capable, happy human being. It says so much about who you are, and you are impressive.

    Paula

    .

    Reply
    • Jackie Pantaliano

      Thank you so much, Paula for your very kind words. It means a great deal to me, because like so many moms, I frequently second-guess myself. I believe we often write (and teach) what we need to learn, and it seems that I needed to write this article to remind myself that we are on the right path. I’m so grateful you took the time to post such a beautiful and meaningful response to my article. It is greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  2. Meryl

    Well stated. I agree it is difficult to let your children lead the way but necessary especially when that child has challenges. I think your doing an amazing job as a mom. I think many could learn quite a bit from your example. Excellent piece! I applaud you.
    Meryl

    Reply
    • Jackie Pantaliano

      Thank you so much Meryl. It’s not always easy to go against the tide, but I’ve certainly always found it harder to push my son into raging waters, because of other’s opinions about what he should be doing.

      Reply
  3. Sorelle Marsh

    BRAVO! You are an Amazing Mom! Your ability to trust your instincts along with your sons goes beyond commendable. I too am a mother of an “aspie” and totally understand…….be proud..of you…be proud of your son..dissability does not equate stupid or ignorant..

    Reply
    • Jackie Pantaliano

      To hear this from a fellow Aspie mom means the world to me, because I have found that on the contrary, most people (including several Aspie moms) think all Aspies’ are geniuses, and should be doing so much more. While my Aspie son has a high IQ and is naturally very bright, he is not academic. He’s a hands-on kid who can’t tolerate tests or homework, so higher education is definitely not for him. Also, what many people don’t realize is that emotional intelligence is very different from intellect, and our kids need so much more help in that realm. Thank you so much!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Family Resources – Tuning In | All My Children Family Care

  5. Ebrahim Kizito

    I AM VERY HAPPY TO HAVE COME ACROSS SUCH A DEVOTED AND DETERMINED MOM OF A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD IS ABLE TO TAKE ON AND THEREFORE ASK OR ADVISE TEACHERS ON HOW FAR THEY CAN PUSH YOUR CHILD.
    FROM MY EXPERIENCE AS A SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS TEACHER, MOST PARENTS EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM TEACHERS OF THEIR CHILDREN WITHOUT MEASURING THE POTENTIAL OF THEIR CHILDREN.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pantaliano

      Thank you Ebrahim. I greatly appreciate your comments, and I also see parents like those you describe and it always makes me very sad for the children. However, it also makes me very sad for the parents, because in their defense, It’s hard to see any limitations regarding our children. We’re supposed to help them be all they can be. When our child was 18 months old, a teacher stopped us in a restaurant to ask how old he was, because he was counting his pieces of cantaloupe to high numbers. We thought we had a child who was going on to the Ivy Leagues. Also, our children often surprise us and surpass our expectations. As noted, we don’t want to set limits and kids do need to be challenged, but not to the point where they are pushed over the edge.I don’t recall when I was young hearing about kids committing suicide. Perhaps I was sheltered, but it seems too many are in such tremendous despair today, because they are pushed beyond their limits, and that includes neurotypical kids. We need to let their individual talents unfold in their own time.

      Reply

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