There was just one thing I struggled with: teaching. I’d set out teach the lesson I had planned and halfway through, it’d become painfully obvious that there was something else—something much more important—that needed to be covered instead.
If you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. In short, my students needed help feeling emotionally secure. They needed to build their self-esteem. They needed to learn how to safely feel and effectively manage their emotions. And all of this had begin before they could even start to tackle—let alone acquire—new academic skills.
Fast forward several years, and I became a mom through biology. After nearly 10 years of marriage, my husband, Jason, and I welcomed our oldest son, Nate.
Fast forward a few more years, and I become a mom through adoption, too. After a long, arduous adoption process that spanned over two years and three different countries, we welcomed our youngest son, Mark, into our family.
And I discovered what I had already suspected: Mark has special needs. Some of them became evident very early on. He struggled to make eye contact. He wasn’t reaching developmental milestones. And—perhaps the most confusing of all—he didn’t know how to play.
Mark’s medical special needs have taken literally years to sort out. It wasn’t until relatively recently (April 2017) that genetic testing began to unravel some of the mysteries: Mark has GRIN2B neurodevelopmental disorder. While its symptoms can vary widely, Mark has an intellectual disability, communication and processing disorders, short and long term memory loss, and ADD. Additionally, Mark also suffers from a congenital amino acid metabolic disorder. (That’s just a fancy way of saying his body can’t process proteins safely or like a typical person can. So, he’s on a managed diet of restricted protein to manage it.)
I’m also someone living with a chronic medical condition called psoriatic arthritis (or PsA). Diagnosed in my early twenties, I slowly lost my ability to walk for a time and lost—what I thought at the time was—my dream job as a result. It was a long journey to find a good rheumatologist who could help. But that same admittedly painful process pushed me into other changes and opportunities. It was definitely a “get better (perspective) or get bitter” situation. And, honestly, I flip-flopped between the two for some time. Sometimes I still do. And that’s okay.
While I continued to work in schools for quite some time after my own diagnosis, I ended up leaving the classroom to better manage Mark’s unique needs. But we still needed my income and—frankly—I still wanted to work. I loved teaching and I found it be a wonderfully creative outlet for me personally. So, I began working from my home as a writer and educational consultant with an emphasis on helping others—adults and children alike—develop and strengthen the soft skills they need to become their strongest selves.
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about me, I invite you to listen in on some of my stories. Sometimes funny but always real, I share personal anecdotes and what I’ve learned from them on my podcast, Soft Skills with Shannon. I hope you’ll join me there.
PS – Let’s connect! You can find me a few other places online, too.