The Manager Mom Epidemic: Book Review

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When I first picked up a copy of this book I expected it to be descriptive of what I have been observing lately:  Households where the mom is in charge of everything, in other words, the phenomenon that Dr. Thomas Phelan calls “Manager Mom.”  However, I was very pleased to find out that this book includes not only a description of what the phenomenon is, in detail, but also offers many examples and suggestions on dealing with this situation at home.

What is a Manager Mom?  In short, it is a mom that does it all:  The childcare, the cleaning, the food preparation (which includes buying and cleaning up afterwards), the laundry, the appointments, the after-school activities….You get the picture.  How did this happen?  How is it that moms are the ones who bear the burden of everything household related?  Dr. Phelan refers to the original bond between mother and baby as well as the strong message that has been passed down from generation to generation, from mom to mom, as the culprits for this type of behavior.

In fact, Dr. Phelan calls the strong identification with “mom duties” as Mommy ID, and explains how moms tend to feel a strong sense of guilt when their perceived “responsibilities’ are not taken care of (by them!).  This concept was quite enlightening to me as I often hear moms tell me that if they don’t do it all, things don’t get done “right.”

If you feel this way, then this book is for you.  If your family falls in what most people call “traditional,”  mom takes care of all the responsibilities in the house, whether she works outside the home or not, and dad works outside the home but does not contribute to household duties, then this book describes you.  If you are tired of living like this, and would like more “me” time or you are a dad or a partner who would like to be able to make decisions and share the burden of responsibility, then this book is for you.

You will find many actual examples of couples that have moved from what seemed to be the tiring routine of the house to a schema that works for everyone!  It is possible!

To pick up a copy of this book, please click here.

We All Benefit When Work is Shared!

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please drop me a note.

Thanks!

Dr. Klimek.

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3 Frequent CPSE and CSE questions answered: New York City Parents

It is not secret that growing up is hard to do. Try seeing your kids grow up: It is extremely hard. Now add special needs to the mix, and you get a very, very difficult situation in your hands! Why does this happen?

Change evokes anxiety in everyone. Some people are more equipped to handle this type of anxiety and have developed adequate coping mechanisms. For many of us, any change in our routine can be very stressful, and a child growing up (in some cases too fast!), can be a source of insurmountable stress.

Let’s just say that the educational system as it is does not make it any better. In New York City, children move from kindergarten to first grade, from fifth grade to middle school, and from middle school to high school in a blink of an eye! Parents can’t keep up with all these graduations, moving-on ceremonies, and yes, applications.

For families of children with special needs, transitions are especially stressful as they need to attend evaluations and meetings during these times. In New York City, parents can easily get confused with these procedures.

As a special educator, special family member, and advocate for people with special needs, I often have to answer questions from parents who are worried about what happens when their children get older. Let’s review three of their most common questions and explore possible answers:

1) What happens when my child turns 3 and no longer receives early intervention services? With parents’ consent, children receive an evaluation that will get them ready to start a program at that time. If your child qualifies, she/he will be eligible to get an extension of the services he already receives until she/he starts the program!

2) What happens when my child turns 5 and can no longer attend his/her preschool program? With parents’ consent, children receive a new evaluation, and a new program (for kindergarten) will be determined. Technically, most schools should be able to serve most students with special needs. However, if this is not the case, a different program will be selected. This can be a difficult process and parents do well in pursuing the help of a professional at this time.

3) Can I still submit and application for Pre-K or Kindergarten, even if my child had an evaluation? The answer is yes! Whether your child will attend one of these programs will depend on what his/her needs are, but you can (and should) make sure that you submit those applications. We never what the future has in store. This will ensure you cover all bases!

Family having dinner.
Dr. Klimek and her special village.

If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a note!

Should I pursue a diagnosis for my young child?

When it comes to getting a firm diagnosis for their children, I often get two types of reactions:  1)  Absolutely yes!  This way, we can get all services as soon as possible, 2) No way!  I don’t want to put a label on my child unless it is absolutely necessary.  What happens when children are younger than 3 years old and this question becomes central?  Let’s explore some possibilities.

