This is tolerance

The following are snippits of conversations that have transpired between kids over the past few months.

The following snippits are proof that things are changing (for the better).

The following snippits give me hope.

4th graders.

“I’m going to draw the kid and the mom and the dad.”

“I have two moms.”



“Do you have two moms?”

“Nope, I have a mom and a dad.”


8th graders.

“Bruce Jenner is the man.”

“Dude. You can’t say that anymore. It’s Caitlin Jenner and he’s now a girl.”

“I can still call him Bruce.”

“No, you really can’t. He’s a woman, and his name is now Caitlin.”

8th graders.

A problem-solving scenario reads: “A student made fun of a boy for liking the color pink.”

“That’s so mean. And it doesn’t even make sense. There’s no such thing as boy colors and girl colors.”

“Yeah. Like, at the hospital, they only picked pink and blue to tell the boys from the girls. But those aren’t even boy and girl colors, it was just a system they came up with.”

6th graders.

“Can we use ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘him’ in that example?”


7th graders.

“So for example, if a boy was wearing a suit….”

“At my sister’s school there are a lot of transgender students. Anyone can wear anything and some people are boys and some are girls and some aren’t really either.”

5th graders.

“Ooh, can I be purple?”

“You like purple?”

“Yeah, it’s the best color.”

“Yeah, true.”

6th graders.

“That rainbow you’re drawing is SO beautiful.”

“You like rainbows?”

“Oh yes, they’re magical.”

“I like rainbows too. We have that in common.”

Acceptance, people, tools

I was talking with someone today about how sometimes our brains tell us things that in hindsight we laugh about. We think, Wow, I can’t believe I ever entertained that thought!  For example: at the beginning of every school year I have a brief moment where I think, Crap. What if I just forget how to be an SLP? What if the kids walk into my office and I have no idea how to help them? This person had a similar experience, where today she thought, What if I walk into my class tonight and just can’t teach, what if I just forget how? We laughed about both of those thoughts, but in the moments they grab at us and we see them as hard truths, rather than just thoughts.

That got me thinking about similar moments- have you ever had a really awful moment or day, or maybe during a panic attack, or a crying spell, and you just think, What if this never ends? What if I cannot move through this? What if this does break me? [I just know in my heart that nearly every person has had this moment at least once – am I right?]

I rely on three things in those moments:

  1. Acceptance. I have found that the number one thing I can do to make those moments worse is to panic and fight them.


The more I entertain thoughts of, I can’t do this, I’m freaking out/panicking/hysterical/upset, this will break me, I am broken, I can’t move through this, it will never end, the harder it is.

A tiny space of calm is found within the storm when acceptance is embraced. I am having a really hard time right now. Oh. Okay. Yes. This is what’s happening. This is where I am. Okay. I’m fully here.

2. People. Not all people. And not most people. But the people who Get It, or who Get Me, and will love me through it, who will remind me, This will not break you, who will be present with me wherever I am. Those very few people are the lily pads leading me across the lake.

3. Tools. I don’t know about you, but in the moment, tools are really hard to remember to use. Also sometimes hard to believe that they’re going to do anything. So I find that practicing strategies and tools during calm moments, and semi-stressful moments, make them much more automatic to use during the super hard times. I think I could probably write a whole post on tools, and I think I will.

There are so many, good, concrete, realistic strategies out there. Some, we teach our kids each day at school or at home. Some, we learn ourselves. I think we all know that tools are more than just “take a deep breath” which my ukele-playing, beyond-insightful kiddo will tell you “doesn’t work” and “makes it worse!!!!” And you know what? Sometimes she’s right. So often the go-to advice is, “take a deep breath.” But really, a deep breath doesn’t always help. In the moment, it doesn’t initially matter how deep the breath is, it matters where it comes from. An attempt at a deep breath that involves a shallow breath where the shoulders raising up high is going to physically feel awful. But a breath from your stomach, where you put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe into it – that breath is going to feel good. And it will gradually deepen on its own.


