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Dear Readers, I've held back from being totally open with you.  When I began this blog almost 4 years ago, I was homeschooling t...

Confession of a Special Needs Mom

December 13, 2012 Unknown 18 Comments

A homeschool mom confesses something to her readers: Her children have bipolar disorder.

Dear Readers,

I've held back from being totally open with you. 

When I began this blog almost 4 years ago, I was homeschooling two little girls. Two perfectly "normal" little girls. In my story of our homeschool journey, I mentioned that my son had suffered with A.D.H.D. and the problems in public school that led us to homeschooling nearly 14 years ago. Other than that one "special need," which I no longer was dealing with, I had no other "special needs" children.

At least I didn't think so.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed there are times I don't write. You may not hear from me for 2 weeks or 3 months, but there are periods of silence. It's time I told you why.

We are a special needs family.

I was unaware when I began this blog, but two years ago I learned that Alexis and Lorelai have bipolar disorder. Their father had it as well. In fact, four of my five children have this disorder.
  • Two of the kids have dyslexia/dyscalculia/dysgraphia along with the bipolar disorder and Asperger's. 
  • One child has only bipolar disorder
  • Another has bipolar with Asperger's.
  • The only child not diagnosed with bipolar has Asperger's with SPD. 
I have Asperger's. 

Perhaps you've noticed the speckled mentions of the kids being "off schedule". Perhaps you've noticed that I can be a bit obsessive about schedules and routines. The kids get off schedule because they have bipolar disorder, and I am obsessive about schedules and routines due to Asperger's. 

The reason I don't write isn't because I have nothing to say. I say nothing because there are two fundamental truths about blogging.

You cannot blog about a life you are not living.

We are living a life, but sometimes the focus of our lives is a bit shifted. When the children are experiencing sleep problems and mood swings, the schedule goes out the window and I become overwhelmed. 

How can I write about our homeschooling when no homeschooling is happening?

You must write the truth. 

I found writing during difficult times was challenging. If I write, I will write about what is going on in our lives. I didn't want to write about those things. I didn't want anyone to know.

That's not entirely true.

I didn't want to write, but I didn't want the stigma of bipolar disorder to cause me to lose readers. 


There. Truth said. I was afraid of what you would think. 

Why I Hid Our Special Needs

Why was I afraid?

Earlier this year, I saw a post on another blog in which a mom stated that parents should not tell people their kids have special needs. 
While I disagreed with her message, it did have an impact on me. 

It silenced me.

I don't think we should necessarily advertise our children's challenges. Not every person needs to know. Some challenges, however, cannot be hidden.

One cannot hide that a child is missing arms and legs, for instance. 

One cannot hide that a child is blind or in a wheel chair. 

How do we hide those things? 

Certain mental disorders don't tuck away very easily either. My youngest has that exact type. When her disorder decides to perform, it's quite a show! It demands center stage and will not be hidden behind the curtain. There's nothing I can do about that.

Yet society makes me feel like I should hide. So I hid.


It's Not a Label; It's a Diagnosis

I know there are people who are opposed to "labels." Personally, I don't see these disorders as labels, dooming children to a life of incapability and stigmas. I see them as diagnoses which help me to understand my children, so that I can give them the best life possible and help them to overcome their challenges.

Knowledge is power. Ignorance and denial keep us powerless.

The Truth Sets Us Free

All of this has been weighing heavily on me. I want to write. It's what I do. I want to be open about what goes on around here. 

So, please allow me to reintroduce myself.

Hello, my name is Michelle. I am a single, working mom homeschooling two special needs children. Life is challenging but writing and homeschooling are a couple of my passions. 

I hope you'll stick around for the ups and downs of homeschooling my children who happen to have dyslexia, Asperger's and bipolar disorder. It's never boring around here.

Disclaimer: I respect my children's privacy and level of comfort. Posts such as this one have been discussed with and approved by them.

 Happy Homeschooling!

18 comments:

  1. SilviaBlogs12/13/2012

    Michelle, you are a gem. I love listening to you whenever you decide it is good for you to write. I benefit from knowing others to the extent they wish to share, with their style, their thoughts, their convictions. I have not read that other post by the mom who said it was best to keep it to oneself. Maybe she is thinking about not hurting her children, I do not think it hurts in the personal, but I can understand other people reasons not to share... however I liked and benefited from reading what you wrote too.

