Natural Consequences

For those of you who are passionate about kids with disabilities I would like to suggest you learn about Natalie Weaver and her daughter Sophia. Natalie has become a tireless warrior for her daughter and other kiddos with severe disabilities. She has spoken up loudly about the importance of Medicaid for kiddos with disabilities. I get her. She is a momma bear. 

Other groups have tried to use her voice, her girl, for their agenda and she has fought back. She pushed Twitter after she was relentlessly pursued by trolls saying/posting hateful, hateful things about her precious girl. And she won. Disabilities is now also listed as hate speech by Twitter because of her. 

Today I saw her Facebook post about another internet troll. This person said she should “put her out of her misery” and “I hope you got sterilized so you can’t produce anymore defective offspring”. Hurtful, hateful stuff.

Sometimes people really, really think they’re being helpful but their comments are only slightly less hateful because they want to change your child so they’ll be “better”. Apparently it never occurs to them that you might think they are perfect exactly as they are.  I blogged about Prayer as a Weapon here. 

Natalie asked others to share her post to bring awareness about this sort of dangerous rhetoric so parents of those with disabilities can love on their kids like any other parent without the threat of someone making such horrible statements. I couldn’t agree more.

Many left supportive messages and are calling out the troll and contacting her, workplace etc. to let them know of her hate speech. What I found painful was how many essentially told her to forget about the haters or ignore them they’re not worth your time. This is especially dangerous to me. 

Should I ignore or worst yet tell my black kids to ignore racial discrimination or hate speech? Should I just ignore someone who calls my intellectually disabled kids the “R” word? Should I ignore or worst yet tell my daughters and granddaughters to ignore men who aim sexually disgusting comments at them or who touch them without their permission?

How has ignoring those things worked for us so far? Not very well I’d say. Sixty-one years ago – when I was 2 years old Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said “Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. You can not fight darkness or hate by helping it or allowing it to hide. You can only do that by bringing it to the light.

I have struggled with the use of social media to bring the BBQ Beckys and Picnic Pattys to light for various reasons but I’ve changed my mind. Social media can be the light used to drive out this hate that thrives in the shadows. When white supremists gather together and share racial bigotry, which is not necessarily by using language but also by using privilege to keep others out, or men talk with other men about women in “locker room” fashion – darkness or lack of exposure is allowing that hate to hide and thus strengthening it. When it is brought out in to the light of day it is exposed for what it truly is and right now social media is a powerful tool to do that. 

I’m sure not everyone will agree and sometimes it makes me cringe, but allowing hate to hide, ignoring it, has not worked. It continues to thrive but there are consequences when it is exposed as well there should be and as a long time parent there is absolutely nothing I like better than natural consequences and social media and all the power it has seems to be the natural consequence of our time.

 

More Bureaucracy to Tackle

Friday was the day we took Callie to Social Security to apply for SSI. There should be no reason anyone should question it or make it difficult for her to apply and yet. We did all we could online and sent in lots of documentation that shows she’s bee disabled since birth and still we had to go in.

When we arrived about 10 min. early there were already a good 30+ people in line and at least 10-15 more arrived after us. By the time they opened the door you could barely move in the lobby. Keep in mind people who are at a social security office are disabled, elderly or both. No one in line was in our girl’s category. When we finally talked with the person processing Callie’s application we were told we didn’t need to bring her. Yes, but we’ve found bringing exhibit A along helps the process and yes, I know how that sounds and that’s how it feels but that’s the game and we know how to play it.

In line with us was a young woman who just needed a name change and couldn’t find any info on the inadequate website. She waited at least 30 min to find out there is only one office in our area where you can do that and this one wasn’t it. 

Also in line with us were a couple likely only a few years older than we are who were both governmental workers and tried to apply online but had no success and so took time off work to stand in line to apply. Its unnecessary for me to say how inefficient this is. 

We were making our way in to the office and we thought we heard Callie’s name called. We actually had an appt and most in line did not. We ran in and whoever called our name had disappeared. We sat for awhile and as our line-mates got up to the only computer for checking in, yes one computer for 50 or 60+ people by this time,  Daddy-O asked if he could jump back in and register. Thankfully they were kind and let him back in.