  1. What is the right thing to do?  The right answer depends not only on the child but also on the timing.  Typically, for very young children, when the parent is undecisive I advise to wait a little while (somewhere between 3 to 6 months), and make sure that we get solid intervention on the part of the intervening team (special instructors, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, etc.) and the parent/s.  Of course, sometimes even waiting as little as 3 months to let intervention produce results seems like a very long time.  This is when it becomes evident that even with the strongest intervention, without the proper intervention, will not suffice.  I have had situations where I clinically know, after meeting the child and working with the child for a short time, that he/she will have difficulty responding to treatment.  In these cases, I suggest we move forward and pursue a diagnosis.
  2. My child was just diagnosed, now what?  Now is the time to look at all the options available to you through that diagnostic lens.  If your child was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), then you may have access to certain school programs and to the specialized expertise of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) teachers, who will tailor programs specifically for your child.  If your child was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, for example, you may be able to access equipment that may become central to any gross or fine motor work later on in your child’s life.  Whatever the diagnosis is, the specialized treatment will follow.  I like to compare treating children with treating the flu vs. treating a cold.  Even though some of the symptoms look the same, we treat the flu differently from what we would treat a cold.  The flu is much more severe, and it requires a specific intervention!
  3. I’ve decided I want to wait, or not pursue a diagnosis at all, now what?  Remember that the intervening team will still continue with provision of services, as the needs of each particular child is what drives this service provision, not the diagnosis itself.  In many cases, it is not necessary to pursue a diagnosis.  The child’s needs are self-evident and sufficient.  They are enough to carry out an intervention.  In the flip side of the above example, we wouldn’t treat a cold with the same medication that we use for the flu.  It is simply unnecessary and would not work!

Of course, as with anything else that requires careful consideration, it is important to do a lot of learning, consulting, and above all, soul-searching, before embarking on this route.  One thing to keep in mind is that nothing is written in stone, and a decision that you make today, you can take back tomorrow.  (We will have a course on parental rights.  More on this coming soon!). 

This is an important topic and we will continue exploring all the ramifications of each decision.  If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a note!

Sometimes, no diagnosis is needed to design a quality intervention.

Living a Life of Purpose: New Year Reflections

“I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes I see your face ” Sting, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.

It seems somewhat incredible, unbelievable, that it has already been over 6 months since I cut ties with my employer of almost 22 years and became self-employed.  Let’s just say that the writing was on the wall, or rather, it had been on the wall for quite some time.  I had never been a firm believer in signs or the universe sending a message, or things of that nature,  but in this case, the message was loud and clear:  It was time to let go.

Now, I had always thought that if I was ever to leave my employer of so many years, it would be for something worthwhile.  In my case, “worthwhile” meant making the jump from employee to entrepreneur.  What I didn’t know at the time was that six months in, I was going to find so much happiness, fulfillment, and sense of purpose doing what I currently do.

 A year ago, I had insomnia, and  could not sleep for days, from the stress that my job caused me.  I lost weight and was put on medication to manage symptoms of PTSD.  This year, I lay awake at night just reflecting on the incredible things I get to live day by day.  Life has certainly changed, and I am extremely thankful to those who “wrote on my wall,” as they, in their quest to make my life impossible, managed to make it incredibly purposeful.  Sometimes the Universe does work in odd ways.

And if you think that money is the reason I’m saying all of this, you’re wrong.  Even though I have been very fortunate in that department, I can honestly say that the reason for this incredible emotion is the fact that for the first time in my life, I get to do, every single day, and every single moment of the day, what I believe in, what I love to do. 

These emotions became all the more clear in during the last two weeks of 2019.  Each end of the year and beginning of a new year tend to mark a tone of reflection.  This was especially true in my case, as I was able to spend those days making connections that will last a lifetime and will truly make the world a better place. I welcomed the new year in a completely incredible, positive, and new-for-me state of mind. 

I was also lucky, very, very lucky to be able to spend those days surrounded by family and friends, the kind that love you no matter what and support you always.  I could almost hear my late father whisper in my ear “I told you so,” so many times.  He will always be my guiding star and my inspiration.  He used to love the song by Sting “If I Ever Lose my Faith in You.”  We used to sing it together.

Dr. Klimek and her family

Dad, wherever you are, thank you for never losing your faith in me. Thank you for showing me the way, always.

Listful Living: This book by Paula Rizzo will have you living your best life!

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When I first saw this book’s title, Listful Living, I immediately thought “a book about making lists.  I’m in!”  I was captivated.  After all, who couldn’t be better organized?  More efficient?  As a new entrepreneur, I value efficient use of time, and completion of tasks in a timely manner. I also recognize that as I approach the 6-month mark as an entrepreneur, my responsibilities have only grown, but my 24-hour day has remained the same: Still 24 hours!

Little did I know that Listful Living was much more comprehensive than that.  If you think that you will be making “to-do lists,” please note that this is not what Listful Living is about. This book is about taking a realistic look at your life, evaluating it by being able to set your priorities, from top to bottom, and envisioning where you want to be a year from now.  This book is about action.

