disclaimer: I see a therapist. 

disclaimer: I see a therapist. (insert pause for jaw dropping, roll of the eyes, sigh of relief, irritation that I didn’t tell you). 

well, I’m not about to hang all my problems out on paper for social media to see but it’s true. I see a therapist. 

the ones who dropped their jaw may be surprised because “I was sure Nicole had her shit together.” well guess what?  I have a lot of my shit together, and one of those ducks in a row is seeing a therapist. because nobody has it all together. 

the ones who rolled their eyes could probably use a therapist of their own. I said it. give me a call, I have plenty of references. but don’t worry, I have rolled my eyes before too. at the thought of having a therapist, at my therapist. she just rolls them back. it’s just easier to roll your eyes at the thought because being vulnerable is hard. saying outloud that you have a therapist is hard. trusting your therapist with one of your deepest secrets is hard. trust me, most days I would rather just roll my eyes. and a lot of days I do. 

the ones who signed a big breath of relief, it’s because you have a therapist too. and I was the moron who threw it on paper for the world to see. you have a therapist who could be saving your life right now, helping you learn who you are, learning with you ways to hold on to moments of joy. for some of you, you are counting down the days until Thursday morning at 10 because your therapists office is the only place you can be 100% you. 

those of you irritated because I haven’t told you. well let’s jump back to, I don’t have all my shit together. being vulnerable scares the hell out of me. and sometimes my therapists office is the only place I feel like I can share “secrets.” 

a therapist isn’t some scary person, like the oz hiding behind the big green curtain yelling the things you’ve done wrong that week. (have I dated myself?). a therapist is the relationship that you make it. it’s a friend. it’s someone you trust. someone you cry with, laugh with, challenge yourself with. 

my friend, my therapist moved yesterday. at first I was angry. “you don’t get to leave. I’m the broken one. I call these shots.” then it turned into sadness, grief, and a lot of understanding. my therapist is a human just like you and I, with needs, changes during life, and emotion. I felt ridiculous for feeling so many feelings. “it’s just a therapist.” the ugly oz voice said in my head. but just a therapist is a friend, someone you trust, someone who may know more about it you than most people. and someone who has made a huge, unforgettable impact on my life. 

I cried big ugly tears last night. first angry ones, then sad, understanding ones. 

don’t worry I have another therapist already, and she’s super great. 

disclaimer: I have a therapist and being vulnerable is really hard. 

when ordinary becomes extraordinary.

My journey to live, learn, and love alongside those with special needs..

I had the innocence of a child; small, quiet, and eager to watch the bright colors soar. I grabbed hold of my big sister’s hand and ran as fast as I could to a far and safe place. It was July 3, 1993; I waited all week for this day. We were finally sitting in a field so much bigger than me; it was all I could see. I rested my chin on my knees and watched my stepdad as he brought a match to the small tin box. All of a sudden I was screaming, I didn’t understand, the sweltering balls of fire were burning my legs; the fireworks never made it to the sky. A 1974 green Buick drove into the grass, my legs were being spit on, and everything went black as I was shoved into the car. Returning to the hotel, I stood in the shower and my raw legs swelled as the ice cold water fell on them. My mother cried. The hospital was white and unfamiliar, third degree burns the doctor told us, I would need months of physical therapy, I still didn’t understand.

My small body went through the process of mending torn skin and regaining the ability to walk. For more than 15 years, “when I grew up, I wanted to be a physical therapist.” Almost as quickly as the match hit the tin can, I tore through my final rejection letter to physical therapy school. I was left confused and frustrated, what now? I could not be more thankful for each and everyone of those rejection letters to physical therapy school. I started volunteering at a facility for down syndrome and the world didn’t make sense the way I thought it did for 15 years, concretely believing that because this single event happened to me, I would pursue to help later on the exact same way.

My heart began swarming with warmth, passion, and empathy. The beautiful children I was working with looked up with their big bright eyes, with what I could only interpret as, teach me. Teach me that you are a safe person, that you will love all of my parts, that we may fall, but it will fall together. Teach me that the way I see the world isn’t defeating, it’s conquoring. Remind me that even though some days are really hard, we are living, learning, and loving together. We are teaching the world how to spin to a different tune.

As I’m about to finish my second year teaching at a therapeutic school for children on the autism spectrum, as well as working with private clients with down syndrome my heart continues to swarm. At the end of most days, I am exhausted, but I have learned. And on my own really difficult days, I’ve been given tools to use that allow me to beat to different drum and still smile after a long uphill battle.

I yearn to continue learning from the little people I work with as well as become a bigger voice for their needs, share resources, and create a space to live and learn together.  Join me in this journey, it’s been a realm of beautiful chaos so far.

If I could hold something for you.

I tend to think about my little guys a lot, but being Autism Awareness month, I’ve been overwhelmed with posts, pictures, and support poured out to this community that I am so blessed to be apart of. Spending most of my days with six kids on the spectrum, sometimes my world feels like it spins a little too, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Something in my brain is wired to see total and complete beauty in these children. I see their struggle and I have the honor of literally holding them when their struggle becomes too much for them to bear on their own. But, the most beautiful part is that they keep fighting. They keep working hard. With all of this in mind, I do wish my warriors didn’t have to work quite as hard ALL the time. I often think if I could hold on to one of the hardest pieces for each of my kids, what it would be.

My sweet AC will light up the room when she walks in. She’s verbal (oh so verbal) and crushes the “symptom” of not being able to interact with people to pieces. Her biggest motivator in life is to be with people. To care for them. To love them. To engage in life together. But, if i could hold one thing for my sweet girl, it would be the constant mania of emotions in her head. I can only imagine how many words or thoughts or pictures are going through her mind every second and she can’t process them fast enough to always clearly communicate what she needs. Her tiny body tries so hard everyday to keep up with her mind.