So – while I ponder a post about my own tools that I’ve gathered and discovered over the years, I welcome any and all thoughts: What works for you during a hard time? Are there certain thoughts that grip you in terror but later you laugh about? Have you ever tried to accept where you’re at, however hard that may be?

Finding myself

When I put out a survey a while back, asking people to vote on what they were interested in reading about, one reader wrote, “liking yourself, being comfortable with who you are, finding a sense of self”. I have slowly been mulling that over in my brain, trying to piece together some words that make sense. This is what I’ve come up with.

I didn’t always love myself. I felt awkward and out-of-place for a lot of my childhood years. So I did what I could to try to feel normal. This included: reading teen gossip magazines, even though I didn’t like them, so I could be up on the latest celebrity news; watching TRL on Fridays, even though I couldn’t care less about music videos, so I could discuss them with peers; buying a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch, even though I didn’t really like it that much, because that’s what everyone did. As I got older, it became: staying out late and going to a lot of parties; buying Uggs and other “trendy” clothing; pretending I liked watching football and other sports; the list goes on.

During my sophomore year in college, I hit a turning point. For various reasons, my life shifted a bit, and when that happened, some pieces fell into place. It’s funny how once a certain filter is removed, you see things differently. Once the shift happened, I realized: I didn’t like football. I didn’t like staying out late every night. I didn’t like bars. I craved my routine. I liked studying and spending my weekends studying with a friend and a coffee, and my evenings curled up on the couch, watching Grey’s Anatomy with my roommate.

So it was progress. I was realizing what made me feel good, and what made me, well, ME, but I still didn’t always do anything about it. Because honestly, I was terrified. If I showed the world who I was, what if they rejected me? Wasn’t it better to play it safe and at least know I sort of fit in? For a while my answer was yes. I knew some of what made me happy and what made me feel good, but I didn’t always act on it. I kept my mask on. I wanted to belong. And sure, I often felt happy and content. But it didn’t fill me up. It wasn’t as authentic as it could me.

When I started grad school, I started over. For the first time in years, I had a fresh start. I was feeling good, positive, and full of life. I no longer had illnesses or disorders standing in my way between me and happiness. I only had ME. I was my roadblock. So, I began grad school as my true, authentic self. I didn’t always wear makeup to class. I didn’t hide my perfectionism or anxiety. I talked to all sorts of people. I geeked out over things we were learning. I embraced awkward moments. And the result? I made friends. True, wonderful, forever friends. People liked me. They liked me for me. And the funny thing is – making friends and being liked was the easiest it had been, up until that point.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was when I fell in love – and even more so, when a man fell in love with me. When I met Jeremy, and as we began dating, nearly four years ago, I was determined to be me. Enough was enough, I had told myself. There was no point in faking it, in hiding who I was. If he didn’t like me for me, then that was okay, it just meant he wasn’t the one for me. I raised the bar, and told myself that I would not settle. I embraced myself and so somewhere out there, was someone else who would embrace me, too.

And that someone was Jeremy.

He loves me for my quirks. He loves me for my weirdness. He loves me for my personality. He loves me for who I am. He fell in love with ME. Not a shadow version of me, not a fake version of me, but just the real, true, authentic, unique, me. I am a person who was worth falling in love with. I am a person who is worth marrying. I am the happiest, truest, most real I have been in my entire life. He has not only accepted who I am, but embraced it, hugged it, nurtured it, and encouraged it. I blossom with him. I am the luckiest.

And so – I do love myself. I have embraced myself. I know that I love wine, but I don’t like beer. I know that I am a hardcore introvert. I know that despite being an introvert, I have wonderful friends. I know that I still wear mismatched socks. I know that four stuffed animals sit on our bed. I know that I make up words and songs as I go about my day. I know that I’d prefer reading to watching sports. I know that I prefer a few, true, forever friends, over a bunch of casual friends. I know that I love a handful of t.v. shows, but I don’t like reality t.v. I know that I love deep, intense novels, but dislike chick lit. I know that I am sensitive and often tear up. I know that I squeal when I’m outside in nature. I know that I kneel down to take pictures of snails, frogs, and worms. I know that I look up to take pictures of skies, trees, light. I know that I don’t really care about fashion, and often just reach for whatever colors feel right. I know that all of these things make me who I am. And I know that I am okay. That I am enough.

