NETHERLANDS: A Mother’s Process.

NETHERLANDS: A Mother’s Process.

I worry about you.

I worry about not being the best mother for you.
About not giving you what you need.
I don’t have a manual.
All I have are my instincts, my feelings and my love for you.

No one tells me that I am doing a good job.
But there are plenty of hints and questionable looks suggesting that I am not.

So I worry.

My mind floods with fear that you might need more.
Something, someone to help you flourish.
And I worry that my love for you is not enough.

I carry this load and observe you daily, in silence.
I sigh of relief when I see you smiling and enjoying yourself.

My heart cringes when I see you struggling.
I’m afraid to share my thoughts, my worries.
To speak out about my growing sense of trouble.
About the signs that I see.

Am I seeing signs?
Or am I overthinking?

I struggle with acceptance.
Not because I can’t accept you for who you are.

Others can’t.
Their silent question marks,
weigh on me like judgement.
And I have a hard time shaking that off.

I battle with misconceptions and harsh opinions of strangers.
But when I look at you,
I can tell every little aspect of you that makes you so precious.
I see your infinite worth.

You are like that one flower in the flower bed.
The flower that keeps drawing my eye
Uniquely shaped yet oddly colored.

The flower that I admire the most.

 

This piece is a combination of my own struggles and the struggles of the mothers that I face around me.

Mothers who have a child that is struggling or going through a rough time;
Mothers who have a child  that is developing differently;
Mothers who have a child that has special needs.

I would like to ask you to withhold your judgment or quick advice.
Just see her, and respect her process.
After all she is just like you.
She loves and wants the best for her child.

 

Do you ever worry about your child’s development?

How do you cope? What are strategies that help you?

This is an original post written by Mirjam for World Moms Network

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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CANADA: Ten Insights From An Autism Conference

CANADA: Ten Insights From An Autism Conference

gca-symposiumLast week, I had the honour of representing World Moms Network at the Geneva Centre for Autism 2016 Symposium, held in Toronto. Over the course of three days, I reconnected with friends in the autism community and made some new ones, I saw an act by an autistic stand-up comic who was absolutely hilarious, and I learned a lot of things that gave me insights into my own autistic son.

In due course, I will be sharing some of this information with the World Moms community. For now, I offer you ten insights from the presenters:

1. Mental health in people with autism is largely overlooked: autistic youth are almost four times more likely to experience emotional problems than their neurotypical peers, and many of these problems are undiagnosed and under-treated.

2. Our ability to make social connections depends in part on genetics and hormones. About two hundred chromosomes are related to our ability to make social connections.

3. Language is not about words. It is about seeking social connections. People with autism need to acquire language, but more importantly, they need to develop the social motivation to use it.

4. Kids with differences like autism tend to process social stimuli in non-social areas of the brain. As a result, interactions with autistic people can seem somewhat clinical.

5. People with autism should be allowed to make eye contact on their own terms. Being forced to make eye contact can create anxiety and distract them from their efforts to communicate.

6. Just because someone is unable to speak, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. When interacting with someone on the spectrum, we need to look for other ways they might be communicating.

7. Don’t just tolerate the differences of autistic brains, embrace them. People with autism have very distinct neurological wiring that make them think in ways that neurotypical people cannot relate to.

8. People with autism tend to process small changes similar to how typical people process major changes, like the loss of a job or a loved one. This can make a neurotypical person’s average day like a minefield of trauma for someone with autism.

9. People with autism learn best visually. Their brains are not wired for the kind of auditory learning that is found in most regular classrooms.

10. The hidden curriculum consists of unwritten rules that are not directly taught but everyone knows. Violation of these rules can make you a social outcast. People with autism do not pick up hidden curriculum items from their environment like everybody else. They have to be taught.

Are you the parent of a child with special needs? What little snippets have you learned on your parenting journey?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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GHANA: Inclusive education

GHANA: Inclusive education

Ghana Inclusive Education

I am often asked why I decided to enrol my mainstream children in an inclusive school. I did a great deal of research when looking for the best school for my family, and I was encouraged by the testimonials of parents who had chosen this path for their mainstream children. I decided that an inclusive education was the best choice for my children.

Inclusion in education is an approach that seeks to embrace students of all abilities, including those with special educational needs. In inclusive schools, students with special needs learn side-by-side with their non-disabled peers. This educational approach avoids the use of separate schools or classrooms to separate students with disabilities from those without.

The inclusive school I chose for my children is the first of its kind in Ghana. Multikids Inclusive Academy is an inclusive international school educating children of all educational needs and abilities in a co-existing learning environment. In this school, children with special needs are not separated from the children without – they are integrated in the same class.

The school provides the best of both worlds to children with special of all abilities. They maintain small class sizes, making it possible for every child to get the assistance and attention they need. The school envisions a society where all people can live side by side respectfully and appreciate that we each have a unique contribution to make to the world. The academy seeks to build confidence and competency in all learners, and to promote excellence through an enabling environment. In this school, every child truly matters.

I am so happy that a school like this one exists in Accra, Ghana. My children will benefit from learning side-by-side with students of all abilities, and will learn that all children can reach their potential with the right support and encouragement.

Do you have inclusive schools where you live? Would you consider an inclusive education for your child?

This is an original post written by Adowa Gyimah of Ghana for World Moms Blog.

