Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mental Health is real .. May is Mental health awareness Month

You walk into a place not knowing anything and have no idea how will it change you. You meet people and sometimes their vibes can rub you in various directions. You could walk out feeling happy, sad, angry, emotional, drained, jealous and sometimes you just feel powerful, inspired and motivated.
Months ago, I applied for  MFOFC Mass family organizing for change. (My post on MFOFC) my area center was full, but another center had one opening and I was in. So to begin with THIS wasn’t even my place but I was welcomed with warmth and open heart.

It was a 3-weekend journey and over the first weekend we got to know each other but by the second weekend we became a family. That’s what the late night talking sessions do to you.
We all were in awe to each other’s strength, we inspired each other and we realized that we all have our fair share of things to deal with BUT we all have one things in common. We want this world to understand our children better and we all are working towards that in our own capacity.

Each and every participant was my hero, each of them had something to teach me, inspire me. I could write a post about everyone and not even scratch the surface.  They are my village and they made one for themselves during those 6 days.
Meri was a featured mother’s voice. She was one of the coordinator too and when I heard her story my jaw dropped. Physical disabilities are obvious, intellectual disabilities are not, it takes time to understand and figure out intellectual and learning disabilities BUT the mental health crisis can go undiagnosed and can create a major havoc in someone’s life. She is THAT mother who didn’t take NO for an answer and fought for mental health awareness. She is the mom who said that mental health crisis is real and we need a better system to address this. She sat in the hospital holding her son’s hand for 3 days and nights to get him proper help and later went all the way through the political process to change the process. She is a regular in State house so the policy makers know the real lives of real people. She not only works in mental health field she inspires and teaches us moms to get involved in the process. On top of that she went to school to study “Non Profit management to increase family voice in a grassroots organizations” this year. She was laughing while explaining her school assignments and projects finishing process. I was thinking where does she get this strength. But thats what Meri is - contagious, fearless and spreading the sparkle in our lives.
With her I learnt the various folds in Mental Health and its impact. Not only her children are very lucky but people around her too. Her struggles became the stepping stone for many, Meri has changed many lives with her work but she sure had colored mine with her dedication and awesomeness.
May is mental health awareness month and green is the color.
This morning Anand was there to cheer on his mom, who took part in her FIRST ever 5K,walked in Franklin in green saree to dedicate this walk to one supermom she came to love and admire. 
Meri Viano.. you are my hero!!

When I decided to walk in green saree a dear friend suggested it was one of the craziest idea one can think of. 5K in Saree but thats what #100SareePact did to us. So we both agreed to disagree respectfully.
Milind Soman, I want to thank you for inspiring women all over the world to take care of their health and walking/running with Saree clad women. Your mother is an inspiration. You are a brave man who walked with 100s of women in Saree and I cannot thank you enough for inspiring me.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

IEP meetings- its all about collaboration and respect for both the side and love for your child.

#100sareepact  #Saree60 #IEPMeetings #MomLovesAnand#10092015

I was part of #100SareePact and did some stories. This story popped up on my time line on Facebook and I thought of sharing here.

The year 2015 was very eventful because of saree Pact. It changed many things in my life, gave me a broader perspective and clearer vision.
I took advocacy class with federation of children's with special needs. 6 hours in 9 classes, 45 miles one way drive. it was all worth it. the class gave me tools and association for life. I became a regular volunteer with Federation after that.
One session was conducted by Dr. Joe Petner. He is a game changer educator in Special education.
He statred his presentation in a very interactive way. He is a champion of our kids and he spoke about communication and relation between parents and school system. he spoke about our village and yes the school and teachers are very important part of our village.
I believe in this and very much encourage parents to understand and support school and teachers. I feel that we all want good for all our kids. I have 100s of stories to tell about greatness of teachers and their limited capabilities. I strongly believe in that collaboration and communication, what he spoke I have seen in my life. I have come across teachers who go beyond their means and area to support our kids. Anand is a perfect example.

I will give you a story of my IEP meeting when Anand was in 10th grade -

When you worry and only worry and then you feel it was for nothing. That's what happened last Friday IEP meetings are always nerve wracking for all the parents. We are never prepared enough, You read and write and re-read and just hope things will work out for good.
We have been lucky with Anand's team. Last year it was a big change for him, a brand new very big high school, lots of kids, and new teachers in a co-taught class room. But his IEP liaison Ms K was wonderful and very experienced teacher, We just connected right away.
This year I met the teach, a very young Ms. R. I found her very calm, soft and caring but didn't know what to expect in terms of IEP and services.
Thursday I went to a special need class ( more about it later) there I learnt so many new things. I had to redo my IEP notes. after a LONG day and 80 miles drive By the time I went to bed it was 1 AM. I woke up early to get some work done and we were at school by 7.20.
The kids can be part of IEP meeting once they are 14. Anand was invited, poor kid he was so nervous being in that room with so many teachers. but he did good. We all talked about Anand's need and his requirement and what can we all, as a team, do to make him successful. and all of sudden I felt I shouldn't worry much, they all love him and we all want him to be happy and successful. an hour in that room and when I came out, I wasn't a sleep deprived, worried mother, I was a happy one.

 Moms reading this, please take a moment to send a thank you note to your kids teachers, check with school once a while and offer if you could help with anything.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Prom night.

Driving back from High school parking lot was very difficult. Last Friday was junior year prom and Anand decided to go. It was kind of last minute decision and I dropped him at school to go to the venue by the bus. School has provided bus for students who didn’t want to drive that far.
This has been going on for few days as we were debating whether he should go or not. I thought he wasn’t ready but soon we realize how important it was for him. I don’t even know at that point he knew what to expect. We also had no idea as Ajey went to different school and his prom was too small and very close-knit compare to Franklin High.
I cannot thank Anand’s teachers enough to accommodate the last-minute request and Anand was all ready to go. It was a half day and he was home sooner. Night before we tried on pant and button-down shirt. Anand has always been jeans and T shirt kid so this was a big step for him. Suit and Tie was an absolute "no" right then and there. I just couldn’t convince and we agreed that pant and shirt with formal shoe is right dress code for him.

It broke my heart to see under-dressed Anand but more than that it was hard to see anxious and worried Anand. Where other kids were happy, talking to each other and taking pictures my son was least interested in regular prom prep. I met his teacher, asked if he could take a picture for me during prom and left the parking lot. Before leaving home, he agreed to get ONE picture. Later in the night I got another picture from the teacher and here it is. The reminder how far we have come and how not so easy road it is for any of us. I am happy that he had the experience and at the same time I am sad that how hard it was for him to come to that point. I cannot forget how helpful his teachers were in arranging all that and making is possible. So unlike other families we don't have hundreds of prom pictures or Facebook updates or smiling kids all over but one step at a time.. we have a memory and an experience and a reminder.. How far we have come.