We were called up and were told they couldn’t find we had an appt. We gave the gentleman the paper SSA had sent us with Callie’s name, address, appt. date and time and what we should bring to the appt. they said we didn’t have. We had also received a reminder phone call. He didn’t seem to care about the paper but we pushed it towards him until he took the paper to talk to someone else and then we were called to another window. As we walked that direction I called to him as we passed where he was that we’d been called back. Yes, it’s as confusing and chaotic as it sounds.

Side note – when Daddy-O took Christian to his appt a few years back they also couldn’t find his name. Mark kept telling them his name and they kept saying no. So Mark was wondering if perhaps for some reason his pre-adoptive name, which we are not supposed to know, was linked to his SS#. Finally the processor looked around and said it was Baby Boy – tell me it’s Baby Boy. Yes, you heard that right. He had no name at birth so his original SS# read Baby Boy and that’s where his file was. Insert deep sigh here.

Our next processor was Jenny and she was very helpful. She thanked us for doing so much online even though we weren’t sure it worked in the first place. She said it would normally take 1 1/2 hrs. but this would save a lot of time. We were there 90 minutes.

Now, let me fill in this beauty. Our girl’s BD is just a couple days before the end of September. We didn’t want to procrastinate as her adoption subsidy ended the day she turned 18 and our family budget is tight. When you apply no matter how long it takes to process you will receive payment back to your application day. We applied the day after her BD. When Daddy-O called because we had received a rejection letter the first time applying he was told it was too bad he’d applied in the same month as her BD because it  meant she was a minor when he applied and it just mucked it all up. So, any other parents or teachers or social workers – spread the word – wait until your child’s first full month of 18 before you apply for SSI.

After all was completed with Jenny she told us it would be 3 or 4 months before we would hear whether she was approved and for what amount. The fact that we have a paid mortgage works against us and the fact that she has two brothers who also receive SSI also works against us – i.e. smaller payment. Just as when our kids were under 12 and we’d go to kids eat free night at a restaurant – our big family size works against is as it was one kid per one adult and our ratio never quite worked out that way. Now our ratio and the fact that we’ve been as frugal as possible thus paying off our mortgage will work against us. 

So we wait to see and in the meantime we are without that financial support. We’ll be fine. As I said we don’t have a mortgage, but there are many for whom it would be far less than fine. The poverty rate for those with disabilities is appalling. 

I certainly don’t have all the answers for how to improve the SSA but it could certainly start by not requiring an appt for those citizens who have documentation of their disabilities going back to infancy. We can all agree on that can’t we?

The End is in Sight

Callie girl turned 18 almost a month ago.  That means we now have 3 adults with intellectual disabilities living under our roof. Three adults who will need a place to live and people to care for them for the rest of their lives. Chad, our oldest, is 44 and has lived with us since he was adopted at the age of 8 at then end of 1982. He’s lived with us for 36 years, longer than any of our other children. He is not A child, but he is OUR child.

As we began to think about moving our kids in to adult living situations we contemplated many scenarios. When Chad moved in he was very, very busy, not yet toilet trained and he would run away from us on the regular. We thought – if we can just make it till he’s 16 we could look for a group home. Then he aged and mellowed and we got a little better at this parenting gig and 36 years later, here we are.

A week ago we heard of a group home opening that sounded like a possible fit for Chad and  we scheduled a tour. As we got ready to go our emotions started getting away from us. 36 years ago we were counting the time till he could go and now we felt like we were in a tug of war – he should go but we don’t want him to, we’re not ready for him to. It wasn’t the order in which we saw these three moving out. Chad is by far the easiest to live with now. He goes to an amazing day program and we just thought he’d be the last to move out. It also wasn’t a good fit. It just didn’t feel right. Thankfully we have a social worker who assured us we didn’t need to jump at the first opening that came up. She assured us when we find the right place we will know. Hopefully she is right and we’ll be ready.

Every morning he and our dog Ruby connect and as I watch them it reminds me how much I’ll miss him.

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Every day since 1983 we have picked out his clothes, helped him dress, made his food, showered him and brushed his teeth, tucked him in to bed, done his laundry, cleaned up his messes, gone to IEP’s, taken him to countless dental, doctor and therapy appointments, met with social workers and made plans, gone to movies, shopping, special olympics practices and meets, redirected his unacceptable behaviors, taught him as many tasks as he could master and have attempted and continue to attempt to teach him many he never will.