    Hugs.

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  2. Thank you for sharing! My son has a neurological disorder and part of that will likely come learning disabilities. We don't know, yet, if he will have any because he is only three, but the fact that he has a 70% chance of developing one or more was a big factor in us deciding to homeschool our kids. I would find it refreshing to read the ups and downs of homeschooling families of special needs kids.

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  3. Anonymous12/13/2012

    Hugs!!!!! May your journey and your childrens be blessed with more ups then downs. If you ever need to talk about ways, foodwise, that might benefit your family pls let me know bcy friend Tiffany has/ continues a ton of reseach for her family!
    Ashley

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  4. Of course, we must respect our children. We don't want to advertise it and cause them some sort of embarrassment. In fact, one said to me, "It can be embarrassing because people don't understand. They think we're just being bad when we're just upset." I understand that. Many people don't "get it". So we don't tell each person we meet. There's no need or logic in it.

    But if you've ever seen a person (child or not) in the state of mania, you'll know it's kind of hard to hide!

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  5. Gina Guzman12/13/2012

    I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and had no idea. The strength and bravery you show with this post brought tears to my eyes! Literally. I have read similar comments about keeping silent and struggle with just how honest to be on my website or when I meet with new homeshoolers. It's been hardest for my child with bipolar because the social stigma of that is so much worse than for learning disabilities or Aspergers. Even our closest friends struggle with the stigma of bipolar. I rarely write about the depression that can over take our homeschooling and life for the same reason. The longer I homeschool and the more homeschoolers I meet the more I realize that a whole lot of us are homeschooling because our kids have disabilities, mental health issues or chronic illnesses. my family struggles with all 3. I thank you for your bravery and look forward to reading about how your family deals with it all; esp. with you being the only parent. Feel free to contact me at my personal email or message me via facebook if you ever need a virtual supportive shoulder. Many of us who chose a CM education did it as a way of meeting our kids' special and mental health needs. Some day I intend to start a support group for families like ours.

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  6. Audrey_Sheppard12/13/2012

    Maybe there is no right/wrong answer on whether or not to tell. Maybe it depends on what is best for each family. If you (and your children) feel better talking about the issues, then that is what I think you should do. I'm sorry things have been tough for you. I can't say that I understand, since I don't deal with bipolar disorder, but I feel for you when you are going through hard times.

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  7. I am always very interested in the reasons why homeschoolers do what they do. I do experience sometimes being labeled as a bit odd purely because of homeschooling and even in some instances being watched like a hawk to see if this "experiment" I'm doing with my kids is going to fail. LOL. I can therefore see why somebody would avoid any other labels that would make their children seem even more different from the rest. My children would probably have had issues had they been to school. No specific diagnosis, but I do know my one son tends to get overstimulated in a school setup. My other son is struggling with speaking because we live in an area where our first language is not widely spoken and so he hears English - our second language - more. We homeschool because our other choices are not so great given my childrens' unique setup. I don't see why sharing our struggles with special needs is wrong. So many people have the same challenges and joys and could be helped by our stories. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing.

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  8. Thank YOU, Nelba! I'm still feeling so incredibly uncomfortable with this post. But I know I needed to write it. Otherwise, why did I feel a need to write it for the last 9 months? I know it's right because I won't be able to write regularly if I'm always "hiding" our challenges. And I do want to write.

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  9. I agree..there's no right or wrong. We need to find balance, I think. I don't need to write every dramatic point of dealing with our challenges; but I shouldn't be afraid to say "This week was a "lite" week because the kids were off schedule (or we were having polar bear meltdowns)" for fear of someone judging us as 'freaks' or what have you. And yet I've felt that way. No doubt due to my own anxiety issues which make me overly concerned with being judged negatively. But seeing others say we "shouldn't" get diagnoses/labels or that we should be we should tuck them in our pocket and not allow the world to see them.

    Good gravy... if only some symptoms felt that way... I'd love for them to hide in a pocket. LOL! But they don't. At times they burst forth, screaming wildly, "HEY! I'M HERE WORLD! LOOK AT ME!" Then what? :-)

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  10. Your comment brought tears to my eyes, Gina. Thank you so much! I needed to hear that we're not alone in feeling alone.