In fact, Listful Living has pages and pages of “homework” to help you visualize what’s already in your mind.  Putting it on paper is a kind of agreement with yourself, and it really helps to pinpoint where you are, where you want to be, and the way to get there. It sounds like work, but it will only save you time, energy, and will allow you to make your priorities a reality.

Listful Living by Paula Rizzo

As I read, I felt strongly connected to the author’s experiences, Paula Rizzo, as she described having visualized a better future for herself, realizing this future, and then having to step back to make room for her life and her priorities.  Sometimes, it takes a door closing to realize that the window was opened all along.  In Paula Rizzo’s case, it was a real health scare that landed her in bed for weeks.  In my case, it was the professional realization that if I stayed where I was, things would never change.  I had to produce the change myself. I had to BE that change.

Listful Living is the perfect gift for yourself, for busy moms and dads, for working parents, entrepreneurs, or simply anyone who wishes to improve their lives by being realistic, simplistic, and looking to a better, more fulfilling future.

Here’s to a more fulfilling, rewarding 2020!

Melissa & Doug Toys

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What can I say?  When it comes to giving toy recommendations, one of the brands that immediately comes to mind is Melissa & Doug.  I love toys that are not only made for entertainment, but that are also didactic in nature, in other words, provide with a learning opportunity as well as being fun. Melissa & Doug’s products provide just that.  Their products are 1) creative, 2) versatile, 3) durable, and 4) fun. 

There is no substitute for creativity.  Children’s brains are plastic, and as such it is imperative that we use all tools available to cover all kinds of possibilities.  Take wooden blocks, for example.  Parents/teachers can use blocks in a variety of ways, for example, to encourage free play while building structures and to encourage observation skills by having children imitate block designs.

Versatility is a great quality and it is present in these toys.  What does this mean?  I always encourage the parents I work with to select toys that can be used in many different ways.  Puzzles, for example, are a great way to start.  If you are working with an alphabet puzzle, you may be concentrating on just learning letters, recognizing them one by one, but you could also work on letter sounds, labeling objects (the pictures on the puzzle), counting (the letters), and transitioning (putting letters and puzzle away).  You can come up with any number of activities based on the toy that you have in front of you, but rest assured that Melissa & Doug toys are made to be versatile.

Melissa & Doug toys are made to last!  I have had some of their toys for over 10 years!  Just make sure that you save all the pieces, and the toy you bought will be yours for years to come.  And last but not least, these toys are fun!  Who would want to play with toys that aren’t fun and engaging? We want children to be able to stay focused on those toys, fully enjoying them and playing with them.

When you are out shopping for fun toys this holiday season, think of all the positive skills that children can learn while playing with their toys.  I recommend this brand whole-hearteadly!

If you have any questions about this post of any other, please leave me a comment!

Carrying My Mother’s Bags

Personal Stories Series

My brother, Fernando, was born when I was 7 years old. As I remember, my mother suspected that there was something wrong all through her pregnancy, although she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. To her, something just didn’t feel right.

Her fears were partially confirmed when she had to have an emergency C-section at 7 months gestation. And it didn’t stop there. She continued to observe how this child, her third, would not walk when he was expected, or talk when he was supposed to. My parents did all they could to make sure that they visited the every specialist or doctor that they were recommended by well-meaning people.

At that time, and where we lived, there was no early intervention, or good special programs. My parents had to fend for themselves. My father worked as much as he could, as many hours as it was humanly possible, to supply what the family needed.

I remember very clearly when my parents tried to get speech/language services for my brother. It was just a gamble whether the insurance would pay or not. Most times, my parents ended up paying out of pocket, and barely able to cover one or two sessions a week.

There is a clear picture in my head of my mother, holding my brother, who was a big 2 year old boy at the time, while we were travelling by bus to make it to the therapy center. No one would give up their seat. I guess, in their minds, they could not figure out why a seemingly healthy child would not stand up and hold the bars. What they didn’t know was that my brother had just recently started walking and was quite unsteady on his feet.

I accompanied my mother on many of these trips. It was just impossible for her to carry my brother, who was a quite robust 2 year old, and all the bags she needed for essentials. She tried to schedule appointments when I was available so that I could help. I remember clearly carrying my mother’s bags. And I remember clearly my mother carrying my brother.

To this day, I can clearly see how my mom continues to “carry” my brother, in every aspect of his life. And I, for one, do my best to try to help her with her bags. Love you Mom!

Thank you.

