Friday, October 30, 2015

Why I didn't think Modern Family's Halloween Episode Was Funny or Showed a Modern Family At All

I love Halloween, always have!

There are pumpkins and apples, trick or treating, costumes, parties, pumpkin spice everything, and Halloween themed TV shows for kids and adults...oh did I mention it is also happens to be my Birthday!

This year I was skimming through channels and I happened to find that Modern Family on ABC (owned by Disney) was airing a rerun of last year's Halloween show. I generally like this show and have laughed at many of it's episodes, I had not seen this Halloween episode that actually aired on October of 2014 so I was happy to see it as a rerun this year.

I didn't find it funny at all, and it didn't depict a "Modern Family" to me either. This show is supposed to focus on diversity and acceptance for all families, that's why I liked this show, but I gotta tell ya, after seeing this episode I wasn't impressed.

The show started off great, I have seen their Halloween episodes in previous years and have laughed at how much Claire really loves Halloween and how she gets into it by having the scariest house on the block, that's her thing and it's funny! This episode she had to work on Halloween and Phil, her husband on the show was in charge of Halloween this year. He was excited to be in charge because he was finally going to have a non scary Halloween, he was turning their house into "Awesome Land." Claire learns that her neighbors have a new competition happening in the neighborhood, every neighbor puts in $20.00 and whoever has the scariest house wins. It's funny because this is "Claire's thing...Halloween is her thing" there is no way that her neighbors are going to outdo her on Halloween. She calls out of work and enlists her children to stop what they are doing, tear down "Awesome  Land" and turn their house into the scariest house on the block.

* Commercial Break *

See, good so far! However, they lost me after they came back from Commercials. The show is back on and the Dunphy house has been turned into their idea of what they think is scary. I wasn't scared, I was shocked at what I was seeing and hearing. The house had been turned into a gory Mental hospital! She had her daughter Alex on a gurny with her hands chained and her son Luke standing upright with a straight jacket on...WOW what a way to send a message that Mental illness is scary, try living with it like I do. It is scary for me, I don't want people to be scared of me, is this the message that the creators of this show really want to send to millions of viewers, and at one point it looked as though they were going to redeem themselves in the episode by having someone being offended by this display...but in the end it was a joke! Is that the message? Mental illness is a joke?I live with it, and I'm sorry but I don't find it funny at all! Then I heard something else that just floored me. The son, Luke is standing upright in his straight jacket and he has fallen asleep, when he is woken up he says "wow, this thing is so tight, it's like a Temple Grandin hug."

Whoa!! Did they just go there?
Yup, they did!

I didn't care for that either, you see my youngest daughter was diagnosed with Autism last year and I find it offensive for someone to reference a tight hug to Temple Grandin...a true advocate and someone diagnosed with ASD.

To me that is just as bad as finding someone referencing something that they think is bad, uncool, yucky, or different to words such as: queer, gay, crazy, or retarded!

This type of show makes people think that it's okay to make fun of the mentally ill, and those who are Autistic. We need to be smarter than this people, end the stigma! With 1 in 68 being diagnosed with Autism and 1 in 25 adults just in the U.S. (10 million people) living with mental illness, well that is your Modern Family right there! We need acceptance and we need to end these stigmas on invisible diseases and disorders...we are more than a punchline in a joke on a hit TV comedy sitcom!

Be the change you want to see in the world. It's not black or white, gay or's Acceptance For All!

Friday, October 23, 2015

I'm a parent just like you!

I'm a parent to two beautiful little girls. Anna is five and Zoey is three, 16 months apart. They are so much alike, but very different. 
Zoey is a fiesty and strong little girl who loves music, apples, beefaroni, and walks around with her blankie and milk. And unlike her sister, we don't have conversations about if worms have teeth or not, we don't have conversations at all. Zoey has a very limited vocabulary as of right now, Zoey has autism. She can't speak for herself so I speak for her, and I've gotten pretty good at knowing what she needs, I'm her Mom. I just know. 

You see these little ones with autism grow up to be teens and adults with autism. I knew as soon as she was diagnosed the urgency of Early Intervention. I fought for her, I became the voice that she didn't have, I was not going to lose my baby. She started receiving EI at 19 months old, and I've journaled it all. I read all the blogs with the Moms with older children on the Spectrum and I think and worry about Zoey's future, that's what parents do...all parents! 

And just like that I became an advocate. 

Our life and our routine are not like everyone else's, I've had other parents look at me and judge me because of Zoey's behavior and her sensitivities. Zoey has autism and sensory processing disorder, and her SPD is considered on the severe end of the Spectrum. Yes, just like autism is a spectrum, so is SPD. 

People don't see what it's like in our house, they judge when we take her out in public. I've left grocery carts at the Grocery store, I've had to explain my daughter's quirks when a gentleman told me that I should have her on a leash, I've had people laugh and stare, and people have even mentioned "have you tried spanking her?"

It's sad! They don't know about autism or sensory processing disorder and they don't see our every day life. They see us for 10 to 15 minutes because I have a Doctors appointment or an errand to run. They don't see that as soon as we are home, Zoey will strip down to nothing and I have to give her my phone and play music so that I can keep her still so that I can put a diaper on my 3 year old before she pees or poops on the floor, and put her footed pajamas with the feet cut off on her backwards so that she can't take them off. 
They don't see me trying to soothe my child with music, when I really want to hold her and hug her, but her SPD is so severe that my child doesn't do hugs and she doesn't let me hold her. 

