I am a Yoga teacher and Quality Life Coach for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I have a YouTube Channel (Wonder.Wander.Ponder Be.) where I work to bridge the gap with information, experience and fun. I am also an Instructor at Hope Center for the Arts, and I teach private and group yoga, and social skills coaching for all with cognitive differences.
Community Voices
Community Voices

Masking; thoughts nobody may think. #Autism

Autistic people want love.
They want the same loyal neverending love they give others.
They want to share their happiness and experiences of everything around them that's important.

They want to try new things they are missing out on. Sometimes they need a lot of help.

They want to understand the world the way you do.
Without all the noise, all the questions.

Autistic people want to express things in a way you can understand. We try.

Autistic people will always try to understand things.
We don't like being told we have problems. Most of the time we can see something is odd about us - so we try extra hard to hide it for you.

We try to hide the happy stuff, the squeals and the happy dances.
We hide the bad stuff, and the lonely feelings.
We hide all of the confusion at the missed connections to things around us.

We wear masks. We look at our feet. We block our ears and hide our faces. Just to try to feel like you do.

We like our routines. We love our people in our lives.

Autism isn't a personality trait we can get rid of.
Autism isn't an insult we don't understand.
Autism isn't always what it looks like or what you read.

Autism is feeling. Feeling everything at once about everything we see and touch and hear and taste and smell.

Autism is simply a lack of a filter to sort those minor experiences.

Nothing is minor for someone with Autism.
It's raw, it's honest and sincere.

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Mantras for Parenting With Anxiety

When I was diagnosed with anxiety four years ago, I never imagined that parenthood would be in my near future. I now have two daughters, a toddler and a newborn, whom I love deeply but who also bring with them an endless parade of new things I worry about. In my 20 months as a mother, I have come up with five mantras I use from day to day to cope with these anxieties. 1. “Do the next thing.” This comes from an old Saxon poem my mother sent to me, made famous by author Elisabeth Elliot. It was meant as encouragement to homemakers to be diligent in their work, however mundane. Although I might be stretching its original meaning, I have found it very helpful in tackling the mile-long to-do lists I sometimes find myself stuck with. Looking at your list as a whole, you may feel utterly overwhelmed. How are you going to complete all these tasks in a single day, all while taking care of your tiny humans to boot? Take a deep breath and remind yourself: all that is necessary is that you do the next thing. What is most pressing? Laundry, dishes, preparing food… and go from there. If you don’t make it to tasks like vacuuming or organizing a drawer, it can wait. You will get to them eventually. 2. “Ten minutes at a time.” In the summers, my husband works very long hours, sometimes leaving the house at 4 a.m., returning at 8 p.m. and promptly going back to bed. Occasionally, he even works across the state from us. When our first daughter was a newborn, he was home one day a week for four months. In hindsight, I’m amazed we were able to make it through that season of our lives, but at the time, I sustained myself by continually repeating the above mantra: “take it ten minutes at a time.” When I felt like my loneliness and anxiety were going to break me as I sat on the couch with a squalling baby, I told myself to look no further into the future than ten minutes. If I tried to think about the fact that my husband wouldn’t be home for five or six more days, I would’ve been completely crushed by the weight of that thought. As hard as it may be, at your darkest times, only allow yourself to think ten minutes into the future. 3. “Sickness is a part of life.” Maybe not everyone is as terrified about illness as I am, but I can only imagine how many times I’ve googled the incubation period for x disease, analyzing how the germs are spread and scrutinizing every person I come into contact with for symptoms (I never should’ve taken that epidemiology class in college). This fear is powerful by itself, but it’s only amplified when one becomes a parent, especially when your child can’t necessarily tell or describe their symptoms to you. However, you will never be able to fully shield your children from illness. Colds, stomach bugs, even the flu are all part of life. Yes, they are awful. Yes, you can protect yourselves to a certain extent. But you also can’t stop living your life six months out of the year because you’re scared of them catching something. Sickness, unfortunately, is a part of life. 4. “It is out of my hands.” We live in uncertain times. From school shootings and terrorists, to car accidents and cancer, we are bombarded with bad news. I spent the first months of my daughter’s life petrified about SIDS, sleeping on the floor by her crib and attempting to set up complicated breathing monitors. One night I was tearfully texting my mom how I was terrified I would wake up one morning and she wouldn’t be breathing. “She is in a safe place, and you’re following all recommendations — the rest is out of your hands,” she replied. That became a phrase I said to myself every night as I leaned over her bed and watched her eyelashes flutter, her chest rising and falling. “I have done what I can; the rest is out of my hands.” This applies on a worldwide scale as well. When I am watching the news and feeling panicked over threats of war, my husband says, “How will your worrying cause world peace?” He is right: that, too, is out of my hands. You cannot stop things from happening by worrying about them. 5. “Be here.” We may never be freed from our anxieties, parents or not. The best I can do is learn how to handle these thoughts and dismiss them. By indulging intrusive or anxious thoughts, I am losing out on precious time with my little ones. I could be sitting on my phone researching flu symptoms or using a notepad to write down a huge list of tasks I need to do, but if I let those things consume me, I will miss my toddler dancing to her favorite song on the radio, or my newborn smiling at me out of pure instinctual response to seeing my face. Remind yourself to be present, physically and mentally — sometimes, that in itself can be the greatest solution. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image by Aleksandr Ermolaev

