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Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...


Summertime is here. Kids and parents everywhere are reveling in relaxed routines and all the exciting warm-weather activities that the season brings. School is out. A tremendous perk: evenings can finally be enjoyed without the stress and strain of completing HOMEWORK.

Well, at least for some of us.

Homework in my household doesn’t consist of the typical tasks that most 12-year-olds endure. It never has. And it NEVER stops.

My daughter hasn’t spent the past 10 months learning about dividing whole numbers, decimals, and fractions.

She hasn’t been burdened by memorizing grammar rules, parts of an atom, or the beginnings of civilization.

All throughout the school year, during every holiday, and over the course of the summer, we work on mastering subjects that literally impact every facet of her daily life.

While attending multiple weekly therapies, I diligently notate every session.

Her team and I discuss all the ways to implement activities at home to help in developing her skills. Children with multiple disabilities, like my daughter, labor tirelessly in learning to do things that most of us take for granted.

Our daily homework is all about learning the most important lessons; it continues into the months of June and July. We can’t afford to take a lengthy vacation from it.

Navigating her AAC device and modeling vocabulary so that she can have her own voice…

Completing sit-to-stand transfers for strengthening…

Donning her orthotics and using her gait trainer to practice walking…

Working toward the goal of someday walking independently…

Practicing core muscle exercises and OT blowing techniques in our quest to achieve some success with potty training…

This is just a portion of the assignments we tackle together, perseveringly.

My daughter keeps right on working hard and continues her learning into the hot days of summer vacation. I greatly admire her strength and her tenacity.

While the homework of gaining independence and mastering daily living skills continues, I remind myself that she also deserves to take breaks and to be a kid, too.

She needs time to just lounge in her PJs, watch her favorite YouTube videos, and snuggle up with her most cherished books.

These moments are equally vital, for both of us.

Some days, I feel weary and tired. I worry that I’m not doing enough. My back hurts, my brain hurts, and at times I feel inadequate in my carry-over methods. This work is critical, so I dig deep and we push on.

During one of our recent sessions, my daughter’s therapist nearly brought me to tears with words of encouragement, out of the blue.

“She’s doing so well and making tremendous progress. I’m proud of you both.”

It was a simple comment, but in an instant, I realized how important our homework truly is.

It can’t only happen once a week in a clinic. The lessons and the hard work must be carried over into real life. With my daughter, repetition is key. It may take us 500 tries. It may take us YEARS of practice. But we hold on tightly to hope because things will happen in her time. When her eyes light up and I see a method finally “click”…When things finally start to fall into place…When I witness a new skill unfolding before my eyes, it’s absolutely indescribable. It takes my breath away.

A significant goal of mine, as her mom, is to help her achieve some independence and to ultimately make life easier for her. Every second and all the energy poured into completing this meaningful homework is infinitely worth it.


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