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So we ring in 2021.

Make some resolutions.

Try to keep them.

And prepare to send our children back to school.

But wait! Will they go back in person? Or will they go back remotely? Or will they do some of both? Each of those options takes a certain and specific amount of planning, talking and organization.

But for those who have a child with special needs, I think the challenges to get ready are multiplied. Just as our children get used to being home they head back. Or just as they get used to being off of the computer, they need to adjust to getting back on it. And what a transition to do some of both.

I give such credit to these families for making it all work as best as they can. And I give such credit to our educators for being simply amazing!

But even though our educators are part of your child’s life each day, be that in person or a face on the computer, they cannot know how your child is really doing with everything right now.

But you can help them fully understand your child’s current needs and struggles by updating your notes for them.

Notes can help the teachers bridge the distance between what they see on the computer or in person, the work your child hands in versus the actual struggles or successes you see for yourself…when the computer is off and they are home. I used to think it was so interesting that teachers would tell me something about young Elizabeth that they saw at school, something that didn’t necessarily match with what we were seeing her at home. So I would feel confused and attempt to have a further conversation about the topic. After all, Elizabeth’s special needs would require us to teach the teacher!

I learned early on that there can NEVER be enough communication!

I also learned that as much as you think you will remember everything you want to share…you WON”T

So maybe now is a good time to write down what you wish to share from your time over break, as they start the new learning time, if they are having any anxiety that is showing itself, difficulties with any class or work….pretty much anything….basically a nice narrative of your child.

I learned to make a master outline for Elizabeth and had the following areas, which I filled in when I updated the school:

Changes at home- positive or not

Changes with eating or sleeping- positive or not

Struggles with any school goal (IEP, (Individualized Education Plan) or other

Successes in any area

Therapies they receive/how they are doing in them

Changes in anxiety level- tell what you see and notice

Struggles with any of the demands of school- Be honest!

What your child does after school, for a break, hobbies, interests, to decompress

This note taking kind of narrative will make it so much easier to communicate and update or any concern with those working with your child. And even if they are doing pretty well, keeping nice notes helps when conference time rolls around!

So maybe take a moment to take some notes, it helps clear thoughts out of your brain and you will know you did your best to avoid missing something important.

I wish everyone a peaceful week…..please wear a mask!

Michele Gianetti author of Elizabeth Believes in Herself

Maybe it is the new year starting or maybe it is the fact that we are closing in on a full year of being in this pandemic. But whatever the reason, I feel like it is an okay time to post this “What I have learned so far” post.

So for those who are new to our story, Elizabeth is my daughter with special needs. She has Global Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD). She is 23 years old currently and has made amazing gains in her life from the non-verbal child she was to this talkative, opinionated, fun young adult. Prior to the pandemic, Elizabeth was in her college-certificate program, working at 2 internships, volunteering 2 days a week and more.

Then came COVID.

There went all of her world.

Then came adjusting to this new, crazy, anxiety producing world…with really only time on our hands.

So before I continue telling you about what I have learned, I so very much need to tell you that for a very long time in young Elizabeth’s life, she and I did not live a life of rainbows and unicorns together. She was GREAT with others…any others….actually anyone BUT me! A random stranger on the street would get a more polite, happier Elizabeth than I. I accepted it, did not like it, but accepted it as the way things were. Because after all, I was the one to push her in life everyday. I was the one to enforce rules and expectations and I was the one who would sit with her every evening to review/talk about…I was the safe person to let it all out on.

So that was then and things did get better and better as she grew. And I, too, got to see the fun of time with her, hear her laugh often or just have fun with. But I truly had never been challenged to create a life with her that did not involve a schedule be it therapy, school, activities.

But that is where we found ourselves in mid March.

So we did create a life and with all our tools we learned over the years, we kept talking and adjusting and we did pretty well! A work in progress of course.

But here is what I learned:

Elizabeth likes a daily schedule but can be fine without one.

She is fun. PERIOD
She loves to be outside walking with me. We are up to 4.5 miles a trip.

She wants to keep learning. She set some great goals.

She loves to cook and will focus on learning how to do something new each time.

She wants to be an adult and treated as such. Thank you to Lynne for helping me see this.

She is quite a nice housemate. She helps out with day to day chores.

She is so sensitive to my feelings. She will ask often how I am and stare directly into my eyes to see for herself.

She loves coffee runs and at times “forgets” her wallet when it is her turn to “get it”

She is truly one of the biggest sponges of information. She sees it all, hears it all but cannot always get her words and feelings out. But we know what to do to help her best.

She knows things are hard for her and at times cries about it. But the time from COVID has allowed her to learn a lot more and believe in herself more. So we have a lot fewer tears.

That she and I are truly best of friends. I love being able to write this because years ago I could not.

I truly and deeply enjoy her company and watching her grow and achieve….again, we are a work in progress.

Has COVID been tough? Of course, yes! But has the blessing of time turned our journey in a completely different direction, one which we would not have picked? Yes it did!

And I am happy to have walked this new part of the journey! I know I learned fact that as well.

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Please wear a mask!

Michele Gianetti author of Elizabeth Believes in Herself

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