Thursday, October 15, 2009

Funny how support finds you!

As with many families who are first diagnosed with a special circumstance, we were given tons of pamphlets, websites and support groups on Fragile X Syndrome. And, just like most parents, we read it all, then sat, overwhelmed for days. Alex was just an infant. I think it's actually possible that we had been given too much information! And a support group? For what? We didn't even know yet! We had no idea....

Ironically enough, we ended up in a support group, the most amazing one ever! It doesn't have a name, isn't an official group, and these poor people didn't even see it coming! I think that's what made it the perfect group!

You see, when Alex was first diagnosed at about 16 months old, I had a next door neighbor who was also a stay at home mom. We did everything together, we talked on the phone all day, cooked together, kids outings, everything! She was with me the day the State of Missouri recognized Alex as developmentally delayed enough to provide him with therapeutic services. That notice came in an envelope from the Missouri Department of ... something, something and Mental Retardation. Talk about a kick in the head! I think she actually had to open the envelope for me that day.

Thus the beginning of my support group!! She tried to escape our support system, only to find herself more deeply embedded. She went back to school to become a special education teacher and now has a masters degree in autism education. Escape, no way! We don't talk that often anymore, but she and I both know, come IEP day in the spring, we'll chat. And there is a school district out there with one heck of a special ed teacher because she started teaching those kids after helping a family through a pretty unique experience. Few special ed teachers can see things through the family's eyes. Very lucky district!!!

But that's not all of my support group! When Alex was in kindergarten, a couple of lovely little girls seemed to take him under their wings. They protected him in class, they helped him whenever he needed it. They made sure he had someone to play with on the playground or sit with at the lunch table. His teachers loved it! His teachers started referring to him as a ladies man! Well ... at least he had some friends.

I always made it a point to find these parents and tell them how great their kids were to Alex. I know that is generally the exception, not the rule. I tell you, though, I never quite understood why the parents always seemed so surprised. Well, over the years I have learned.

It didn't take long for these young ladies to teach their parents all about Alex. They loved his sense of humor! What I started finding out is that these girls had an amazing grasp on his differences too! They knew how to both overlook and embrace his shortcomings and help him make the most of himself. Unbelievable! They were in early grade school at the time. If only some of his teachers could see things the way these kids did!

Even more unbelievable to me, is that these young ladies trained (sorry it's the only word that I can think of) their parents to see Alex through their eyes. He was no longer the little boy who had to have the classroom aid because he couldn't participate appropriately, or behave or produce grade level work. He was just Alex.

The parents of these little girls, are now some of my best friends! Who knew we could use our kids to make friends? If I need someone to watch him for awhile or if I have a problem with Alex, or a problem with my husband, or just want a drink, I call the mom's of those little girls who started taking care of Alex eight years ago...

And there are more, many more! Neighbors, friends from high school, other parents of special needs kids, these people found us. All because they know Alex, just Alex!

Am I lucky or what??????

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