The Grey Between is a blog about being caught in the middle and not knowing where you fit in the world. There is a growing population of children with invisible disabilities. Whether more children have them or we are just recognizing them now, the number of children who live in the grey area between typical children and special needs children is increasing.
What are invisible disabilities? They are different for everyone – they ARE the grey area! “Generally speaking,” invisible disabilities encompass learning differences, Sensory Processing Disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disorders (NVLD), Anxiety Disorders, and a whole host of other differences that cannot be “seen,” but have a strong control over the person’s life. There are lists of qualities for each of these acronyms, but no two people are the same: there’s a lot of grey.
When you have a child that is bright and appears like a typical kid, they most often do not fit into special needs classrooms and social situations. Instead, they are struggling to live in a typical world with an invisible disability. They very much want to be accepted, but often find it hard to keep up with their peers. Thirty years ago, these were the weird kids that eventually couldn’t handle school (both academically and socially) and got left behind; the ones that, despite their intelligence, didn’t “amount to anything.” Now we understand them and how their brains work. We intervene as soon as possible. We stay on top of them, desperately trying not to helicopter while making sure they don’t fall through the cracks. We are warriors for them so that they become successful adults, like their peers, because they are capable. They are more than capable. Some are geniuses who see the world differently, learn differently, communicate differently, and have a lot to offer. But like all warriors, the fight comes with a price. And because the disability is invisible to the outside world, so is the fight. We hide it. We don’t want their peers to find out, so we are fiercely protective while trying to appear normal. It is exhausting, but we never give up.
Everyone who falls into the grey has different struggles, different challenges, different successes. What works for one person may not work for another. What works for one person may sound ridiculous to another. There is no right or wrong because there is no black or white. It’s all grey. It is my hope that this blog is funny, interesting, possibly knowledgeable, and hopefully helpful.
The stories from my life with my kids are unique, as are yours. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except my own kids. I hope to hear from you. I hope to hear about your successes and challenges. And most of all, I hope everyone here is kind to one another. Negative criticism is counterproductive in an environment where people are looking for support and community. We are all different and our kids are all different, but what connects us is that we all fall into The Grey Between.
I have been wanting to write about my experience with invisible disabilities for a number of years, but maintaining my child’s anonymity and privacy is paramount. However, there are many people out there living in silence with their own or their child’s invisible disabilities and our voices need to be heard. It is a lonely place to be and we need more community, more exposure, and more understanding from others. My story is just one. We may have the same initials attached to our diagnoses, but just like the name of my blog, everything is grey and no two people with even the same invisible disabilities are alike. Please bear with me as I navigate this new territory, balancing anonymity and privacy while sharing experiences and situations that hopefully resonate with you.
Who am I? I am many things, but as you will see, I identify most by my first title: Mom. I am an early-40-something single mother to two children. My daughter, who we shall call Em, is 10. Her father and I separated when she was 18 months old and, a stressful 2 ½ plus years later, were finally divorced. She is my atypical child. I had my son, who we shall call Sam, on my own. I will explain much more of that in a later post, but to be clear, it was a very planned decision on my part and not the result of a crazy girls’ weekend in Vegas. Sam is 3 ½ and my typical child. (At least as far as I can tell!)
I have a BA in Economics from Tufts University, a Masters’ in Accounting from USC’s Leventhal School of Accounting, and my MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. I have also earned what I call “experience degrees” from the School of Life in Divorce Law, Early Childhood Development, Genetic Counseling, and IVF.
As I wrote in the introduction to this blog, I do NOT claim to be an expert on anything except my children. Everything I write about is from my own experience and by no means do I believe it works for everyone – it works for me (and some of it doesn’t). If you have another or similar experience with different means that got you through it, I would love to hear how you did it. Every day is full of curve balls and I am open to anyone’s suggestions that might help me hit it out of the park instead of striking out. And I strike out a lot. We all strike out and that’s okay because we know we’re going to bat again the next day. And since I’m going with this metaphor, now I’m taking a swing at writing about it all.