Sunday, August 22, 2010

A challenge against technology

Tonight my family and I went into Lowe's hardware and before I was even able to get out of the car, a man, standing at what I assume was his own car, challenged me to leave my phone in my car and pay attention to my kids. He stated he had seen me checking it as I was getting out and, obviously, he has strong feelings about the subject.

I have to say my first feeling was of defensiveness, which I think is the way most people in my place would have reacted. However, I am not one to shy away from taking a hard, critical look at myself. I told him that I have been known to leave it and thanked him for the info. My husband came to my defense and said that I am not one to be married to my phone.

A year ago, this stranger would have been right on, possibly. I may be seeing myself a little harshly but I do believe I was preoccupied more by email, Facebook and my writing position at then. Now, or at the very least, the last couple of months, I have had a definite drop in my usage of technology. Possibly not on purpose so much as a burning out. I know several people who state that they are tied to a computer all day for work and the last thing they want to do when they get home is to look at a computer screen- whether it be a desktop, laptop or iPhone. 

The last year for me has been tied to a computer screen of some sort. I've worked at writing as their Fort Worth Christian Living Examiner; I've held a major volunteer position at my son's school which had hours that, at times, were very competitive to a full-time job and I've helped plan my 20th high school reunion in a six month time span. All of these led me to put my attention away from my kids and family more than I should have. I'm not sure I would have changed much of it if I could go back and do it again simply because I believe that God led me to each of those positions. I believe it was all part of a time and season for my life; one in which I was meant to gather needed skills and experience but also in which I either ministered to others and/or impacted their lives.

This time and season of my life is shifting to another- one in which my focus goes back to my family. I believe it was coming on naturally for me even before we made the final decision to move to Colorado. My husband and I have had many discussions on how God might put something in our hearts or in our paths that might help direct us to where He wants us to go. A break from technology is one of them for me. It has been a full two days since I last turned on the computer and that was only to put together a slide-show for my son's school event I had planned. As for my phone, I will log onto Facebook about 2-3 times a day to see what is going on. Because I'm accessing FB from my phone means I spend much less time on the site. My phone pings to alert me when an email comes in which relieves the desire to continually check for new messages. All this actually allows me to stay off the computer and even mostly off the phone except when I'm actually using it as a phone and thankfully, that isn't often.

So, I suppose that in response to this stranger's challenge to me, I can say that I am on the right track. I may not be completely un-reliant on technology but I'm not as much as I was in the past. In fact, I've had to be careful in the past several months. I've left my phone on three separate occasions and not realized it until I went to call someone. I can live with that for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Walking in faith regarding my son

When our children are born, we have such high hopes for them. They will live a better life than we have, have more advantages than we did and we will watch them flourish as they grow and mature. Sometimes that isn't the case and sometimes it is a little bit of both.

Both my kids have special needs. Aer's are all health related and Add's are all more centered around coping with emotional and behavioral issues that end up affecting the educational, social and esteem parts of his self.

Both of my kids were born with severe speech impediments. Aer was able to overcome hers much easier than Add, as has been the case with most things. She is so easy going and has an ability to adapt to almost any situation. She also has a great outlook on life that helps. For this I am so grateful because with her health issues, she could have taken a much different look on life. She could allow her heart defects to control her outlook rather than taking them in stride as just something she has to deal with.

Add was not so fortunate to naturally have that type of outlook on life. For him, life is difficult. For one, the speech impediment led him to be angry at me, his mother. I spent the most time with him and therefore should have known what he needed to communicate to me. When I didn't, it led my little 2-3 year old to destroy his room. When I say destroy, I mean he took his twin sized bed and had the mattress turned upside down on the other side of the room. This is just one example of his frustrations taken out in anger. Having him enrolled in speech therapy as soon as we could get him in turned things around. His anger gradually subsided and he became more the happy child I knew he could be.

