If someone told me 15 years ago, how my life would be today, I'm not quite sure how I would have responded. Perhaps run the other way, cry, be angry... Or just maybe, I would have said okay, and spent as much time as possible studying and learning all I could, in hopes that it would prepare me for what I do now every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But then I wonder, if I had known, would I be able to find the joy in my journey? Would I consider my children to be the blessings they are? Would I be able to recognize so many aspects of my life that my Father in Heaven was a part of, preparing me naturally? It's then that I realize I'm at peace knowing my ways of preparing, are definitely not those God would have chosen. His ways are always best.
I am a happily married, full time stay-at-home mom, and homeschool teacher to four special needs children. My first two children, Dinomite, age 9, and Bulldozer, age 8, are biological children. Both were diagnosed with autism, Dinomite at age 3 and Bulldozer at age 2. They are verbal, but severe enough to fit into the full blown Autism criteria, and not that of Asperger's. Dinomite also has ADHD and an anxiety disorder. Bulldozer has ADHD as well. He also has a lack of safety awareness, lack of motor planning, etc. Both have very different obsessions, sensory issues, and autism symptoms. Bulldozer is on medication to help keep him safe and able to function, due to the severity of the issues that were arising. Someone once exclaimed,
"Once you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism." That proves to be very true with Dinomite and Bulldozer.
Dinomite is my animal lover. He has always been obsessed with some type of animal. For the longest time it was dinosaurs, then he started studying prehistoric creatures and sea monsters. Eventually he moved on to amphibians and reptiles, preferring snakes. (I never thought I'd miss sea monsters until he started liking snakes.) Now he's branched out to birds and so many other species. When he was little, his other obsession was vehicles, preferably emergency vehicles. This obsession led to the introduction of LEGO, from which their appears to be no end. Star Wars and superheroes of any kind also entertain Dinomite.
struggles with food. I've never known a child so content with eating the same thing day in and day out. Some type of food therapy will most likely be in his future.
Bulldozer loves weather and astronomy. He appears to have very visual obsessions, those of the past including water, waves, and whales. His little kid obsession was vehicles, preferably construction vehicles. Through his brother, Bulldozer was introduced to LEGO and Star Wars. Unless there's a storm brewing, he talks of nothing else but Star Wars.
After Bulldozer's birth, I remember the distinct impression that we were to prepare ourselves to homeschool our children. Both my husband and I laughed at the notion, being very against homeschooling at the time. Yet, I remember also saying that if I ever had special needs children, I would not send them to public schools.
It was actually Dinomite's meltdowns and screaming fits, that lasted over an hour, when returning home from a private special needs preschool, that pushed us to experiment with the notion of home schooling. We wanted to see if his behaviors would improve. Sure enough, in three days, he was a new child, a very happy one.
When Bulldozer was about six months, we felt the impression that another child was waiting to come to our family, a baby girl. I had been advised not to have more children, due to my own health concerns. It was at that time that we looked into adoption. (This was before the boys' autism was diagnosed.) After researching all of our options, we decided to adopt through the foster care system. This decision changed our lives, as we became foster parents for four years, 2 1/2 of which my husband was home full time with me, taking in over 20 children, more than half being infants. Two of these infants are now our adopted daughters, Princess, age 7, and Sunshine, age 4.
Princess was a very difficult baby. Her needs were not medically based. She was easier than Bulldozer, but we recognized that something wasn't quite right. Princess came to us at 6 months having been abused in every way. And by every way, I mean EVERY way. One month after learning of the boys' diagnoses of Autism, we learned that Princess has Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since then, she has also developed an anxiety disorder. I will always remember the developmental pediatrician looking at me wide eyed, as she learned the adoption wasn't 100% complete.
"Are you SURE you want to do this? This will be the hardest thing you've ever had to do."
With tears in my eyes, I said I was sure. After all, when you look at Princess and you look at me, there is no doubt in my mind she was meant to be my daughter. Sure enough, the developmental pediatrician was right, raising a child with RAD, PTSD, and an anxiety disorder has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, or probably ever will due. I am her target.
I felt impressed to have her join our learning time at about 2 1/2 years old. It turns out to be our most positive interactions of the day. That's not to say we don't have our bad days, because some are truly horrible, but I love being her teacher. It was explained to us by therapists and doctors, if we homeschooled the boys and sent her to school, she would think we were abandoning her. When her IQ score came back, we knew sending her to school would result in significant behavioral issues, as she would be bored out of her mind. As we visited with her developmental pediatrician during another appointment, it was explained that she would need to be in the most restrictive class setting available because of her behaviors and issues, if she were to go to public school. This is with medication already to help her anxieties and self endangering behaviors. Each time I hear more information about what public school would mean for her, it confirms my choice to keep her home, despite how difficult it is sometimes. We have found the Montessori Method to be very beneficial to her, as she's able to choose her own work, and the battles for control are less. Most often she chooses the same work Dinomite is doing.
Sunshine was the last infant to enter our home. She came at 6 months of age also, having been separated from her birth parents at birth, but enduring other hardships in a foster home previous to ours. Her adoption process was very quick. Sunshine was born with a very mild case of Cranial Facial Microsomia, so mild that for all intents and purposes one can't tell, with the exception of her right eye, jaw line and teeth. As preparations for her adoptions moved forward she appeared to be doing extremely well, with only small delays. However, shortly after the adoption, it become very apparent that something was wrong. At the age of 29 months our Sunshine was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (not a mild case), Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a sleeping disorder, and the beginnings of ADHD. Just this year she was also given the official mood disorder diagnosis.
At the age of 2 1/2 Sunshine was tested for food allergies. Sleep medication was not helping her. I kept feeling like we were missing something. Sure enough she tested positive for fourteen foods/groups. When we eliminated these foods from her diet, Sunshine slept all night for the first time ever. This has continued ever since, except for when she's experiencing PTSD or manic episodes etc.
My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible. I have found, for me, this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system.
In summary, I guess home schooling chose us, rather than we chose it. Both my husband and I went to public schools. We enjoyed our education. However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children. I only hope I can succeed in providing them with the best education they can acquire, providing them with a safe and uplifting environment, without distractions and set backs they are unable to cope with, due to their disabilities.
This is our story. It's A LOT of work. It's a HUGE time commitment. However, I love it. I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves. I love to watch them succeed. When I'm struggling either because of their behaviors or my own short comings, I find the best medicine is spending more time with them without distractions. This is when I see them at their best!
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