Erikka J on "The Blind Grind"
This message is a little longer than usual, but I want to share a personal story with you.
The other night, my 9 year old had gotten in an argument with his older brother right before bedtime and I fussed at them both. After saying prayers with Tre, I came to Tyree's bedside to say prayers with him, as we normally do. He said them, but refused a kiss I offered to his cheek. Nothing new, I was used to this and it no longer hurt my feelings as it had years before.
Me: "Tyree, are you mad at yourself?"
Me: "You don't have to talk, but you do have to answer me. If you're mad at yourself, put up one finger for yes, two for no."
One finger pops up, the rest of his body and head buried under his comforter.
(I know what you're thinking, it wasn't the middle one. He ain't crazy.)
Me: "Are you sad?"
One lonely finger rises, a little slower than the last.
Me: "Do you want to tell me why?"
Me: "Do you want me to lay here with you for a little while?"
A pop of the pointer finger. (*Insert mom tears here*)
Me: "Does me laying here make you feel better?"
A single finger. (Is Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul taking submissions?)
This may seem to be a strange interaction for some, but for me it was a breakthrough. We'd found a way to communicate and get him to express a desire for love and comfort, even when his emotions had gotten him "stuck". Although an extremely articulate child, when frustrated, Tyree shuts down and can become non-verbal.
This is my normal because Tyree has a high-functioning form of Autism.
Many people have seen Tyree in public and have no clue of his diagnosis. This will be a surprise to even some of my friends. They don't see the meltdowns, school visits, or phone calls from backstage to calm him. How the texture of certain clothes on his skin can ruin his whole day. How he prefers to do homework in a closet or goes in his "cocoon" when experiencing sensory overload. I felt compelled to share so that other parents can be more aware of the wide spectrum of characteristics of Autism. Many think of only the extreme, more obvious forms, but some on the spectrum look "normal" (whatever that is, my kids tell me I'm weird all the time. By the way, the politically correct term is "neurotypical").
I usually email you to announce some grand accomplishment with my music and/or business. This time I wanted to show that you CAN still chase your dreams, regardless of obstacles like these. It's a tough balance, and I don't always get it right, but with God in my corner, I am proof of the possible.
Fellow Natural Born Hustlers, you can find a way too.
I'll admit, sometimes I feel like a bad mom. Being a parent is hard enough, being a single parent a little harder, but being a single, special needs parent completely throws any kind of book you may have gotten from your upbringing out the window. I've become a better, more patient mother to both of my sons because I've had to customize my styles to theirneeds; I've gotten out of the structured, evenly sided, perfect box that I thought they were supposed to fit into. I'm still learning.
I was recently interviewed by motivational speaker and musician Michael "Maestro" Turner for his "The Blind Grind" series where he talks to artists and entrepreneurs about the unseen parts of their journeys. After much soul searching, I decided I couldn't advocate for sharing "Jewels" (ref. Prov. 20:15) without doing so myself. My hope is that others will learn from our testimony.
I called Pam Mines (special needs advocate, founder of the JP Jumpers Foundation, and mother of an Autistic son) about a week or so after the diagnosis, in tears, and she has been a source of support ever since. Please help me support her Giving Tree Launch this Saturday 11/19 from 3p-6p at 63Thirty5 Restaurant, 6335 Jahnke Rd A Richmond, VA 23225. I and other talented artists will be performing LIVE while you choose names off the giving tree to bless a family with special needs this holiday season. I hope to see you there!
If you're not in the area, I encourage you to learn more about all of Pam's hard work to get JP's Law passed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and support her cause by visiting jpjumpersfoundation.org. You can also catch her on episode 4 of "The Blind Grind".
Watch the video above to view episode 8 of "The Blind Grind", where I discuss how Autism is one of the unseen portions of my journey.
Thanks for being one of the best parts of this dream.
Be brilliant today...and stay dope!