My mom with my brother Fernando in 1979

Pets and Emotional Strength

Raising A Doodle

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It is not secret that I love animals, and by that I mean not only the commonly-found animals in cities across America, but also the ones that people do not typically find  cute and cuddly and they’d rather eat.  I love and protect them all.   I’m an animal lover, vegetarian, can’t-live-without-a-pet (especially a cat) type of person.  I am also not shy in sharing my love for my four-legged children with the world.  As a person, I have experienced the one of a kind benefits that stem from having a bond with a pet. 

As a professional, I’m always encouraging the families that I work with to teach their children to love and care for someone else in the world by encouraging them to welcome a pet in their lives. There is simply no substitute for caring for another being, than the opportunity to provide this caring and affection to a pet.

Theresa Piasta, the author of Raising a Doodle and owner of Puppy Mama, shares her own experience as she dealt with the aftermath of serving in the military, to working in the high stress environment of Wall Street, to dealing with her own experience with PTSD. She found healing in her dog, Waffles, and quickly understood the unique relationship and bond that comes with this type of relationship.

As her bond with Waffles grew, so did her emotional strength, and the desire to share this knowledge with other women. Hence, Puppy Mama was born. Raising a Doodle delves into Ms. Piasta’s personal experiences, the experiences of hundreds of women who experienced the healing effects of caring for a dog, and the community that they formed since the creation of the Puppy Mama community.

If you are interested in learning more about how a pet can help you heal, and teach your children the importance of caring, grab a copy of this book here.

Cheers,

Dr. Klimek

Personal Stories: Learning from Our Collective Experience

Personal Stories define us.  This is what we tell ourselves and tell other people about us.  They are part of what we use to understand ourselves, understand the world, and come to terms with the choices that we make throughout our lives.

This is why I’m opening this section to the special village in its entirety.  Do you have a story that you would like to share?  Did you learn from any particular experience that you had with your child (brother, sister, grandchild, etc.)? Is there anything that you would like to share with the world so that you can enlighten all of us?  We want to be here to share our experiences and support each other.

I would not be in this space if it weren’t for my youngest brother, Fernando.  He is seven years younger than me, and five years younger than our middle brother, Hernan.  I have so many stories to share about how tough it was to grow up in a time and place when caring for the disabled and including them in every aspect of life and decision making was not mainstream.  I grew up understanding how judged my parents felt.  I grew up feeling the isolation that stemmed from this experience.

The good news is that none of this stopped us.  Families can be very resilient and can thrive in the shadow of extreme pain.  It is because I want to showcase that resilience and foster an environment of understanding that I would like to feature YOUR story.  Share your thoughts (or your story) with me at ourspecialvillage@gmail.com.

Fernando 🙂

Hope to hear from you!

Dr. Klimek

Dr. Vanessa Lapointe’s latest book: Parenting Right from the Start

It was nothing but refreshing to read Dr. Lapointe’s professional take on attachment and development.  Let’s just say that many of the ideas that she talks about in her new book Parenting Right from the Start are the very same ideas that I have been teaching my families for quite some time.  This is all especially true when dealing with special needs families, and at the same time, harder to crystallize.  It is worth pointing though, and I can firmly say that this will be one of the first books I will be recommending to my families from now on. 

The wholistic, and at the same time, individualized approach that she teaches the families she works with very much approximate the message that I try to instill in the families that I work with, namely:

  1. You got this!
  2. Don’t let fear of judgement by others take over!
  3. Don’t let judgement of yourself take over!
  4. Relax and enjoy the ride!

My knowledge is not only based on years of experience but also on years of working on the connection between Eastern and Western thought.  I can only summarize it with what a parent told me this morning, as we were talking about his daughter’s traumatic past, “worrying and dwelling are like a rocking chair, they give you something to do but you won’t get anywhere with it.”  Those wise words carried me through the day, and they can get you through the worst crises as well as the not-so-terrible ones:  temper tantrums, defiant behavior, resistant behavior, and normal developmental challenges that all parents are exposed to. Did your child have a tantrum?  Did you yell when you shouldn’t have?  Forgive yourself and move one.  Learn from this experience and take a step back next time. 

Parenting Right from the Start focuses on exactly what the title claims:  Parenting way before you decide to have children, but in a non-judgmental, caring way.  It explores common milestones from the parents’ point of view and from the child.  It teaches parents to look at the world through the child’s eyes.  The result is a more confident parent who is in control and understands that it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  It teaches parents to deal with those feelings of defeat and provides an avenue not only to help the child grow, but to help parents grow.

To get a copy of this book, click here.  The paperback is out on October 8th, 2019. 

Highly Recommended!

If you have any questions of comments, drop me a note!

Cheers!

Dr. Klimek

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