Ely is from Bratenahl and has four children.
What do you do to relax?
I love to go out to a really great, local restaurant with my husband. I also enjoy going to church, watching Masterpiece Theater, playing the piano, reading a good novel and walking our new Labrador Retriever. And just recently, I started my first professional position since having my first child 10 years ago. I am a virtual reference librarian and am helping non-traditional university students with their research, which is a a fun escape and challenge at the same time
What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
I am the mother to four children with special needs. Our first born has autism, our second born is gifted, and our twins are both diagnosed with autism. All four of our children were born within 38 months of one another. Our family life is unique and we have found great support and help from the CFK community.
What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
The connections to other families with children who struggle! I've met so many amazing and selfless parents through CFK. I also appreciate that CFK has expanded its coverage to families with gifted children. As a family who has twice exceptional children, I've often struggled finding resources that pertain to my twice-special kids. CFK is always thinking ahead about how it can expand its benefits to ALL children and I appreciate that.
Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
The Facebook group has been the easiest for this mom of four to connect with others. I also appreciate the Playground guide and the Music Therapy & More sessions.
My greatest lesson learned is...
to never give up advocating for my child, no matter what the "experts" or the school administrators may think. I've always heard "you know your child best" but never believed in my own capacity as "mom" especially when compared to child psychologists or other health professionals. I've recently learned to trust my own intuition, knowledge and experiences over those who barely know my child at all. This is a lesson I wish I would have learned sooner.
What I worry about most…
is the future. But I've learned that I need to get beyond that worry. That struggle is daily for me and my husband. I've also learned this is a normal struggle and that if I need to talk, another CFK mom is having a better day than I am and that we can work through it together. And I know that I can be a person who can help another mom focus on the "now." It’s all about what we surround ourselves with to help us with not being overcome by worry...whether that be our faith, our spouse, our friends, or even a mental health professional. I've learned that I can only do so much to address the future of my children with special needs and then, I need to jump in and address the issues of the present day.
The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
seeing all the therapy, all the extra socialization and all my own advocacy, pay off. When you see your child master that ONE skill you've been tirelessly working on you can't help but smile, cheer or even cry. A skill that we've worked on with my son is having a reciprocal (back and forth conversation). On a random visit to his "new" school, the school librarian pulled me aside and told me how nice it was to see our son initiate a conversation with a new friend and be the leader within that interaction. I was so pleased that he had applied what he had learned in his natural environment. And even though I missed this successful moment, I'm so happy that my son could manage this once difficult skill without the extra support of me or a therapist! These are the moments I carry with me to get beyond the difficult situations that special needs parents often experience.
Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?
As a former consumer health librarian, I can't say enough about the librarians at your local public libraries. They are there to help you navigate the plethora of information related to your child's needs and your needs as a special needs parent. Be candid about what materials you need to understand your child better and be forthcoming about what you want to learn more about, whether that be new autism research studies or how to improve your child's diet, or even searching for a fiction novel to help you escape your reality for a little while (we all need a break). There is not much that is beyond the scope of your local public or consumer health hospital librarian!