Do you ever feel that you dont fit in? 

Some poeple struggle with this their whole life but Ive never really felt like this until I bacame a mother. I always had a great group of friends surrounding me when I was younger. I never felt isolated, or different, I was very comfortable in my own skin.

 And then I had Ryan.

The first time I felt different was in the hospital after Ryan's birth at the La Leche meeting. The girl in full makeup, earrings, cute purple dressing gown and fluffy slippers to match was talking about her birth experience. Couple of hours and big push and it was all done, beautiful baby in her arms. Across the room I looked and felt like i had just been to war and was lucky to get out alive, my little baby was in the isolete in the NICU and we still didn't have any answers to why. 

Yep, not much in common there. 

The next time I felt isolated was when Ryan started daycare. I had nothing in common with thos other mothers, you know the ones, the ones with the awake babies? My little man slept all the time, and when he wasn't asleep he was being kept awake to do therapy. 3 months old and already had a team that came to see him numerous times a week. I had no clue what they were talking about when their babies were keeping them up all night with the endless crying. Oh how I wished Ryan would wake up and cry to be fed or held, I just wanted him to "need" me. Oh the fun they were having trying out new foods. I was just happy mine was eating a little, and we had passed our swallow study. 

As time has passed I haven felt less isolated, less different. Found my crew of mothers on the interenet that i can relate too. But still the feelings of "different" crop up at times. 

I went to a meeting at Ryan's school last week, it was a parent panel forum with some "been there done that" moms talking about their experiences. I was surprised how much I don't fit in there either. The talk was all about seizures, and vents, and oxygen, and feeding tubes. I was in the lucky minority that dont need any of these things for my son. Of course I felt incredibly lucky but couldn't help but think yep, don't fit in here, have nothing to really add to this conversation either. It was a weird feeling to think that even in his school Ryan is not delayed or medically involved enough to fit in. 

And then this weekend we went to Ryan's social skills class. I stole a few moment outside the class to sit with the other moms in the hallway. Normally I hang around inside. I never wanted to be a helicopter mom, its truly the opposite of who i am, but its hard to leave Ryan when hes with folks that really don't know him, that are used to SN's meaning cant quite articulate as well as the next kid or the kid is a little clumsy or cant concentrate. Ryan will fall like a tree at a moments notice and that can be really dangerous. When you pick him up he can feel like 70 lbs of dead weight, or he can thrown himself backwards if he doesn't want to do something. I was the one nervously getting up every few minutes to check my 4 year old hadn't fallen over while standing at the table making his snowman. At one point i was smiling a huge cheshire grin as I saw him walking one handed with the teacher to the next center, its a new skill for us and its still warms my heart to see it. Then she turned to talk to another kid behind her, and Ryan lost his balance, spun 180 degrees and landed on his butt. I let out a silent scream. The teachers face was a picture of complete surprise and a little bit of horror. I eves dropped a little on the other mums conversations while they talked about ABA and Floortime, and Autism schools, supplements, sensory processing issues and the best camp in the area. Yep, nothing to add to this conversation either. I was dreading when one of the moms would invariable ask me what Ryan's diagnosis was and I would have to say he didn't have one, and wait for the "look". The look of amazement that my child doesn't have a reason for why he cant walk or talk yet, at nearly 5. The look that wonders what the hell I've been doing for the last 4 years.  

Ahhhh, if only they knew.

Sometimes it feels like we are living on our own island, and sometimes we count ourselves very lucky to be on this island and not another one very close by, and sometimes, well this one just sucks too even though its a slightly better island with slighter better weather.

And then I started thinking about Ryans sense of belonging and how we could do a better job of fostering this in his school years. Turns out theres a psychology therory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" about the factors we as huimans need to be psychologically healthly by fulfilling innate human needs in order of priority, culminating in self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. 

And there, smack dab in the middle, is The sense of belonging. Of the same importance as fruits and vegetables are to a healthy diet! 

Its no secret i still struggle with Ryans complete isolation from close to typical kids during his school day. I have triend to integrate as many activities as possible with more typical kids throughout the week, but if Im being honest its a lot of work on me and on him to go to so many activities after he spends a full day already in school, monday to Friday. But i see the benifits so we keep up with the crazy schedule as best we can. 
I was feeling at peace with the school situation for a time, as i know he has many needs in all areas that would not be taken care of in a regular school setting, even in a special needs class.  Would he even have the skills to keep up, even with an aid ??

This is a really interesting article on integration in a school setting. It has alot of great points to mull over. Including the one that its believed that skills are not a prerequisite to inclusion.

Im only at the mulling over stage at the moment, but JB and I are trying to figure out a way to focus on these "love and belonging" needs for our whole family. It might be a drastic change, or some really slight changes, but I will be sure to let you know when i have figured them out for myself. 

From the article: 
When inclusive education is fully embraced, we abandon the idea that children have to become "normal" in order to contribute to the world. Instead, we search for and nourish the gifts that are inherent in all people. We begin to look beyond typical ways of becoming valued members of the community, and in doing so, begin to realize the achievable goal of providing all children with an authentic sense of belonging.
As a collective commitment to educate alI children takes hold and "typical"" students realize that "those kids" do belong in their schools and classes, typical students will benefit by learning that their own membership in the class and society is something that has to do with human rights rather than academic or physical ability. In this way, it is conceivable that the students of inclusive schools will be liberated from the tyranny of earning the right to belong. It is ironic that the students who were believed to have the least worth and value may be the only ones who can guide us off the path of social destruction.


Momttorney said…
WE too are working on figuring out what inclusion and "belonging" mean for us. I have a really hard time because sometimes it feels like all the SN resources, programs, classes, etc. are geared toward autism. And that's just not us. So it feels like "we" don't fit anywhere, and it is a struggle. . . . we mulling it over here too! xoxo

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