We knew some day we would have to “retire” from these daily tasks, but the reality of that being sooner rather than later is hitting us. The reality of having to trust someone besides  the two of us to care for him, for them, as we have all these years is hitting us. It’s the hardest thing the we, as parents of kid’s who are vulnerable and dependent on others, are going to have to do and that is coming from someone who has survived the death of our Shannon, who was severely disabled. It may sound weird, but we got to finish caring for her. We were able to care for her to the end. We will not be able to do that with the three that still live with us. We are going to have to trust others to do that and we are still trying to wrap our minds around that.

 

Be More like William and Callie

On Thursday we went to court to procure guardianship for Callie. The closer we got to her 18th birthday the more we were dreading it. We’ve been through this process 4 times before and our last time was just 2 years ago so we know the drill. The drill being to expect lots of waiting in places where volume matters, stillness matters, control of behavior matters. All things that Callie wasn’t able to control. That was before medical cannabis(BMC).

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We arrived about 40 minutes early  because we always think the early bird gets to go first. Not necessarily. So Callie and I walked upstairs and all around the courthouse area where we could walk. She’s a speed walker so that took about 10 minutes. We sat back on our bench, Daddy-O was on one and Callie and I on the other.  I ran to the bathroom after our speed walk and when I came back a young man was sitting next to her. He was impeccably dressed in a stylish suit, with a slick new attache case in his lap, polished and groomed from the top of his head to his shined shoes. He chose to sit by Callie. No stranger ever choses to sit by Callie.

Callie immediately engaged him in conversation about her roller coasters and he was all in for conversation. They chatted about roller coasters off and on and we discovered his name was William, he was a brand spanking new lawyer and this would be his first case in court. Don’t know exactly what his case was, but this courtroom is for guardianship, which he was definitely not there for, and probate/estate cases. 

At one point Callie looked him up and down and told him he looked like a magician and William thanked her. We all chatted for probably 15-20 minutes and it was time to enter the courtroom so we parted our ways.

The courtroom was already crowded as we waited as long as possible but there was a place where we could sit with Callie between us. Now the courtroom, in case you’ve been lucky enough to avoid one, is like old day libraries – quiet. Whispery quiet. Callie is not a whispery kinda girl and she is generally only good with her own noise, not anyone else’s. There were also parents there with a daughter who would occasionally make noises. Callie kept looking over, but when we reassured her the girl was okay Callie accepted that. A reminder – never would have happened BMC.

Now I know judges have important jobs. We’d had this judge before. I appreciated how he talked respectfully with the adults who had intellectual disabilities and included them in the conversation. However, this judge made this packed courtroom wait at least 10 minutes before he arrived. That may not seem like much to most people but here’s the thing, most of the parents who were there were tap-dancing and holding their breathe that their adult children’s behavior would stay in check while they waited. He also did not apologize for his lateness and as a real stickler for promptness, I think that’s just rude behavior. Judges should not be above the law, including the law of civility. Ever. 

Six other families went before us and every time we waited for the clerks to call the next name Callie would ask – am I next? Thankfully the actual process took only about 3-5 min. per family. A court visitor had visited every person, generally a physician’s report had been submitted, it’s really just formality and frankly an area our judicial system could streamline. There may be some situations where a court date seems reasonable, but for the vast majority the adults we families are seeking guardianship for, the need is clear and there are more pressing matters which need attention, in my opinion.

When it was finally our turn Callie sat at one table with the county appointed lawyer representing her, someone neither of us had every met, and we sat at our table with our county appointed lawyer, someone we’ve met because she handles all these cases for our county at no cost to us. I don’t know if that’s the case everywhere, but we certainly appreciate it. She answered the judges questions about whether she wanted her mom and dad to continue to help her make decisions  and such with a firm yes. Whew. She held a roller coaster picture, but didn’t attempt to discuss it. Whew. I should probably mention that we had given her a little bump in her MC(medical cannabis) for this occasion.

When we were dismissed we rushed out the door. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to thank William and wish him well on his first case and his future career. Later I mentioned to Daddy-O how cool it was that William chose to sit by Callie and spent the time to talk with Callie. He looked at me, paused, then said, I think William was pretty lucky to have Callie to take his mind off of how nervous he was about his first case. How right he was and how quick I am to worry about whether she’s “bothering” someone or is being inappropriate. However, William clearly found her to be someone worthy of his attention as well as Callie found William worthy of hers.

It did make me smile to imagine that every time William thinks about his first case he will remember Callie with the hot pink ear protectors who love roller coasters. I’m pretty sure William is just the kind of lawyer we need in this world.