Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Here in the Real World

Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder; what do these three words all have in common?  They have been, according to some, overused. Are they real problems, or just a demonstration of bad parenting? As the mother of three children who can be described as having one (or more) of these diagnoses, I certainly have a strong opinion on this matter. They are very real.

With eight children,  I know a little about parenting. Not perfect (by any stretch), but I do have experience with neuro-typical kids; most of my kids are neuro-typical. But my kids who are not neuro-typical, they really aren't. Oh, they aren't "that bad." They haven't missed milestones by "that much." But they are missing milestones. And theirs are genuine (at times heart-wrenching) struggles.

When my sixteen month old daughter ripped her clothes off and refused to wear what I'd picked out, I decided that wasn't a battle I wanted to fight. Discovering the reason was the texture of the clothing, I was very glad to have waved a white flag. When my infant son screamed in terror every time he touched water, I got creative on how to get him clean. When my old-enough-to-know-better daughter doesn't understand non-verbal communication, or misses a social cue, causing  everyone around her is uncomfortable with no idea why, it is very awkward.

Whether over-diagnosed or not, the challenges these labels were developed to describe are very real indeed. To suggest otherwise is to minimize and trivialize the at times overwhelming struggles these kids and their parents face. Here in the real world, we can't reduce everything to a lab report or thesis for a research paper. We aren't trying to get anything published in a journal or bring in funding for our university. We are just trying to survive. We need help, encouragement, and understanding. If you can't offer that, perhaps you should spend a day sharing what we experience. Or, better yet, maybe you should experience what our children are experiencing, then share your opinion on how unreal these problems are.

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