Mary Lynn is from Amherst and has six children.
What do you do to relax?
I love to visit the lake or be near water, which brings me great peace. My prayer time is essential and has gotten me through so many struggles. I love to dance, any time of the day and anywhere for dancing comes from my soul! I enjoy gardening, camping and playing sports, especially soccer, swimming, biking & hiking-pretty much anything outdoors is relaxing. Any chance I can get you can find me reading. People will mention various TV shows to me and I usually do not know what they are referring to because I just don’t have time to sit down and watch TV. My mom is my best friend so any amount of time I get to spend with her, even if it’s just sitting next to her, brings my heart great joy. We can laugh at just about anything! Lastly, I attend a retreat for moms of children with special needs that has essentially saved my life and renewed my spirit.
What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
I have a Master of Science in Education degree, with a concentration in Education Administration from Ashland University, and my undergraduate work was in Psychology from Ohio University. I work full time for the Ohio Board of Developmental Disabilities at a Day Program for individuals with intellectual/developmental delays. I love that I still cherish my job even after working there for almost 24 years. My children are my everything and I love one-on-one-time with them which is super special. Once in a blue moon I have gone on a date with my husband and that is beyond essential because raising our son with autism has put such a strain on our marriage at times.
What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
Sarah Rintamaki came to me at a time that I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was connected to her through a support group for moms of children with special needs in which she was the guest speaker. Her story and support have been priceless to me, such a God-send. She does not know that her reaching out to me has been such a blessing in my life.
Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
The Coffee and Chat support group where I brought my younger children to discuss their feelings about having a special needs sibling. The e-mails that keep me connected and informed are so valuable as well. I may not always be able to attend as many sessions as I would like but I like being informed and feeling included. The one thing that I would wish for is to have more CFK programs located on the west side of Lorain County because I would be able to attend more often.
What I worry about most…
I worry about the safety of my son due to his disability. My son appears very normal in the way that he looks, which is a grave disservice because then people expect his behavior to match his appearance, which can be very disheartening. I worry that other people may not understand him and could strike out at him for behaviors that are beyond his control. I also worry about his future such as will his behaviors worsen as he gets older and will he get into trouble for them? Will he be productive when he grows up? Will he ever be able to live on his own with supports in place? My natural instincts as his mother leave me feeling that there is no one who will be as concerned about him and love him the way that his family does.
When my child's behavior gets out of control...
I feel out of control at times too. I get aggravated because he is so set in his ways and is unpredictable in his likes on a daily basis. If he doesn't like the feel, taste, or sound of something he just won't do it. Take for example; getting dressed, eating, taking his medicine, and going to bed at night (his wants/agreement to anything is situational). He gets overstimulated at holiday parties or any event where there is a lot of people and/or noise. I have often thought how different life would be if he were an only child. I can’t help but think what a better parent I could be. Unfortunately, I have to meet the needs of his five other siblings who I adore but also vie for my attention. I believe that because I am worn so thin sometimes that it is so much harder for me to handle his idiosyncrasies. I love him with my whole heart but I do lose my patience when he is so stubborn, demanding and rigid in his ways.
I get embarrassed when...
My son acts out due to his anxiety. We will be in public and one minute he is fine and the next minute he can be hitting his siblings or swearing. He has a hard time calming down once he is overwhelmed and his behaviors will just escalate. I get frustrated and hurt because some of his own family members do not understand him nor do they know how to positively respond to him. It usually becomes a power-struggle because they do not understand that he gets over stimulated and acts out his anxiety. I especially feel hurt when other people act judgmental of him. We do not attend many social events and barely socialize with the neighbors due to my son's maladaptive behaviors. Lastly, it is incredibly embarrassing when we are in public and he is swearing and having a meltdown, such as my younger son's soccer or football games. I so desperately want to watch their games but can't when my son is acting out.
Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?
I have found some solace in an online sensory processing group that has given me insight and support for my son who is autistic, Stages and Ages for Families Raising Individuals with Special Needs and Finding Cooper’s Voice have been so therapeutic for me to read online. Also, in addition to support from Connecting for Kids, Autism Speaks is a good support system as well.
Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
Sometimes I feel so alone in my journey with my son. I know that there are plenty of parents out there who struggle with their children with similar and/or different concerns, yet it doesn't help the alone feeling, especially when I think that most families in the world do not have the daily struggles and do not face the embarrassment that my son causes when in public. It is difficult just to walk out the door each day because everything has to be planned around our son’s need for structure and desensitization to his sensory surroundings. Therefore, if my story sounds like it could be your story, just know that you are not alone and if you reach out to others who share your journey you may find great comfort too.