When it gets to be this time of year, we go from quiet Thanksgivings to a veritable bell ringing at midnight on Thanksgiving that signifies the start of the Christmas season.
The shopping, the running and the just plain busy.
Then we move to the reflective time prior to the end of the year.
-Everyone does their mental evaluations of the year’s activities, highpoints, struggles, successes and failures.
-Everyone makes plans for next year, setting goals, timeframes for the goals.
-Some use the time to commit to a brand new fitness routine, promising themselves they will start for sure January the first.
I think this whole reflective time strikes a big chord with me because of our journey with our daughter, Elizabeth. All her life she has worked so hard on so many things and it feels we are constantly in some form of evaluation of her activities.
There were certain times of her life where one topic took the bulk of our attention.
-Like when she was younger, it was how many words she was saying in a sentence or how clear we felt her words were.
-Or when she was in preschool, it was how well she was able to interact without having a sensory meltdown.
-Then when she was a bit older, it was how well she was reading or able to answer questions about what she just read.
So I get the whole end of the year reflective thing, but for us and probably many others who have a child with special needs, I reflect way more than that.
So as we all approach this big time of year, I wanted to offer out some of my end of the year thoughts.
FORGIVE YOUR MISTAKES
I used to think if only I had done this or that differently, Elizabeth would have learned something faster or better. Maybe if had not gotten frustrated so much, she would be talking better. I learned that doing this does not help anyone. That we need to give credit to how hard we work to do all we can for our child with special needs. I know I want to help Elizabeth grow and achieve to the best of her ability and that I will be the best advocate I can be for her needs. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. But do I learn and grow from them? I would have to say most definitely so. So forgive the mistakes, regroup and know you are trying your best.
FORGET TO COMPARE
This one is very challenging because it is so very easy to do and so very hard NOT to do. And that is to take a look at the skills/words/actions of typical developing peers and comparing them to your child’s growth. I have to say, please try not to do this. Forget to compare. Because those typical developing children do not have to overcome the challenges to success that our children have to. So it is not a fair comparison. Not only that, but once you take into account all the challenges they must overcome to success, there really is no comparison.
CELEBRATE THE SUCCESSES
I learned early on in this journey with Elizabeth, how important it is to celebrate any and all successes. To others, they may seem small. But not to us.
When Elizabeth rode a sled for the first time, we cheered. Did others? Probably not, because it is just something kids do. But we did.
Elizabeth said an eight word sentence, we counted the words, told her what she did and clapped. Typical response? No! But it was our success to celebrate.
So celebrate all the year brought!
I let my mind run over the last year as I count down to the next one, but I do it with the perspective that I will continue to work for and with my beautiful Elizabeth. And I am sure, you will be doing the same in 2018.
I wish everyone a peaceful December, filled with as many memories as possible. And a great, positive start to 2018.
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author ("I Believe in You," "Emily's Sister"). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.