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  11. Natalie12/31/2012

    "You cannot blog about a life you are not living." Jumping up and down shouting, YES! THIS!!! Because how do you continue blog, "Well, we spent two afternoons this week driving back and forth to therapy," or, "Well, she didn't sleep well last night so there won't be any school today," or "I lost it today." I sometimes wish our lives operated in a predictable manner. We're just bracing ourselves for the possibility of having a child live with us through adulthood. It's a different life we walk. It's so great you are honest! So many mamas will benefit from your honesty. Raising special needs kids can be extremely isolating. http://homeschoolfortwo.com/homeschool/

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  12. You're absolutely correct. If I'm going to write about what's going on, then I must be able to write about those things too. They are a part of our lives. Sometimes they're the biggest part and sometimes they're barely present but they are a part of how this family operates, educates, learns, functions day by day.

    Thanks for your encouragement, Natalie!

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  13. I am in my fifties, about to begin homeschooling a preschooler with mood disorder and severe adhd. This baby I fostered stayed. We have a 14 yr old I should homeschool, but I just can't figure out how to make that work with his needs and our schedules. My 29 year old grew up with Aspergers without us knowing it. I just thought she was a difficult child - oh wait, she still is :) The stress levels in our lives get astronomical too often. I read a lot of homeschooler blogs. You seem like a so much better fit for me. And I've been known to clean house to get enough money to get kids to all their appointments in any given week.

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    Replies
    1. Lynn,

      Thank you for sharing. Please contact me at TMichelleCannon@gmail.com. I'd like to help if I can.

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  14. Michelle, I just found your blog because I'm looking for ideas for homeschooling my 14 year old daughter who is a visual-spatial learner. All I can say is "bless your dear heart"! I'm so glad you shared this!

    I have Bi Polar disorder, as does my 27-year-old son. My daughter was originally diagnosed as having ADHD with an anxiety disorder. At the end of 7th grade, testing showed that she met the criteria for "educational autism" (although they have never been diagnosed, I'm pretty sure that both her father and my middle son have Asperger's) Inspite of an IEP and "special services", I saw her hating school more and more. I wanted to help her, and started doing some research myself. I knew her IQ test scores were all over the place and kind of upside down, so I googled "high non-verbal test scores" and came across an article about visual-spatial learners. It described her to a "t". I shared the information with her school, but I got no response. The last straw came when she told her case manager that she thinks in pictures and the response was, "I get that, but what does it have to do with school?" So, we are starting homeschooling at ninth grade!

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    1. Connie, Thank you for taking the time share your life with me. This is no easy row we are expected to hoe, is it? If you need anything, let me know. I just followed you on G+.

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  15. Wow! Thank you for writing all this Michelle. I almost cried! I wrote a book about raising children in a "different" way (non-mainstream) - at the time our children were all "normal" !!!!! Well, our oldest was very quirky, our next was odd, and our daughter had some major struggles ... I kept adding to the book as I learned more (early childhood/natural family life/God-centred living are some of my passions, I love research), then finally I realised I didn't know anything AT ALL, and the book was shelved!! Fast forward 4 years: All six of our children have Aspergers Syndrome (all diagnosed except one at present): our oldest is 21, and we are in the process of finding out whether he is BiPolar or has some other mood disorder (well, of course he does, but the diagnosis will be helpful to get the right support and perhaps medication (horrors!) to enable him to reduce his anxiety and function better in the world). Our youngest is 4 and is the only one diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, but some of the others have that too. We have our 7th baby on the way, and we pray that God has chosen the perfect baby for this family, to raise for His glory, no matter what that baby might be or have. We have homeschooled/unschooled the whole way through and despite constant challenges that people really don't understand ("all children are like that") we love the path we are on, and are blessed to be such a close family. Both my husband and I are also on the spectrum, of course we keep that pretty quiet because people REALLY don't get it. Thank you once again sister. God Bless you, as you travel on this journey - you're not alone.

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    1. Mummalady,

      Thank you for sharing a piece of your journey with me. It's not the easiest journey to travel, but the views can be breathtaking at times! It's very difficult to go through life pretending and I've chosen to stop. People will understand or they won't. If they don't care enough to try, then I'll keep traveling my journey and they can travel theirs. :D

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