Embracing myself does not mean always being happy. Those things couldn’t possibly be synonymous. But embracing myself does mean accepting all parts of me. Working towards acceptance of where I’m at, in each moment. Having compassion for myself, in a variety of situations. Knowing that despite the external circumstances, I am at peace in my core.

Dropping the rope

This summer, I spend time talking with one of our campers who refuses to walk away when another camper is upsetting him. “But then he will win,” he tells me. “I have to argue back until he accepts that he’s annoying me.” I explain that by walking away, the same message gets sent. Drop the rope.

One of our kiddos walks into a situation where another camper is, who triggers her. She tenses up, then takes a deep breath, and asks, “Can I please move to a different location?” She drops the rope.

I am losing consciousness and about to pass out. I fight it, I’m determined to beat it. But I’m losing. So I stop fighting it and let it go. Whatever happens, will happen. I drop the rope.

I’m in a moment of increased anxiety. A few thoughts and fears spin and swirl around my head and I am so tempted to focus on them, dig into them, pull them apart. And I do, at first. I think and spin and check and worry and try to push everything out of my head. But it just increases my anxiety. So I breathe. And I sit with it. I drop the rope.

This concept is new for me. But now that I’m thinking about it, I realize that it’s everywhere, in all of my life. At work, with kids, with friends, with loved ones, with myself. 

When you find yourself in a tug-of-war, there are two ways to handle it. You can pull and pull until you can’t pull anymore. Or you can drop the rope and let it go. And it’s a concept that it’s hard for….well, everyone, I think. It’s something we teach our kiddos all the time. Ignore, walk away, focus on a different thought, take a breath, you’re okay. And it’s so hard for them because they want to fight the anxiety, the meltdown, the annoying peer, the fear. And really, I can’t blame them. I want to fight all of those things too. Sometimes there’s a worry, “But if I’m not fighting, I’m giving in. I’m giving up. I’m losing.” Giving in is not the same as giving up. Surrendering is not the same as losing. You are still in control. You’re still making the choice. There’s a peace that comes by dropping the rope. Which isn’t to say that the trigger, the thought, the person, the situation goes away. But it’s empowering (albeit hard and scary) to take control of the situation and decide to let go. 

You know I love metaphors and analogies – they help me understand everything, my work, myself, life. So. If you find yourself dumped into a big pool of water, your instinct is going to be to panic. To flail, thrash, scream. You’re panicking and the more you panic, the more you fight, the worse your fear gets, the more exhausted you get, and you accomplish nothing. But if you breathe. If you lay on your back. If you float. You’re still in that pool of water. You might still be scared. But you’re giving yourself a breath, a lift. You’re accepting where you’re at, and you gain both physical and emotional strength by doing so.

Sit with it. Drop the rope. 

And gain strength.


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The One With The Poochy Stomach at Yoga

Last Monday evening, I wanted to go to a yoga class that my favorite instructor was teaching.
My stomach was “poochy” (i.e., distended, sticking out, bloated).
I noticed that observation, then got dressed and went to class.

An anticlimactic, even boring story, right? But I couldn’t help but feel how powerful that moment was. There were years where that would never have been an option in my mind. My digestive system was completely messed up, my perception of myself and my body was messed up, and the quality of my days revolved around how I perceived myself to look, and how my stomach looked. Years ago, a poochy stomach would have been enough cause for me to put on a baggy shirt and sweatpants and hibernate on the couch all night. Last week? I put on my tank top and yoga pants, went to class, and sweat buckets, feeling strong and grounded and powerful the entire time.