Photo courtesy of Multikids Inclusive Academy, Ghana.

WORLD VOICE: Happy #MothersDay to the Supermoms

WORLD VOICE: Happy #MothersDay to the Supermoms

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 4.45.55 PMThis Sunday, many moms in the United States will be celebrated with crepe paper flowers, homemade artwork, and breakfasts made with love and varying levels of quality control as tradition dictates. No matter how many kids you have or what country you live in, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day from the U.S.!
But I really want to give a shout out to the Supermoms who walk among us. Hats off to the….
Single Working Moms
…who are just as tired as everyone else, but never get to look forward to that break and relief of hearing another set of keys in the door. All responsibilities start and stop with you when a child is sick while you need to work at a job that may or may not be paying you what you are worth.
Moms of Kids With Special Needs…
…who do everything all moms do, but over and over and over. Sometimes while everyone stares because they judge your child is too old for such behavior when they should be in awe of your patience.
Moms Living in Poverty…
…whose lives are full of Either’s and Or’s. You made the tough choices this winter between heat for the house or food for the bellies. Or even when things were going a little better, making the slightly higher class choice…toothpaste or dishsoap?
Moms Who Have Lost a Child…
…who live with the shadows of possibilities that never will be. You have an empty seat at the table and love still in your heart.Whatever your plans are this weekend, you should receive much more thanks from the world than you’re going to get this Sunday. I hope that if our paths cross on Mother’s Day, that I might notice you and give you some more of the respect and love that you deserve. But most of all,

I wish I could tell you that you can be the most powerful among us. You have the stories – if you are ready to share them – that can change minds and change lives to make the world better for your kids or the kids that will come after them.

This might seem like a strange Mother’s Day message, but Mother’s Day in the U.S. throughout the 19th Century was not about pancakes and flowers, but more about peace movements from mothers who lost sons, temperance movements, and local efforts of women to help other mothers learn to properly care for children. It used to be about empowerment instead of recognition. Could it be a bit of both?

To the Supermoms: Life is asking more from you than of many, but don’t let it defeat you. Be strong and speak out whenever you can. I wish I could tell you that you are powerful and have you believe it. Because it’s absolutely true.

This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.

Do you know a supermom? Maybe it’s you? 

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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KENYA: Dignity for children with special needs

KENYA: Dignity for children with special needs

My mom was visiting with us in Kenya recently, and I decided to take her to Heshima’s Dignity Designs, a specialty jewelry shop I had heard great things about. I thought it would be a fun mother-daughter day out, and we could buy some lovely African beaded jewelry. What I didn’t realize was that we were about to learn about an inspirational program supporting special needs children in Kenya.

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When we arrived at the shop, we met Heshima founder Tracey Hagman. She asked if we would like a tour of their children’s center before we started shopping, and we said, “Sure!” What we saw there touched and inspired us both.

Many special needs children in Kenya live a life with little dignity, and even less support. Heshima, meaning “dignity” in Swahili, provides assistance and services for Kenyan children with special needs, as well as their mothers.

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Kenya sorely lacks institutions providing services for children with disabilities. Many special needs children in Kenya are kept at home, out of school, sometimes hidden from the community due to stigma. Those that do attend public school often languish, neglected, without any targeted assistance. Very few special needs children ever have the opportunity to receive the special education or therapy they need.

Heshima seeks to meet the needs of such children – children with cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, physical and learning disabilities, epilepsy, and other conditions.

Heshima provides meals, basic education, and specialized therapy (physical, occupational and speech) to the special needs children in their center. Heshima also supports the mothers of each enrolled child, providing them with training, employment, and much-needed income. Heshima moms are employed as water distributors, jewelry makers, or as assistants within the Heshima program.

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We got a chance to meet many of Heshima’s children, moms and staff during our visit that day. The center is beautiful – bright, cheery, and full of brightly colored toys, bean bags, and books. The children were so HAPPY. As we passed through the center, some children were contentedly napping. Other children were starting their therapy sessions, using both locally made and imported devices to help the children develop their gross and fine-motor skills. Still other children were sitting in class, working on their handwriting or listening to stories. It was a warm, welcoming space full of smiles and cheer. I felt good just being there.

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After we toured the center, we made our back to our original destination – the Dignity Designs jewelry shop, and picked up several gorgeous pieces. The proceeds from jewelry sales all go towards salaries for the Heshima moms, giving them the income they need to support their family. The jewelry is truly beautiful and unique!

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I was so inspired to see the work that Heshima is doing with these wonderful kids. These children deserve love and support. They deserve to be seen for who they are as individuals – not as labels, stereotypes, or stigma. Their moms deserve to make a living wage, and to connect with and get support from other moms going through the same challenges. Thanks to Heshima, they’re getting all this, and more.

If you would like to support the work done at Heshima, you can visit their website to make a donation. The center operates almost exclusively on individual donations, and relies heavily on the support of people like us!

Are quality services for special needs children available where you live? What is being done locally to support people with disabilities in your country?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu. Follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo credits: Heshima, used by permission.

Tara Wambugu

Tara Wambugu is a wife, a mother of two, and a Kenya-based lifestyle blogger covering parenting, family life, travel, and more. A former aid worker, Tara has worked in various countries in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Central America. She is now a stay-at-home mom living in Nairobi with her husband and their two sassy little girls. You can follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni.

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