Later in life, we discovered his difficulties in school. It started innocently in kindergarten. His teacher told us she thought he was ADD/ADHD. We had him tested and the tests came back negative. Honestly, I thought he was just still suffering from the death of his grandfather-figure, my mother's significant other. Both my kids had believed he was my dad (who died when I was 12) and he was a major role model in their lives. I believed that the issues showing themselves in the classroom would eventually subside and he would go back to being the happy-ish child from before. First grade brought his teacher back with the same conclusion but there were also some questions about whether or not he might have a hearing issue or possibly dyslexia. The ADD/ADHD tests came back the same as before and the hearing tests we were told were nothing more than frequent ear infections which, as he got older, would go away. They did come back and tell us that he had a form of Dyslexia called Irlen Syndrome. (In the link, my son says shaky is the way he sees print.) We have since come to find out that this is not the name recognized by doctors but it does have a website that gave me some insight into what he was seeing. Luckily, a green overlay proved to be a simply and effective remedy. It would seem that people who suffer from this type of Dyslexia can cope best with some color of transparent overlay over the text they are reading. Different people respond best to different colors. For my son, it was a double green. So, with this new knowledge, we enrolled him in a summer reading program and disregarded his teacher's suggestion that he be held back a year. We did this with the approval of the principal and ARD administrator since all of his other academic areas were fairly strong. They also assured me that we could move him back down if 2nd grade proved to be too much for him... which it did.

We didn't move him back down. We tried to identify the area that was causing his issues. His teacher once again attributed it to ADD/ADHD but she also added in laziness. He began to suffer in more ways: socially, emotionally, really low self-esteem. After talking with the teachers, having some concessions given to him, he still wasn't doing better. I fully believe his teacher was doing all she could considering she had a classroom full of other students to deal with. I was not ready to give up. I didn't feel it was time and we were holding his whole life in our hands. Whatever we did now, taking into consideration that this might be something he can't help, would affect the way he handled his future jobs, relationships, money, etc. To let him slip by now could potentially devastate his quality of life as an adult. Eventually, after reading many books and talking with many people, we were finally directed to the right person who referred us to the right place to get things started. It turned out that he did have some degree of ADD/ADHD and that he was depressed and suicidal. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I have a background in psychology; I should have seen it coming but I didn't. Regardless, this diagnosis was a God-send. Because of this, he was un-enrolled from his school and immediately enrolled at the Excel Center in Fort Worth where he would be monitored daily for several months. They would watch his interactions with others, watch his coping mechanisms, and help him to discover more acceptable ways to deal with life's challenges. I am very grateful that he never exhibited any more signs of suicide. He went through the program at the Excel Center, we worked on finding a new school for him that would take his needs into consideration and we put our family back together again.

What looks like a devastating and totally unwanted situation in life actually turned out to be a blessing. With that diagnosis, we were able to get my son out of a potentially life-threatening stage and into one in which he could be nurtured and renewed. The Hill School of Fort Worth was the solution. It is a private school for children who are intelligent but have learning differences that don't allow them to succeed in the normal classroom setting. Here, my son learned that he is smart, he could succeed and he excelled socially. At Hill School, every child has a learning difference. They are not tagged by those differences, however. Since every child at the school has come through a similar situation, they are more accepting of others and their differences- especially after the first several weeks of acclimation. They are accepted as they are, the teachers are better versed in how to teach to children who learn differently and need more specialized accommodations in the classroom.

My family is now facing a move to another state, one in which there is no Hill School. The closest comparisons are hours away from where we will be living in Colorado. Because of this, my son will be enrolled in the local public school. Mostly, I know that this move is God directed and, because of that, my son will be taken care of. My challenge now is to have faith that my son has learned ways of coping with his weaknesses by using his strengths, that he is a completely different child than he once was and that God will supply a way to meet his individual needs.

My life, and that of my family, has been a walk of faith. This time, we are walking down a different path than we expected to be at this point in time. We grew comfortable here in Fort Worth with our lives; with the schools for my kids and the doctors for my daughter. And so, I take with me the comfort that while God never promised to make us comfortable, He did promise to see us through the good and the bad. So, whatever may come our way, I know we are walking with God, which is the best place to be.