Despite spending the past few years giving my digestive system all the TLC and healing it needs after years of misuse, disuse, and abuse, and making wonderful strides, I continue to have food intolerances, continue to have days where it all gets out of whack, continue to have times where my small intestine responds to food by ballooning out so far that I have to pick a bigger pair of pants to wear. And, I’m human, so I think I get to admit that I don’t particularly enjoy those times, that I still feel frustrated when that happens, that I don’t love my body every second of every day. (I don’t think anyone does, and I think that’s okay. And as a side note, here‘s an article that my wonderful friend Erika wrote, on that very subject, that I find truly validating.) BUT, the key difference between Then and Now is that it doesn’t ruin my day. I can concurrently feel uncomfortable, feel some dislike, feel discouraged, AND still go to work, enjoy my day, go out with friends…and feel a whole other range of positive emotions that are real and true and not tainted by dislike or discomfort. 

So I went to yoga, because Now my internal monologue was observatory rather than critical (Hmm. I want to go to yoga tonight. Oh, my stomach is poochy today. Ok, I’d better get dressed and head out). And it was one of those countless moments that I’ve had over the years of Now, where I have to stop and get a burst of joy because Holy crap, I am a different person. I am not the same person I was years ago, Then. I am free and I thought one day I’d get to this point but I am here, I’ve been here, and I will stay here. Any bumps in the road are not a return to Then, they are simply a normal part of Now.

And yoga was fantastic. And Katie, my teacher who I am honored to also call a friend, was reminded us to, “Do whatever you can do. Be wherever you are. Nobody needs a yoga hero.” And I was so in my body and so grounded and I want to go back in time and tell my teen and young adult self, as I have countless times during the years of Now, “Don’t worry. You’ll get there.” 


I would like to clarify a few things about my last post. Now that I’ve actually read what I wrote, heard some good feedback, and had a great conversation with my dad about it, I’m have a bit more clarity.

I’m going to start with an example. Examples and metaphors and comparisons help me fully understand things. So: imagine that, when I was born, there was some way of knowing that I was going to be a highly-sensitive introvert. Would I have wanted doctors to tell my parents, “eh, just let her be, it’s who she is and whatever that brings with it, she’ll deal with, it’s just her”? NO. What I would want them to say is, “Your daughter is a highly-sensitive introvert. Let’s give her support around managing her sensitivities and intense emotions, help her with her anxieties and obsessions, and capitalize on how this makes her who she is.” If those same doctors had said, “Your daughter is going to be a highly-sensitive introvert! Let’s help her recover from this so that she never feels extreme emotions and doesn’t have anxieties and quirks” then I would’ve lost who I am at my core. I would have lost my love for nature, my mixing of senses, my tearing up at a sunset or a song, my intuition around people, my understanding of the kids I work with…..it goes on and on.

That is what I was trying to get at in my last post. Do I want doctors to say, “Your child is autistic. Okay, good luck with that”? Of course not! I’m a speech-language pathologist. I believe in therapies, of all forms. I believe in therapies in all forms for all individuals, neurotypical or autistic. I believe in early intervention, I believe in getting children all the supports they need as early as possible.

I believe in helping them to be functional in their lives. Being as independent as possible. Being safe. Forming friendships. Connecting with others. Learning.

But I don’t believe in trying to extinguish their personal interests, their stims, their scripts, their quirks. That’s their core, that’s who they are. If we try to remove those (harmless) aspects of them, we remove their essence.

So when it comes to treating autistic individuals, there’s a difference between removing their core being, and helping them reach their full potential and quality of life.

And, as my dad pointed out, it’s also an issue of semantics. The term “recovery” is just a dangerous term here. It indicates that the individual is afflicted with something that needs to be fully gone. So, I’m particularly sensitive to the idea of helping kids “recover” from autism. Again, it’s an and, not a but. I’m sensitive to the term “recovery” from autism. And, I believe we should do everything in our power to support them to be the best they can be, as they are.

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