Category: Parents

Parents of the learning disabled have many common emotions, problems and solutions to share.
January 10, 2022 by clearymf 0 Comments

January Blahs

In the best of times, January was always a challenging
month. It’s time to put away all the decorations and there are few holidays
coming up (although most stores insist on bringing out their Valentine’s Day
stock way too early – and husbands still manage to forget about it until Feb.

During a pandemic, January is especially dreary.
Opportunities to “go out and do something” are limited – first by Omicron and
in many places, by the weather. Here in New Jersey, the temperatures have been
extremely cold and we got enough of a snowstorm to close schools for a day.

It’s Especially Hard for Parents!

For parents, things are also tougher than usual. We can’t
send our younger kids out to play for too long (although they’d probably stay
out in the snow forever!); we want to limit their screen time, so we a day on
social media or watching TV is taboo; exercise is limited so everyone is extra
grumpy, not having a chance to work out our energy during our regular

So here we sit, trying to make the best out of a less than
perfect situation. Even those parents whose children have returned to school
are still navigating remote classes because of infected classmates or teachers.
And the worry, worry, worry that the virus will invade our homes – sometimes just
too much to handle!

What Can We Do?

I wish I had solutions – or at least ones you hadn’t heard
or read about. They all involve “doing something” and that’s one of the biggest
hurdles January serves up – we don’t want to DO anything! It would be nice if
we could watch Hallmark movies or sports or read a novel to pass the time each
day. But we have kids!

The one thought I can offer is this: let’s be kind to
ourselves. Allow our children a little extra time with the computer or TV; look
the other way at the messy house; pick up a book or watch a movie (even half of
one!) and let everything else pass by. Maybe you can find a movie that you AND
your kids will like and just zone out and enjoy.

And don’t feel alone. Parenting is hard – especially in

December 14, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

A Different Kind of Holiday

OK – last year’s holidays were different for sure. We were isolated, unable to see our family and friends, relegated to food delivered to our doors as we stood masked and gloved, waiting to wash off the virus. We zoomed with everyone, trying to be jolly, but it was hard and we all looked forward to returning to “normalcy.” We assumed that would come in 2021. Well – not quite.

This year, things have certainly improved somewhat. We’re shopping again and seeing our nearest and dearest with more frequency. For those of us with young kids in the family, that’s generally a big plus. HOWEVER (and there’s always a “however” these days!) – if they are too young to be vaccinated, then what? Are we going to infect them with our grocery store germs or are they going to infect us with their day care germs? Too much stress!

In addition to that, those of us with disabled children always have extra challenges around the holidays. Is it too much for them to process? Is the confusion making them harder to handle? What messages can we teach them that are meaningful but not beyond their capacity to understand? What gifts will actually enhance their lives rather than just add more “stuff?” How can we make this season “just enough” so that it is enjoyable?

In a sense, it’s the same set of questions we had when all our kids were little, but many of our “kids” aren’t little anymore. So we have to be respectful of their age and level of maturity without being either patronizing or going over their heads. Challenging!

We have all that, PLUS the real challenge of a bit of a malaise that’s surrounding a “not-quite-normal” holiday this year. I’ve talked to so many people who are having a bit of a challenge getting their Christmas spirit up to snuff. Understandable. We were ready for a regular holiday and we got this. So many of our rituals were postponed yet again – big get-togethers, trips to the Nutcracker or Radio City Music Hall, train rides, even sitting on Santa’s lap.

And we’re awfully tired of “making the best of it.” Yes, we are all incredibly lucky and we need to take deliberate time every day to appreciate what we have. I’m not dismissing that. It’s just that, for some of us, it takes more effort.

Our children with disabilities can, as always, give us good examples. After all these years, I still marvel at how my daughter and her friends find joy in the smallest things – playing Zoom Bingo, laughing at silly jokes, watching Everybody Loves Raymond, hanging holiday lights, teaching the dog a new trick. And the way they support each other is amazing! They cheer each other up when someone is sad or sick; they ask about friends who are having problems; they even send notes and gifts when a person has had a loss. (When our dog passed, I was floored by the compassion of my daughter’s friends!).

