Tag Archives: Autism

To Grace (Part 5): Gaining strength in little fears.

8 Oct

Here are the previous posts in this series. Take a look! To Grace. To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire. To Grace (Part 3): Accepting Love. To Grace (Part 4): Finding Your Voice.

Dear Grace,

Saying that I’ve been feeling scared recently is an understatement. Over the past month, my muscles have gotten tighter than usual, which is causing me to fall more. Even though I know the increase in muscle tightness is connected to the colder weather, it is still scary, and it often causes me to worry about years in the future where my walking could become limited due to tight muscles and severe back pain. I don’t know how much you worry about the future. Even though you are only 12, I know what you’ve been through so far in your life. I know your pain. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did find yourself worrying about the years ahead. However, since I know how much I worry, I do hope that you don’t find yourself worrying as much as me. It’s not emotionally healthy. I think it causes me more anguish than happiness. Though it is something that I’m trying to work on, it’s not as easy thing to fix since I’ve had trouble with anxiety ever since I was a little girl.

You and I are incredibly similar in the hobbies we’ve had over the years. We both became involved in community theatre, and we also had years in which we both rode horses. Even though you were more involved in horseback riding than I was since you’ve participated in events and won blue ribbons, I know that it’s an activity that we both benefited from. Participating in “hippotherapy” was an alternative to constantly having physical therapy in same room with the same therapist week after week. Before I participated in “hippotherapy,” I thought that horse therapy was primarily used with autistic kids. I didn’t know that they could be used with kids who had physical disabilities as well. According to the American Hippotherapy Association, “Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.”

In terms of the hippotherapy that I participated in, I focused primarily on balance, trunk strength and control, and building overall postural strength and endurance. The specific exercise that I remember really well was called “around the world,” in which I’d start by sitting normally on the horse and then swinging my legs over the horse multiple times until I’d done a complete 360 while sitting on the horse. Now that I think about it, even though this activity sounds fun to me now, I was incredibly scared when I actually had to do it. The thought of falling was terrifying to me, and without the encouragement of my horseback riding teacher, Miss Mary, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to complete my exercises. Despite the fear of falling, it was an understandable worry since I did end up falling off multiple times. Even though I know those falls and having Miss Mary tell me I needed to get up and go get my horse was hard at the time, I know that it all made me a much stronger person. Miss Mary was a very important figure in my life because she was one of the first people (not counting my parents and my physical therapists) who helped me develop a tougher skin. Therefore, despite being afraid of falling and afraid that my horse would start to canter with the other horses (which was much faster than I ever wanted to go), I know that it made me stronger.

I know that your hippotherapy experience was probably much different from mine. However, I don’t doubt that you gained some of the same strength that I did when you worried about falling but then knew that your teacher wouldn’t let you fall. Either way, those little fears: the fear of falling, the fear of the horse going faster than you want him to, the fear of what lies ahead in our future in terms of our abilities, they are what make us who we are, Grace. We wouldn’t be who we are if we hadn’t learned in the beginning to let those fears propel us forward instead of hold us down. I don’t know how much that applies to you these days, but I have a feeling that you work hard too. We have to. It’s the only way through the situation we’ve been faced with. Without the strength that I’ve gained from the little fears in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be a junior in college who’s lived away from home since she was 16 and spends her days blogging and writing her daily story. I wouldn’t be able to talk so openly about what I have experienced.

I know how easy it is to let the fears bring you down, Grace. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to push through and tell yourself that being more independent will be just what you need. But it’s the only choice we have. Keep on keeping on, and remember that I love you.

Amelia

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Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten: More Than Just A Book Review.

16 May

A few days ago I finished my fourth pleasure reading of the summer, Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten. This book was an amazing read, and I simply couldn’t put it down. Here is the synopsis according to Amazon,com:

Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

I connected most with the character of Danielle, Max’s mother. Even though there were certain times when I didn’t approve of some of her choices, ultimately she did what any good mother of a special needs child would do, she fought for him. For me, reading this book reminded me of all the people who have fought for me as I was growing up and throughout my life due to my Cerebral Palsy. Whether it was making sure that I was placed in the same classes as other kids my age in middle school or making sure I could get a single dorm room in college or be able to register for college classes early so I could make sure the classroom buildings weren’t too far apart in between back-to-back classes, I’ve always had people fighting for me. When I was growing up, and even now, that person has been my mom. It took me a long time to realize that her tough love was her way of fighting like hell for me to get the same opportunities as all the other kids my age. Nowadays, one of my previous physical therapists, Meredith, has acted as my biggest advocate in terms of getting a single room for college, etc. However, the strong realization over the past year is that I’m reaching an age where I have to be my own advocate, or at least figure out who the person is that I need to talk to in order to get a certain thing done, has been a little scary. Though I understand that it is because I’m getting older and I have to “take the reins” in a sense, I’ve always had others fighting for me. Though I know that they won’t go away simply because I start being my own advocate, when I was growing up, I was my own fighter in a different way. I fought to get up in the morning and not instantly start crying because of the pain that came so suddenly. I fought to try to keep a smile on my face because I knew that if I didn’t I would just break down. I fought to ignore all the stares, even when I would have liked to just scream at those kids that would walk by with their mouth gaping open, and who would turn around and look at me more even after their mothers had walked them past me already. I fought, every single day, and I still do. And I’ll fight to be my own advocate. It’s just been interesting to realize that I have to switch gears, while also realizing that I’m just fighting for what I have always deserved: the same opportunities that other kids my age have been given.

That being said, read this book. It’s amazing.