Making an "impact"

Cathy Blatnik


I had someone very close to me ask me this question many years ago, "why do you stay in touch with so many of Dominic's old teachers, therapists, social workers, etc.?" The reason is actually quite simple, every single person that Dominic has met, whether they realize it or not, has made an impact on him.

I have said this before and I'll say it again. When you become a parent of a special needs child, it's not like someone hands you a manual and says, "here you go, this has everything you will ever need to know about school, toilet training, puberty, etc.!" It would be great if there was, but unfortunately that's not the way life works. People will make comments and judge knowing absolutely nothing about you, your family or your circumstances. You may lose the friendships of other special needs parents along the way because you don't agree with the treatments they give their children (I have). You will learn to become a HUGE advocate for your child.

I had a special needs dad tell me over the weekend at an autism event I was helping to host, that he knows a family with a 10-year old son with severe, non-verbal autism. The parents have "given up" on their son. They have no expectations at all for him. I do not know the family personally, so I am in absolutely no position to judge why. I just found it incredibly sad. I hope at some point in their son's future, they change their mind. It can be quite lonely, overwhelming and isolating sometimes on this special needs journey.

When we were trying to get Dominic potty-trained there were MANY times I wanted to give up. I knew in the long run it was to Dominic's benefit to be able to use the toilet independently, but oh my, it was SO frustrating!!! He had a teacher (when he was about nine) that would not let me give up and thank goodness he did eventually get potty trained! That teacher had a gigantic impact on our whole family.

When we at the beginning of this journey with Dominic, he had a social worker that told me that Dominic during the day at school would recite/script parts of "Barney" videos and other movies or television shows that he had watched. It's Dominic's way of "stimming." It calms him when he is under or over stimulated. His social worker would tell him "stop the movie in your head!" I tell Dominic that when I feel he's spending just a little too much time in his own "world." Again, her words had such an impact on me, that I have used her phrase ever since and probably always will! I could fill up an entire sheet of paper front and back and still not be able to thank every single person that has impacted Dominic's life.

Growing up, I was so shy - my second grade teacher even wrote on my report card - "something is wrong with Cathy, she never talks." I almost flunked out of Speech class in college because I was terrified of doing an "extemporaneous" speech! That is certainly not the case now - in the past six months or so, I have been given opportunities to do television interviews. I have stepped out of my "comfort zone" and done them. I am so passionate about helping those "differently-abled" and I feel it is incredibly important to speak for those that cannot speak for themselves. I hope in some small way I've made an "impact" in someone else's life.


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