“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”

My trusty binders.

Today I’m going to take the kids to register Chris at his new school. I have the binders with all the administrative paperwork that goes with going through the Special Education system.

Both of my kids have a filing cabinet worth of paperwork. They’ve been through many programs, have seen many educators, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, and many other workers who’s titles I forget. I keep everything. I’ve been asked many times for so many copies of forms (due to it getting lost in the system or claims that forms haven’t been filled or sent, when they have), that I have to keep it all. So every time I meet new people that will work with my kids, I have the binders at the ready.

(This binder thing worked like a charm when my daughter and I spoke at the Legislature in 2003 to prevent the closure of the Parenting Centre at her school. When I pointed out that my daughter needed the Centre to help her learn to speak, I remembered and pulled out her first ever drawing of herself that she created using her skills from the Centre.  I filed it back & was asked for a copy of it in our plea.)

These binders have been good tools (or weapons) in my dealing with the school board, the government and most of all, with my personal anxieties with strangers and new situations. I was born introverted. It’s in my nature to stay quiet and just observe. I have my extroverted side that comes from being raised in a family of extroverts. Most Hispanic families are about community and oral histories that it’s hard to be the quiet bookish one in the group. I get panicky with having to deal with banks, plumbers, a knock on the door, the phone, etc.. I get overwhelmed easily and I have two methods: either I sit back and listen in the corner or I come charging in with whatever makes me tick.

At parties I’m usually one on one with people (I can slow the world down this way), or I’m so happy to actually be connecting with individuals that I’ll be the one dancing in the middle of the room to no music. I think this is why I love radio so much. I can connect without having to connect, if that makes any sense. However, place me in situations with officials or dealing with strangers that have no idea where I’m coming from and I freeze. It was after the kids were diagnosed that I had to break that habit. I’m rebellious when I need to be; something about my love for human rights makes me speak out just the way I need to when it comes to my children. In turn, this has translated well for me personally, but that’s another post altogether.

Now we’re in the midst of moving and once again I have to deal with new situations. I welcome this type of change, but I do face anxieties in having to deal with a new school and new people there. I’m not just a parent or an advocate, I become a volunteer within the school. If there is bullying happening with my son (where I’ve had to intercept on his behalf more than a few times), I make sure my son’s issues are heard. It’s hard for him to vocalize and to make himself understood sometimes. He’s prone to keep quiet and let it happen. After I try to teach him some coping skills with it, I deal with his teachers and his principals. All this requires the forced extroverted side which is always on the money, always on the go, ready with a form, ready with the right words and that side is just plain exhausting.

I’d rather stay inside at home or outside at the park with a book or sketchbook in my hand, and a laptop on my lap until I get the urge to connect with the real world.  I’ve been told a few times by different therapists that I have autistic qualities, but that I’ve been forced into navigating and adapting quickly because of the culture I was raised in. I shrug it off because it was a struggle to figure out how my children see the world. We all have autistic qualities. I could never and would never claim that I know what they’re thinking or know they’re true perspectives of the world. I only know how I see things and how I perceive the world after they’ve shown me the differences out there.  My red is their purple and my circles may be their rectangles. Since it’s like that between us I can hardly fathom the way it is even between neuro-typical folks.

Alas, I do have these anxieties that are prone to weird panic attacks (which used to manifest in psychogenic non-epileptic seizures). I deal with it as many deal with their own anxieties and have to fight my battles with the bad habits it all forms ( and choose which of those battles is worth the fight: the nail biting, for one, has stayed). I’ve been observing how my son has been adapting and finding those same social survival algorithms and how my daughter has been teaching herself social cues that come so naturally to  most of us. My son has wanted this move of schools for a while now and I’m hoping us moving will be a positive experience for him because of it.

Armed with the binders and two children, my little army, we’re off to meet new administrative strangers that will hopefully become part of our team.  Honestly, I’d rather be home packing. However, this is required. Time to get exhausted. It’s worth all the effort, I tells ya.

Sometimes you ask the world for a change. Then Autumn comes and regardless if you’ve planned on it or not, change is gradually put upon you through color and temperature. The body and the mind forcibly adapt without your effort.

“Paul Atreides: I will bend like a reed in the wind.” – Dune




P.S. A great comic by Grant Snider posted today by my friend Mr. Sharkey.

Incidental Comics by Grant Snider

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