Whitney is out sick right now so we have a GUEST BLOGGER this week!
Tiffany Long, the mother of five-year-old son who has multiple diagnoses (including ADHD), is here to tell you about her experience finding a community within the world of therapy.
Here she is:
As some of you may know, my son, Felix, has a long list of labels that identify the intricacies of who he is and how his brain and body tend to function.
Three years ago, before any of his diagnoses, I was a frustrated mother who couldn’t understand why no one saw what I saw as obvious “symptoms.” I couldn’t figure out why no one was willing to listen to my concerns about my baby or why so many people were shallow enough to assume that his symptoms were just annoyances within his personality.
We had no answers, no one who could relate, and no resources to guide us through the difficult process of parenting a child with multiple disorders.
Thankfully, we eventually found a pediatrician who listened to our concerns wholeheartedly and referred us to the appropriate therapy services. While it was a major weight off our shoulders to be getting Felix the help that he needed, I still continued to feel isolated from the rest of the mothering world.
Because now that we had a name (or six) for Felix’s developmental difficulties, the only other adults I came into contact with on a daily basis were therapists. I had a stressful few years of trying to figure out where I belonged within the world of other people.
You see, I’m very much an extrovert, and my sanity is very much dependent upon having a few close friends with whom I can relate.
But being a stay-at-home mother to a child with special needs puts you in this weird place where you either don’t meet any people, or the people you meet can’t relate to you as a parent whatsoever, or
the people you meet only pity you and get frustrated with your unpredictable schedule and children.
It’s a lose-lose-lose situation. And unfortunately, my feelings of isolation had a negative ripple effect on my children.
Now imagine for a moment walking into a building that you’ve passed a million times before, but never gone into until now. When you open the door, you immediately feel safe, comfortable, overjoyed, and relaxed all at the same time. A handful of people reach out their hands to show you love and support.
This is what happened for us last year. You can call it luck, but I’m going to call it God having my family in the palm of His hand. I walked into a plain building with the words “Ability Tree” printed on the glass, not knowing that this place would become a safe-haven for me and my family.
According to their website, Ability Tree “reaches out to families impacted by disability through recreation, education, support and training (R.E.S.T.). We aim to partner with individuals and organizations to raise awareness and build support networks to strengthen and grow able families. […] We envision families impacted by disability being accepted and supported in their local community; we envision individuals and families enjoying healthy relationships in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and churches.”
And let me tell you … they really do all of the things they say they’ll do!
… And so much more!
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it is to take both of my kids (yes, both!) to a place that accepts them in full-form, understands what they need, loves who they are, and opens their arms to the kids’ parents. Most of the people who work at Ability Tree are volunteers and do what they do because they truly love working with the kids and their families.
That’s SO humbling.
These people have become my very best friends, my sanity savers, and my spiritual encouragers. Without this place and these people, I honestly don’t think I could be mothering Felix through his labels so positively. Actually, I know I couldn’t because I’ve tried going it alone before, and the road is long and tiresome.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to find community with like-minded and like-hearted people when parenting a child with any diagnosis/diagnoses.
Finding people to love you and your kiddos during the good moments and bad can make a world of a difference for your family. If you have any organizations like Ability Tree in your area, I encourage you to check them out and give them a chance.
If you don’t know of any, it might be helpful to ask around and do some searching. Odds are, there’s an organization, small group, or individual somewhere who could (and would love to) be your support system.
You’re also always free to reach out to the community within Psych Central! There are tons of individuals and families who are going through situations just like yours.
Happy day, friends!