Lynn Sollitto

Letter to a Teacher About My Child's Sensory Processing Disorder

Dear Teacher, My child has sensory processing disorder (SPD). This means her brain interprets sensory information differently than most people’s. When she has to process multiple sensory stimuli, she feels overwhelmed and may shut down, which can distract her from her learning. All the bright, stimulating posters in your classroom may be overwhelming visual input. As a result, she may be unable to pay attention to her classwork or your teaching. The sounds inside and outside the classroom sound louder to her. Maybe a student is whispering a few rows back but to her, it sounds like the student is just a desk or two over. Loud noises, such as someone dropping a book, may sound as loud as a gunshot to her. She may cover her ears during an assembly or on a field trip because the noise hurts her ears. She is extra-sensitive to smells. Perfume, cologne, and even strong-scented deodorant overwhelm her. Scented chapstick or body spray will be a distraction. Despite all these sensitivities, my daughter is also under-sensitive in some areas. She may need extra sensory input, such as jumping or stomping. If she does not get these sensory breaks, she may be unable to pay attention and learn. She has a strong need for oral stimulation. If you could make an exception to the “no gum allowed” rule, it would really help her focus. A squishy ball or fidget spinner will help when she needs some fine motor stimulation, especially if she is nervous about something. That brings me to another aspect of SPD: anxiety. A child with SPD may have anxiety because they never quite know what to expect in the world. Let me give you an example: There is going to be a fire drill at school. You will give the class a heads up that it will be happening sometime today. My daughter will sit in the classroom wondering when the fire drill will occur, anxious because she doesn’t know when the shrill, painful ring will sound. Because of this, she cannot concentrate on the lesson you are teaching and will struggle when the time comes for her to demonstrate understanding. Here is another way to look at it. Pretend you’re afraid of spiders. You know there’s a spider in your bedroom, but you don’t know where it is, when it will appear, or even if it’s poisonous. Now imagine living with that knowledge every single day. That is why my daughter has anxiety; the unpredictability of the world puts her on edge so she is constantly on high alert. What I am asking, dear teacher, is you try to understand my daughter. Understand she is not a naughty child. These behaviors are coping mechanisms. What you may view as insubordinate behavior is her attempt to either escape overwhelming sensory information or seek sensory input to feel “normal.” Please understand my child is not slow, but learns in a different way. Please also realize she is a person with SPD, but that is not all she is: my daughter is the most loyal person I know; she is compassionate and has a huge heart, especially for animals; she’s generous and will give you the shirt off her back; she is funny and loves to make others laugh; she’s sharp and notices everything. As you teach my daughter this year, please keep these things in mind. Put yourself in her shoes when you’re feeling frustrated and offer her extra help if she isn’t paying attention. Most of all, treat my daughter with respect and kindness, and remember she’s a person with an SPD diagnosis, and not just a diagnosis itself.  

