How loving children who are different promotes cyber-safe resiliency

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Greg Elie, 3 years old, hugging ET. “This photo with the original ET required permission from Spielberg himself,” said Cindy Elie, his mother. This photo was taken for a 1985 fundraiser storybook for Sprint/UCLA Foundation.

CyberParenting topics on TheFish103.9FM Tuesdays

In the network it is so easy to feel like you don’t matter (like a drop of water in the ocean), and there is such an emphasis on appealing to the masses (number of friends/fame, pressure to conform is intense, etc.) …the danger is that we can lose our sense of personal identity, worth, accountability and capability.

It is anxiety building. There is great unrest; we are not at peace.

Hence individuals who are not resilient are more vulnerable to bullying, risks of drug and alcohol abuse, and other traps including sexual exploitation.

So in order to be secure, our children must first be resilient.

Resiliency involves accepting the things they cannot change about themselves and circumstances, and then having the confidence, courage and the wisdom to change the things they can.

In this regard, parents who love children who are different demonstrate how to build resiliency in our children.

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This simple truth really hit me when I attended a demo and presentation at Excelsior Elementary School in Roseville, California, by A Touch Of Understanding, a non profit dedicated to raising awareness about living with disabilities. Their objective is to help school student bodies be more accepting and less fearful of people who are different.

One of the speakers, Greg Elie, 30 years old, talked about his brain condition, hydrocephalus, to an audience of third and fourth graders. He started his presentation with a topic that would establish common ground.

A love of sports and video games.

Only Greg’s participation is virtual because his brain condition prohibits athletic activities. Right away, the children were put at ease and related to him by sharing a common interest. And when he explained his physical limitations and shared a video of the surgery he had while still in his mother’s womb, it was not intimidating or irrelevant.

Greg concluded his presentation with the following statement:

“It is okay to be different.”

And the thing is, he really meant it. He lives a life being different, struggling to overcome 15 different surgeries, unable to perform athletically and short term memory problems required some accommodation for academic pursuits.

Greg was indeed different, and yet he was okay. Why is that?

What makes us different?

Truthfully, we are each unique and therefore different. But in worldly terms of “norms”, here are some examples of children who are different: children with cancer or other serious disabling diseases, ADHD/ADD, physically disabled, children with anxiety, high achievers/gifted, and children with addiction and in recovery from addiction.

Aside from these categories or labels, below are some other ways in which individuals can be singled out of the group or “the crowd”:

  • Circumstances – socio-economic
  • Physical traits (color eyes, hair, height, sex, color skin)
  • Personality
  • Talents (intellectual, creative, physical)
  • Challenges, disabilities (some visible, others not visible)

 Fundamentals of parenting children who are different

  • Focus on accepting the things you cannot change
  • Encourage your child to lead with her strengths
  • Less emphasis on comparing children’s achievements with others
  • Open discussion about the limitations your child is experiencing and how to overcome them
  • Develop accommodations that respond only to legitimate needs
  • Hold your child accountable for the things that they can control and do
  • Encourage your child to use their imagination and dream big dreams
  • Encourage your child to think about ways to overcome challenges, rather than accept defeat

More on being different

Check out this video of a mom loving an autistic child.

“You have exceeded my expectations. I really had to learn to think outside the box.” — a mother’s reply to her autistic’s son’s inquiry about whether she is happy he is her child

More about Cindy and Greg Elie

When Cindy Elie of Roseville, California, learned that her unborn son, Greg, had a brain condition called hydrocephalus (water on the brain) which required experimental surgery in the womb, she decided to learn as much as she could and pursue the highest and best outcomes.

“We were told by the UCLA doctors that we had three basic options: deliver immediately, do nothing or do the new fetal surgery. We decided to try the surgery. I was terrified for my baby, and the experimental surgery seemed like the best option,” Elie said.

This experimental surgery was featured in the 1980’s television show, That’s Incredible!.

Her son Greg, today a highly functional young man, was born three weeks early in Los Angeles in 1978, and was considered a miracle child. According to Elie, one liter of fluid was drained from his head prior to birth, and while his condition left him with physical disabilities requiring therapy for sitting, crawling and walking, his speech and communication capabilities were not impacted.

Greg helping at the A Touch of Understanding Youth Force Bowling event.

Greg was a darling in the Hollywood circles as the Elie’s were very involved in Sprint/UCLA fundraising for children with disabilities.

“Greg was a miracle child. He beat all the odds to be functioning normally today. The doctors told us he would not live past four years,” Elie said.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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