Food aversions, sound sensitivities, compulsive and impulsive behaviors, climbing anything and everything. Her favorite is the sink, she loves to hang off the kitchen sink and splash the water, why? Because she loves water. 

They don't see that my child is stuck in the house for her safety because she will not hold hands and she will bolt off and she will not stop when I yell "stop!"

They don't see that we have her bedroom furniture screwed into the walls. All doors are locked and we are talking about alarms and other safety options. 

As parents we do everything to keep our children safe from harm or pain, I just have to do a little bit more than most. And I will do everything I can to make sure that she gets everything that she needs. Because she will be a teenager and an adult, and I want to make sure she is ready for this world, even though she is stuck in her own. 

I will continue to be her voice until she has one, her advocate when needed, and forever her mommy that loves her! 

I'm her Caretaker, Protector, Teacher, #1 Fan, and yes I am her parent, and she is my child that just happens to be a little different and I love that. 

Awareness and Acceptance for All! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why I feel like an outsider and an insider as a special needs mom

As a mom to 2 little girls, my oldest Anna who is 4 and just as funny and loud and precocious as any 4 year old can be, and I'm Zoey's Mommy. Zoey is 3 years old and she was diagnosed at 21 months with autism, sensory processing disorder, and global developmental delay, she was considered severely nonverbal with no guarantee of speech, but if you've followed our journey on  you can see by her videos that she's proving them wrong!

We have some pretty significant challenges in our family and we have to take extra precautions to ensure safety for both of our girls. With a 4 and 3 year old, ya gotta be quick and ready for anything!

Zoey needs 1:1 supervision throughout her day at all times. She is impulsive and does not answer or quite fully understand verbal commands, such as "No, Stop, Get Down, Don't touch...DANGER!"

This makes everyday life just a bit harder. She's still in diapers, and I don't know when she will be out of them, she can't stand the way clothes feel on her, so she often strips down to nothing, going places is almost impossible because anything could set her off, bringing her into stores, birthday parties, county fairs, even family gatherings can trigger a meltdown. We've learned through trial and error what works and what doesn't work. 

Music works! She takes my iPhone and she skims through each song and she is instantly calm and we can avoid or quickly end a meltdown, usually. It depends on the setting. 

It's hard, because I don't want Anna to miss out on playing mini golf in the summer, so she and her Daddy went while Zoey and I stayed home. My husband and I don't get to "check in" at restaurants on Facebook and post selfies of us enjoying a meal I didn't have to cook. I'm home, usually cooking 3 different meals. 
And I'm usually sadly declining an invitation to a party or BBQ unless we have respite, which we don't get a lot. 

My daughter won't stop when I say "Stop!"
My daughter won't hold my hand and we have tried every harness, she can get out of your hands and harnesses so fast. 
My daughter doesn't understand the dangers of streets, roads, strangers, lakes, pools, and rivers, or fire pits, big barky dogs who may or may not be good with small children, and my daughter can't tell me or anyone else if something is wrong or if she is hurt! 

I see families apple picking, hiking, biking, trips to the circus, fairs, amusement parks, soccer games, dance recitals, birthday parties, and going to the movies as a family, oh boy that one hurts! I would love for the 4 of us to go out to a movie...but that's not our life right now! 

I watch this not from being outside, I watch it from the inside of my own home. I'm inside, but I'm the outsider. I'm the Mom watching these beautiful and fun family moments from my computer screen, I'm an outsider looking at your moments from the inside, hoping and wishing that someday I'm not the insider, I want to be the outsider having these moments with my family! It's hard to explain that to friends and family who ask us to get a babysitter, or come along to the circus, the fair, or a birthday party. 

What's it like to be on the inside? 

I am a stay at home mom and I've had the honor of watching my girls go from being babies to funny little toddlers with their own individual personalities. 

I have been here through 14 months of intensive in home therapy for Zoey, sitting on the floor, watching her learn and grow, and I too learned and grew from the experience, she let me into her world, and let me tell you...her world is full of music and smiles, I look at her and I know she is happy! I got to witness her "go away" and then come back in an amazing way. She has taught me what hope, faith, and love, unconditional love truly mean. 

Ahh, and my beautiful and quick witted, funny  little Anna. She taught me that she too has become stronger and how wise she is, she's an old soul in a 4 year old's body. She has shown me just how much she loves her sister, and I have witnessed their relationship turn from non existent to one of the strongest bonds I have ever seen. She has watched Zoey right along with me these past 14 months and she rejoices every time Zoey does something she has never done before, I hear all the time "Mommy, did you hear her, did you see what she did?" like when Zoey saw Anna walk into the room and Zoey yells "Anna!"  To watch your 4 year old light up after hearing her younger sister say her name for the first time...well nothing on the outside can even compare to that! 

I watch them run and play and laugh all through the house. We may not get out to go to the movies but we have movie nights at our house and I watch my 2 girls sit together and share a snack. I have watched Anna help Zoey and I have watched Zoey learn to interact and have a relationship with her sister. They love each other and it is obvious, and that makes being on the inside not so bad. 

Being on the inside, I have a front row seat to the biggest and best event I've ever seen. 

What is that?  

My children, my husband, and myself have become a closer family, we all love each other unconditionally. That makes being on the inside, not so bad! 

So for now I will be that Mom who watches your moments from the inside wishing I was on the outside. But I will also be that Mom who is grateful for being inside watching my family and our love for one another grow! 

"From the outside looking in, it's hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it's hard to explain!" - Unknown 

Melissa Cote 2015