Kyle Voltin

Having Down Syndrome Isn't Sad

I was recently at a craft fair where I had a booth and was spreading the word about a clothing line I am getting off the ground. There were all kinds of creative trinkets for sale, face-painting for the kids, a few rides and games; you name it. The smell of mini donuts, popcorn and other carnival food would occasionally waft through the air, wrestling with my will power. Hundreds of people were strolling down the lines of tents and tables temporarily set up along the sidewalk throughout our local park. Most people walked by with little more than a passing glance, but occasionally someone would be drawn in and stop by. My apparel company has a logo that is obvious and sticks out to a lucky few. For others, it takes a few moments to comprehend. But I swear it goes completely over the head of most people. Regardless, for anyone courageous enough to step up and approach my booth, I’m always elated to share my story and explain what we’ve set out to do. After a stranger came to our table and started perusing through our T-shirts, I shared with her the motivation and inspiration behind our apparel line. I explained that our logo resembled an X chromosome, because “Xtra Apparel” has a mission to create lightweight and comfortable clothing that properly fits and benefits people with Down syndrome. Next I showed her a picture of my brother and I. I told her that he was born with Down syndrome, and that’s when it happened. She said, “Oh, that’s so sad.” I paused from my spiel. I was shocked, honestly. I’ve likely gone through my pitch a hundred times, and never has someone had the nerve to utter those words to me. This was only the second event where I had been a vendor, so I wasn’t prepared to handle that comment. I didn’t know how to respond. I simply took a moment, gathered myself, and continued with what was left of our mission statement. Shortly thereafter she smiled and went on her way. It would’ve been different had she said, “Oh, that’s so sad.” after I explained it being next to impossible for my brother to find pants that fit properly at a department store, or when I mentioned that the typical person is 6 to 7 inches taller than the average individual with Down syndrome, and how that makes it difficult for most people with Down syndrome to find jeans or pants that are the correct measurements. I would have been fine with the “Oh, that’s so sad” response had it immediately followed me explaining that my mom hems all of his pants so they’re the right length. But that’s not what took place; it was before that. It was immediately after me saying, “My brother was born with Down syndrome.” I’m upset at myself for not addressing her right then and there, but in all actuality, I’m just happy that I kept my cool. I wish I could go back to politely tell her it’s actually quite the opposite. I’m not sad about my brother being born with Down syndrome. My brother is awesome. He’s fun to hang out with and be around. He has an infectious laugh that sounds like Roscoe P. Coltrane, which he picked up after watching every episode of the “Dukes of Hazzard” ever made, countless times. He loves to laugh and have a good time. He is a big WWE fan and loves most professional sports. He has a tendency to jump on the bandwagon of whichever professional team is doing well and then claim to be a long-time fan of theirs, but I digress. I enjoy occasionally giving him a good ribbing, and he is quick to give it right back. He has a part-time job at a local restaurant, and still helps out our varsity football team as a coach/manager. By and large, he has been healthy throughout his 30+ years, and lived a full life with numerous accomplishments and milestones. He is loved by many. I am happy to have gotten to know him and to call him my brother. It has been both enlightening and inspiring. I believe I am a better person because of the fact that he’s my brother. The fact that he happens to have Down syndrome is far from sad. What is sad is that someone would still immediately jump to such an ignorant conclusion, or have the nerve to say that. It bothers me that such a train of thought even exists today. If you haven’t gotten to know anyone with Down syndrome well enough to understand that it’s not sad to be born with Down syndrome, that is what’s truly sad. If I could take back that moment and be there again with this lady, that would be my one rebuttal, my lone suggestion. Please take the time to get to know someone with Down syndrome. Treat them like you would anyone else. Ask them questions and truly show an interest in them. Come to see that person for who they are and you’ll eventually learn that being born with Down syndrome is anything but sad.