Roam Wild: My Journey as a Mother of an Exceptional Child
Updated: May 12, 2020
Sometimes, life's greatest challenges bring about life's greatest triumphs.
An Intense Baby
Three and a half years ago my world was changed forever. Every parent can relate to this feeling. It is a world-changing shift, it is something that changes you permanently and, at the same time, connects you to every other parent on the planet.
"In an instant, my heart was now outside of me, residing in a being that was beyond myself."
After I healed physically from my son’s semi-traumatic birth, and after we settled into our new normal (as defined by sleepless nights, diaper changes and tummy time), I began to wait in anticipation for the quintessential postpartum fog to lift itself off of our family so that we could continue our lives together. I got to know my baby. He was bright-eyed and persistent. He was alert and incredibly intense. I found myself wondering if all babies acted the way he did.
As the months went on, I saw myself begin to employ strategies to cope with my baby that my friends didn’t share. Rules and regulations dominated our lives. Feed him as soon as he wakes or he will scream at the top of his lungs. Rock him for an hour and a half before allowing him to fall asleep on you. Stick to the schedule or mayhem will ensue!
"Needless to say, flexibility was no longer a part of our vocabulary."
As the months went on, my beautiful baby boy became even more extreme in his behaviour. He didn’t really sleep. I was told that most babies don’t. I reminded myself of this fact when my son, at the age of eighteen months, began to drop his last nap. My husband and I tried everything. Sound machines, rocking, sleep training…there wasn’t a book or article I hadn’t read. Try harder to put him down. We tried harder. Really hard. It didn’t work.
Tornado of a Toddler
By two years old, my baby boy had grown into a walking, talking, energetic tornado of a toddler. He met and exceeded milestones. His intensity remained but his feelings now included anger and frustration. Well-meaning outsiders offered their advice: He’s just a boy! They’re all like this! Give it time. I couldn’t help myself but compare notes to other parents. Was every child this difficult? Was I overreacting? Was it me? As my son struggled to communicate his needs and regulate his emotions, he started to become violent. He was strong and he left physical bruises. Parents at playgroups began to get nervous when we arrived. My son struggled to make friends and we started to avoid socializing. By then, I had given birth to another beautiful baby, a girl, and our family was, to say the very least, in crisis mode. Our only saving grace was just how easy my daughter was. All of our focus, attention and mental reserves were tuned into our son.
"When my son reached age two-and-a-half, our family broke."
I needed help. We all did. After seeing my daughter grow and develop and reach and exceed her own milestones, I saw the forest for the trees for the first time. What I was experiencing with my son was not average. He wasn’t average. For the first time, I reached out. I organized an appointment with an educational psychologist who specialized in young children. Having a background in psychology myself, I knew he was young to be seeing a specialist but desperate times called for desperate measures. At the very least, I was hoping that she could help us come up with some strategies to survive.
We made an appointment to meet with the psychologist outside in our backyard. The great outdoors was my son’s safe place and continues to be. It literally grounds him, pulls his mind back to earth. Within the first thirty minutes of meeting with our family, the psychologist said that she was confident that she knew exactly what was going on. My son was given a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The psychologist stayed with us for another three whole hours. I cried. We had our answer.
Learning and Re-Learning
The last year has been one big lesson in self-directed learning and re-learning. In an effort to help my son (and, as it turns out, my daughter who-surprise-is also exceptional), I have focused my attention to studying different mechanisms of learning, coping and being. Our household has changed a lot. We use terms like self-regulation, de-escalation and are members of a local Forest School. We are exploring the ways in which different learning theories can help our kids and, of course, we are constantly outdoors.
Today, my son is a highly intelligent, articulate, emotionally attune and passionate three-and-a-half year old. In September, he will be entering kindergarten at a school that is known for its inclusivity. He still attends Forest School and that is his happy place. I am so proud of him.
Free to Roam Wild
At Anastasia Machan, my mission is to help children and their families. As a parent with two children who are exceptional, and one of whom has ADHD, I know how hard it can be to reach out, to survive let alone thrive. Children with exceptionalities often need more: more direction, more mental stimulation, more physical output. By creating this site, I hope to reach out to other parents of exceptional children who may be looking for some guidance, some information…or just a respite from the chaos. Here, I offer articles, tailored one-on-one-tutoring, social skill-building playgroups and educational workshops to help highly active children, their families and caregivers.
"My goal is to offer a space for children to ignite their passion and explore their innate curiosity. It is a safe space where children are seen as exceptional rather than as having being diagnosed with an exceptionality."
It is my hope that this site may provide you with the tools in order to help cultivate your own child's love of learning. With the right tools, we can preserve every child's right to Roam Wild.
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