So at this “different” holiday time, we have another thing for which to be grateful – the way our disabled children can be role models for us! Let them guide us and it will be easier to “be of good cheer.” Wishing you and your families a blessed and joyful holiday. May the New Year continue to bring us health, safety, joy and gratitude. Happy 2022!

October 13, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

Making Friends – Not So Easy!

As our learning disabled children get older, their circle of friends becomes smaller. It’s a bit easier when they’re in school, especially their local school, because they can connect with young people in the neighborhood. But middle school and high school bring their own challenges.

Finding Common Ground

As with all young people, they want to establish friendships with those who have common interests and abilities. Well, that’s not so easy when you have a disability and all your classmates may be “differently- abled” than you. Some may have trouble talking, reading, walking, socializing, even behaving appropriately, and your child might not fit any of those profiles. So the friendship possibilities become smaller.

 Social Isolation

In fact, social isolation is one of the major problems facing learning disabled teens and young adults. Think about it. Most of our older children find friends on their own, at school, on their teams and in clubs and other extracurricular activities. Unless we find these activities for our disabled kids, they won’t be able to have that same advantage. And how much time does it require to find the appropriate social pastime? A lot!

I remember once we took our daughter and her friend to Bingo which was organized by a widely recognized group for the disabled. Our kids were so polite when we asked them afterwards if they enjoyed it. “It was good,” they said, “but everyone was a little – well – old.” Cross that one off the list!

Finding Activities That Fit

Since our daughter has three brothers, she’s grown up with sports all around her, and so Special Olympics has provided a wonderful outlet for her. The best thing about Special Olympics is that you don’t have to have the ability but rather the desire. And a big “COVID silver lining” is that, when they were unable to play because of the quarantine, they started a twice-weekly Zoom group which continues to this day. And there, they play a Bingo game that my daughter and her friend really enjoy!

A Job That Really Pays Dividends

Encouraging social interactions is just another responsibility for special needs parents. Our job isn’t easy but when we succeed at helping our kids make connections, the rewards are great. Let’s keep reaching out to each other for ideas so we can improve our children’s chances for life success. 

September 18, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

Our Article in EP Magazine

Readeezy is honored to have our first article published in EP (Exceptional Parent) Magazine! Here’s the link:…/207412/viewer...

July 22, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

Letting Go

Letting Go – Not So Easy

It’s every parent’s dilemma – when to let go. Is it time to send them to day care or preK or summer camp? How many moms (or dads!) followed the school bus the first day your child rode alone? (Full disclosure – I did!) As your children get older, you’d think it would get easier but it gets worse because now they’re going out with their friends to a mall or concert, driving for the first time, or, one of the toughest, going off to college. The grey hairs on our heads are measured by each small slip of our grasp on our children’s lives.

What if your child has a disability?

For parents of the disabled, these events may be especially difficult. Each of us wishes a full and free life for our child. We dream of a time when they will be able to live and work as independently as possible. However, self-sufficiency requires the ability to be – well – self-sufficient. Many of us spend countless hours teaching our kids to do chores around the house, count money, travel on public transportation. We sign them up for jobs or volunteer work where they will acquire abilities that they wouldn’t have the chance to learn at home. But at what point is it safe to “let go?”

A Different Kind of Question

When parents are deciding about whether or not to send their disabled child off to some kind of independent living situation, there is one question that looms large: “Is it safe?” Of course, every parent worries about safety but normally developing children can be taught about danger in a way they will most often remember. For those with disabilities, it’s not the same; their ability to think critically is often hampered. When my daughter was working, we used to stay on the phone with her when she walked the three busy blocks from her job at Panera’s to her tutoring session, talking her through every street crossing. I remember once I fell down the basement stairs, and when I asked my daughter to call her brother, she just stared at me. Somehow, the shock of seeing me there made her unable to function.  

So How Can They Live On Their Own?

That’s the question we’re facing now – and we’re not alone. As we age, we know we have to plan for our children to live without us. We’ve checked out every option – group homes, supervised apartments, licensed residences, independent housing. We’ve run ourselves ragged visiting almost every model that’s available. Many of them were admirably run but there was always a problem – too far, too institutional, not enough supervision, caregivers would come and go. We found two places that had a wonderful setup but, in each case, the success of the operation depended on one very talented person. Suppose that person was no longer there – then what?

Are We Just Making Excuses?

