From left to right: Courtney, Pam & Erin
This is a funny (for lack of a better word) situation to be in. Your kids are exposed to so many other adults in their life through their activities and schooling outside of the home and I am sure that all of us parents are grateful to them. Especially to those who make an impact on our children's attitudes, development, skills, achievements, etc. We say thank you to those people and try to show them how thankful we are by saying so, or even giving a small token of our thanks in the form of a gift or card. It's what we do. (Okay.. so it's something that us MOTHERS do). It really takes a special someone to take yet another step up the podium to be regarded as a part of your family, or as someone who - had it not been for them, our kids may have not been who they are today.
When you have a child (or children) with special needs, your associations with adults, quickly become mostly comprised of support workers or professionals whose job is to provide assistance to your children. They are paid to help. Soon your kids begin to rely on these individuals as permanent fixtures in their day to day life, who they not only look to for the support that they are trained to provide (ie. an ABA aide, nursery school teacher, speech therapist, respite worker, etc.), but they also lean on them for an emotional connection and/or love. At least I believe that my boys do.
Families of kids with special needs probably see the faces of these support workers, more often than 75% of their friends and family! One of the tough challenges that I have found in our experience of the past year, is how to define our boundaries with these individuals. Do we keep it entirely professional and no-nonense? Do we keep it cool and casual as you would with a friend? Or do you accept them into your home and lives as you would family? -they are probably already going through your refrigerator, chasing your kids into your bedrooms and playing matching games in the bottom of your closet, so how could you not accept them in that way? -I think the answer to that is to follow their lead. They too, are in a tough position. With my experience working in group homes with developmentally disabled adults, I remember how difficult it was to not form strong relationships with the clients. You needed to maintain a professional distance in order to save the client's and your own heart, when there will inevitably be a separation at the end of the shift, or at the end of the job. You don't want to be taken advantage of by the individual or by their families and you certainly don't want to get so emotionally involved that you take it home with you.
Well, I have to say that whether it is healthy or not, whether it is fair or not.. the people whose lives have touched ours so profoundly in the past year and a half are definitely those who shed a tear with us when Owen and Will have accomplished something new. They don't cry out of pity, but because they themselves are proud because all of their hard work with our kids has paid off. They know and may even have a glimpse, of how much it means to us as a family, that they have given us hope. They have helped Owen and Will discover skills that they never knew or thought they would have. They have developed their confidence, increased their sense of self and are moulding creative, little free-thinkers. The boys' personalities are shining through what once seemed like a foggy mist. They have given us Owen and Will. We are so grateful.