February 8, 2016

Anything You Want to Be

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
As I've written before, I'm a big proponent of overbelieving. I've never been hesitant to encourage Schuyler to reach far beyond her expectations. Time and time again, she has responded by exceeding those expectations. Like Santa Claus, the encouragement that "you can do whatever you want in life, be anything you want to be, as long as you're willing to work for it" is a gentle lie told to very young children. It's one that we as parents understand will be shaped and molded as our kids get older. When you're five, it's entirely feasible that you could be a cowgirl or an astronaut one day. When you're a teenager, that conversation become a lot more real world.

February 2, 2016

Viva Schuyler

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
This weekend was a big risk. One week after her sixteenth birthday party and the bumps in the road she suffered there, we took Schuyler to Las Vegas to attend a surprise fiftieth birthday party for one of my best friends (and Schuyler's godfather). Last weekend, she was undone by a gathering of her school friends that she basically sees every day, over pizza and games. We followed that up with a trip to Las Vegas, a place that is the very physical manifestation of the concept of overstimulation. It's safe to say that we were concerned.

January 25, 2016

The Price of Happiness

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
I learn from Schuyler and her gigantic good heart. She teaches me every day, and mostly the thing she tries to impart to me me is simply to lighten up a little. It's a hard lesson for me; at times, I feel like my fatherly life's narrative has been written in worry. But it's the one lesson she never gets tired of giving to me.

January 18, 2016

The Three Anxieties and the Lucky Brain

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Aside from the obvious, Schuyler has always had something of a lucky brain. It's pretty seriously affected by her polymicrogyria, but you'd never know it from seeing her. Schuyler's brain is working in ways that are a mystery to everyone, even her doctors. Areas that should be deeply impaired are functioning at high levels. Just being ambulatory is something of a miracle for Schuyler, and she is so much more than just ambulatory. Her enigmatic brain isn't simply doing more than it should. It's doing most of what it should. I hate Schuyler's monster, but God, do I love her brain.

January 4, 2016

Just possible

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
We were in line at the grocery store (the place where all these kinds of stories seem to take place). When we reached the front, we saw our cashier, a nice, smiling young woman who had a lightweight, active-type model wheelchair parked behind her register. She and Julie chatted as we checked out, and she watched Schuyler very closely as we interacted. (I believe I was being my usual mature self.) We're accustomed to Schuyler being watched; there's a kind of "Uh oh, what's going on here?" moment with people when they realize that things are not quite what they appear with my daughter. But this time, there was no trepidation in her look, only friendly curiosity.

December 28, 2015

A new year, a new opportunity

This week at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
In 2016, we're not just going to be choosing a president. We're going to be establishing a new social narrative, or at the very least engaging in a more vigorous discussion than we've had in a very long time. If we can focus on our commonalities, if we can present a voice that isn't necessarily unified (because I know better than to think that is likely to happen), but at least harmonized, this year could present a real opportunity to create a national conversation about disability rights and our broken social model, a dialogue that effectively addresses the needs of disabled persons. This could be the year that society responds to the needs of this community reasonably and empathetically, rather than with "oh, god, not these people again".

December 23, 2015

Recognition

As an author or a public advocate and speaker, it happens every so often. You'll be in a public place, and someone will approach you, ask if you're Your Name (note: if they actually say "Your Name", give them some personal space), and proceed to tell you how your work has inspired them or reached them in some way. There are a lot of good things that come from writing and speaking on disability, but this is easily one of the very best. You reached someone, and you made a difference. That's a hard feeling to beat.

It happened again this morning. But not to me.

It happened to Schuyler.

We were at the movie theater, on our way out, when a young woman approached her.

"Hi, you're Schuyler, right?"

Schuyler smiled shyly and nodded. The young woman proceeded to tell her how she'd heard Schuyler speak at the Region 10 Service Center over the summer, and was really affected by her presentation. She explained that she's a teacher and works with elementary school kids and assistive technology like Schuyler's. She said Schuyler was an inspiration to her and what she hoped to see from her own students.

(At one point, she quickly turned to me and said, 'Oh, I enjoyed your talk, too." It was really nice of her, but totally unnecessary; I am more than happy for Schuyler to own her moments entirely.)

Schuyler smiled hugely and thanked her, and then just like that, the encounter was over.

Except it wasn't over. It'll never be over, not for Schuyler, and not for me. I've been a tenacious and loudmouthed but wildly imperfect advocate for her. Now it's her turn, and moments like this are going to help define the kind of person and advocate she wants to be.

To hear from a stranger that her words and her example are making a positive difference in the lives of others like herself, "with little monsters of their own", as she puts it? You can attach value to a lot of things in this world, but a moment like that is truly without measure.

As for my own feelings of pride for Schuyler, my own words are entirely inadequate. So I'll just leave it to you to imagine. (Think big.)