Since we have a daughter, my husband is being especially protective. He keeps on saying that he understands it’s important for her to learn about living on her own. But it’s going to be especially hard for him to make the leap. However, I believe that if the right opportunity came along, we’d know it and, while biting the bullet, we’d do it. So far, that hasn’t happened and time keeps ticking away. And it’s not going to wait for the perfect moment or situation.

Will We Ever Stop Worrying?

Probably not. We’re parents after all. But for parents of the disabled, the worry is with us daily. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a parent support meeting where someone didn’t cry, because sometimes the questions seem to have no answers. So all we can do is be there for one another, exchange helpful information, rely on those who can help and create as loving an environment as we can for our children. And then we can only trust that we’ve done our best.

June 18, 2021 by clearymf 2 Comments

Disabilities – Milestones of Grief

Last week, we lost our dog. He was the cutest little thing – a Morkie rescue – although he might have been a few other breeds too because he always looked like a ragamuffin. He was one of those dogs that wouldn’t ever have won “best in show” but he was perfect.

One day he was fine and the next he had a raging cancer. A huge spreading mass grew across his abdomen and that was it. We were in total shock. For those who have lost a pet, enough said. For those whose pet was their disabled child’s best buddy, we know the sadness is even more palpable.

Grief comes in all shapes and sizes. And it’s an interesting thing about grief and disabilities. Of course, we all grieve about our child being born with so many extra challenges to face. Everything will be so hard, we think. So much will be lost to them. 

But people often note that kids with disabilities appear to be very happy. Our own daughter always seems full of grace, ready to believe the best about anybody, possessing an easy laugh at simple things and an appreciation of small beauties around her.

But What About Our Grief?

So perhaps, for parents, the grief is ours. When we decide to have children, we all have wonderful dreams for them. Of course we want them to be healthy and happy – and perhaps secretly hope they’re smart in school, talented athletes, beautiful dancers, glorious singers; we may dream of scholarships to elite schools and big careers as doctors, actors, scientists and senators; we picture them in handsome wedding attire walking down the aisle while we beam at their happiness; we mentally play with our adorable grandchildren who will start the cycle of achievement and success all over again.

And we don’t just want it for them. We want it for us too. And that’s normal and OK. It’s just that special needs parents will never know many of those dreams. And so we grieve.

Our daughter was adopted from Bulgaria and she lived in an orphanage until she was three. Although we didn’t know she had disabilities when she arrived, we figured it out pretty quickly and she’s thriving as best as she can. And we’re thrilled. But here’s the kick. We have three biological sons; my husband was one of four boys. So it became clear that the only way we were getting a female into this family was to import her from another country.

The irony was that I wanted a daughter starting from baby number one. I had plans for long chats, walks together, inspirational talks on new opportunities for women, bridal dress shopping – the whole nine yards. And it didn’t happen. Is it selfish to say I grieve over that loss? Maybe. But I do.

Is This My Fault?

For those with biological children who are disabled, there is yet another torturous grief – the one that says, “What did we do wrong that produced this disability in our child? What gene or medicine or food or activity led this to happen? This must be our fault.” And no matter how much research we do or how many discussions we have with medical professionals, that extra layer of grief is always there. Is there anything we could have done to prevent this?

How do parents deal with this in the midst of what is often a nightmare day with a child who’s out of control, or needs attention 24/7 or whose behavior brings a daily call from school? Grief just brings down whatever energy you are able to summon as you wake up each day.

Some of us pray; others exercise; some find support groups; many cry. Everyone worries as if our fears are somehow protecting our children from any worse fate.

Moments of Grace

I’ve come to believe in grace. It doesn’t have anything to do with religion. It’s just a sense of love and peace that I try to summon, sometimes successfully, when I am in need. Very often, it comes in the form of kind and generous people who are willing to help and to share, or a good book in which I can hide for a while, or a silly episode of Everybody Loves Raymond that makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes, it’s one of my daughter’s small triumphs where she shows she has learned something we’ve been working on for a while or just a sudden appreciation of a garden or a great baseball play or a laughing child that’s beautiful. Whatever it is, I try to notice it and take it in. It gives me strength.

Perhaps just knowing that we all have shared grief is a grace. And maybe sharing that with our fellow travelers on this tough path is a grace too, both for those who share and those who receive.