My girl MB has the biggest and best smile you could ever ask for. She also gives the best hugs! She knows when I need one and she will wrap her arms around my whole body and just squeeze. Then giggle, grab my hand, and ask to go explore something together (usually by shoving a picture of the elevator in my hand). If I could hold one thing for her, it would be how her brain insists on the way she can’t leave things unfinished. It can be as simple as the cap on a pen, and her world will cave if she cannot leave it the correct way. When we live life together, I make sure she can always put the cap on the pen. Maybe that’s why I get so many great hugs.

RJ. Oh RJ. This sassy girl struts her independence day in and day out. I swear if I could get into her mind for a second she would be laughing at all the little things people get worked up about. Small problems she would say, laugh it off. She shares my deep passion for books. RJ can’t verbally speak but she will read all day long. A book is always in her hand, and while pointing to the words and pictures she will hum or verbalize what’s going on. It’s kind of beautiful. But, I wish I could hold her lonliness. She is so afraid to let people near her and love her for who she is. I’ve been working with her for almost a year now and she’s slowly letting me in. Thankfully, we have another whole year together, and I hope we can both keep teaching eachother to trust safe people.

SB. This kid. I don’t even know where to start. Something about him lights up my whole world. When he says, “miss cole?” or while we are reading together if he doesn’t know a word, he will touch my hand and look up at my eyes for help. He’s so great at asking for help, I hope he can keep teaching me this piece of life. “Tie my shoes, PLEASE.” He’s an incredible artist. When we are walking down the hall together he will wrap his arm around my waist. But, I so badly wish I could hold the sensory overload that torments his every day, his every moment really. A sudden noise, lights too bright, his world crashes. He will either curl up in a ball and cry or become really physically aggressive towards me and then afterwards stroke my arm and say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Oh sweet boy, it’s okay. I wish I could hold a little more of that torment for you.

MG. This little nugget’s laugh will make you laugh regardless of how your day is going. He’s the sneakiest little guy and has an eye for exactly what he wants. Turns out he loves coffee, coffee and scissors. I get it. I started drinking coffee when I was quite young (way too young), snagging a sip here and there from my mom’s cup. I can’t think of one single day this little man has not gotten a sip of my morning coffee and oh, how proud he is. As he should be! Go and get what you want kiddo! What an example in life. If I could take one thing from MG, it would be his lack of communication. Despite our strongest efforts to give him more language, it’s a really big struggle in his daily life. I wish I could give you some of my words. I know you have so much more to say. I hear you though, MG, everyday.

LJ. My brilliant little boy. He can memorize anything you put in front of him. He could probably outscore me in a hot second on a test related to geography (or many other things). He has a deep sense of care for people around him that need a little extra help. He will offer his breakfast foods (that everyone is envious of) and grab a hand if one of the other students needs a little prompting to complete a task. He has so much care for others. He really wants to give them the opportunity to be their very best. There are two things I wish I could hold for LJ. Because of some pretty severe aggression, the medication he’s on to control it depresses his appetite and smile. I want to give him the best of both worlds! If only he could maintain a safe body and still love food. His smile is breathtaking. I wish he had the desire to share more of it.

If I could hold one thing sweet children, I would.

When Ordinary Becomes Extordinary

My journey to live, learn, and love alongside those with special needs..

I had the innocence of a child; small, quiet, and eager to watch the bright colors soar. I grabbed hold of my big sister’s hand and ran as fast as I could to a far and safe place. It was July 3, 1993; I waited all week for this day. We were finally sitting in a field so much bigger than me; it was all I could see. I rested my chin on my knees and watched my stepdad as he brought a match to the small tin box. All of a sudden I was screaming, I didn’t understand, the sweltering balls of fire were burning my legs; the fireworks never made it to the sky. A 1974 green Buick drove into the grass, my legs were being spit on, and everything went black as I was shoved into the car. Returning to the hotel, I stood in the shower and my raw legs swelled as the ice cold water fell on them. My mother cried. The hospital was white and unfamiliar, third degree burns the doctor told us, I would need months of physical therapy, I still didn’t understand.

My small body went through the process of mending torn skin and regaining the ability to walk. For more than 15 years, “when I grew up, I wanted to be a physical therapist.” Almost as quickly as the match hit the tin can, I tore through my final rejection letter to physical therapy school. I was left confused and frustrated, what now? I could not be more thankful for each and everyone of those rejection letters to physical therapy school. I started volunteering at a facility for down syndrome and the world didn’t make sense the way I thought it did for 15 years, concretely believing that because this single event happened to me, I would pursue to help later on the exact same way.

My heart began swarming with warmth, passion, and empathy. The beautiful children I was working with looked up with their big bright eyes, with what I could only interpret as, teach me. Teach me that you are a safe person, that you will love all of my parts, that we may fall, but it will fall together. Teach me that the way I see the world isn’t defeating, it’s conquoring. Remind me that even though some days are really hard, we are living, learning, and loving together. We are teaching the world how to spin to a different tune.

As I’m about to finish my second year teaching at a therapeutic school for children on the autism spectrum, as well as working with private clients with down syndrome my heart continues to swarm. At the end of most days, I am exhausted, but I have learned. And on my own really difficult days, I’ve been given tools to use that allow me to beat to different drum and still smile after a long uphill battle.

I yearn to continue learning from the little people I work with as well as become a bigger voice for their needs, share resources, and create a space to live and learn together.  Join me in this journey, it’s been a realm of beautiful chaos so far.

IMG_5040