61: How to Pick Your Battles | Lindsay Lapaquette

Mothers of Misfits Podcast Episode 61 - How to Pick Your Battles

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As the parent of a misfit, you’re on a the “frontlines” of advocating for your child. That can mean a lot of tough conversations. Lindsay Lapaquette, a mom of two kids with disabilities, shares how to pick our battles wisely and let go of the rest.

  • “My specialty as a speech therapist had been working with kids with profiles like my kids. And so I thought I knew it, you know, I thought I knew what these families went through and then gosh, I just got shivers while I said that because I started to realize, oh my goodness, I had no idea how hard this is.” – Lindsay Lapaquette
  • “I can see a big distinction between those who would try to understand what was going on before giving us their advice or suggestions, and those who didn’t really take that time.” – Lindsay Lapaquette
  • “Trust your gut, and find people who will listen to you because once they’ve explored things, then it’s easier to feel at ease with their conclusion.” – Lindsay Lapaquette
  • “Much better to dig and consider different options and come up with no issues than to not push for that process and regret it in fourth or fifth grade.” – Emily Melious
  • “One of the things I’ve had to learn is who to spend my energy advocating with, because there may be a piece of education that will change their future practices. Whether that impacts our lives today or not, that is important. And where I have zero hope of opening that door and it’s time for me to walk away and preserve my energy and maybe pursue that in a different way or choose to not.” – Lindsay Lapaquette
  • “For me it’s a lot about, is there any hope anything will change and if not, am I just spinning my wheels and my energy because I’m so frustrated at the lack of understanding of the reality of what we experience on a daily basis.” – Lindsay Lapaquette
  • 1:02 – Lindsay’s family
  • 2:22 – The challenge of raising a child with neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • 6:05 – Trusting your gut
  • 9:32 – Roadblocks to advocating for your child’s needs
  • 14:32 – What to do when people won’t listen
  • 19:41 – How to manage burn out
  • 24:29 – Get in touch with Lindsay
View Full Transcript

Mothers of Misfits: Welcome to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Join me for conversations about how to advocate for our kids in a one size fits all world. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode.

[00:00:17]Emily Melious: Welcome back to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. So glad to have you guys back here with us again today. We are talking with Lindsay Lapaquette. She’s a former speech language pathologist, and currently a workplace communication expert. She’s also a parent to two children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and mental health challenges. Lindsay, thank you for coming on.

[00:00:40]Lindsay Lapaquette: Thanks for having me, Emily. I’m really excited to talk to you.

[00:00:42]Emily Melious: Me too. Lindsay is a new friend of mine, but I instantly knew that she was going to be an amazing friend, and you are all going to find out what a spitfire Lindsay is and all the best of ways. So Lindsay, I cannot wait to share your story with the Mothers of Misfits moms.  So why don’t you start by telling us more about your family?

[00:01:06]Lindsay Lapaquette: Sure. We have two kids. Logan who is going on 11 very shortly, and Chloe who is nine and a half.   They both from a very young age were just having a tough time with life, I would say, right? Everything kind of bothered them. You know, noises and being out places and changes and, you know, from colicky baby to toddlers who had meltdowns about all those small things, you know, a drop of oatmeal on their face could just lead to a half hour, 45 minute meltdown. And I was working at the time as a speech language pathologist. My gut just kind of told me, huh, there’s something going on here. Why are they so upset all the time? And started pushing for services, which was a very, very uphill journey. Both were diagnosed with ADHD quite young. Three, three and a half for our son, maybe four, four and a half for our daughter, which, you know, I think in the U.S. but here in Canada too, is quite young.

[00:02:01]And then also went on, there’s other challenges around. There’s a psychiatric diagnosis of a mood disorder, coordination challenges, and so you know, one of those messy portraits of a whole bunch of things contributing to just some challenges they were experiencing along the way. And that was also leading to us as parents having a hard time in our parental journey.

[00:02:21]Emily Melious: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about that. You just mentioned the uphill battle. What are some of the specific challenges you’ve had parenting children with neurodevelopmental disabilities?

[00:02:31]Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah, there’ve been a lot, you know, and so my specialty as a speech therapist had been working with kids with profiles like my kids. And so I thought I knew it, you know, I thought I knew what these families went through and then, gosh, I just got shivers while I’d said that because I started to realize, oh my goodness, I had no idea how hard this is.

[00:02:53] And so on so many levels, on a level of, you know, bringing my concerns to medical professionals. And I was repeatedly told, oh you’re only worried because you’re a speech therapist. This is fine. You know, you’re probably just feeling anxious, all the kids develop at different rates and, you know, my gut kept telling me, yeah but I know the developmental milestones and I know they’re not meeting them so, anxiety or real data.

[00:03:20] And so that was a big hurdle, getting heard by professionals, but also being heard by fellow moms, right? Or friends who I found, I would share concerns and they were so often minimized, right? Well all kids have problems sleeping, you just need to be more strict. And I just really felt that people did not get what we were going through.

[00:03:41]Emily Melious: As you’re talking, it makes me think of my experiences with Mason, our oldest. Who is, I always say smart cookie, but he very early on, we knew was very smart and was outpacing his peers. And so when we confronted the school district and tried to be very proactive about making sure he was in the kinds of classes and learning the kinds of things that were appropriate to him, the response that I kept getting is, oh, all moms think their kids are brilliant, you know? Oh, of course, you’re a first time mom, oh of course you think your child’s a brainiac. Oh yeah, well okay just fine. And it was so frustrating to be dismissed. I would think you would have more credibility because of your professional background, but it seems like they, in some ways used it against you even more, which that’s just so frustrating.

[00:04:37]Lindsay Lapaquette: Well I mean, I think in some ways, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but they’ll pull out whatever they can to kind of shut down, you know, there’s a view of what, I don’t want to say normal, but you know, normal looks like. And their perception was that our kids were following the typical developmental expectations without digging, I would say, enough to really understand what was going on. And so I think they’d pull it what they could, right? So with me it was, well you’re a speech therapist, you’re overreacting. With another mom it would be, you think your kids are smart because you’re their mom. And I think at the core of it it’s that, and I don’t want to knock all professionals because we had some fantastic support through our journey, but I can see a big distinction between those who would try to understand what was going on before giving us their advice or suggestions, whatnot, and those who didn’t really take that time.

[00:05:33]And then I was left often questioning, well am I feeling too anxious about this? Like I would refer a client for this, but am I, am I overreacting? And so I have grown out of that, you know, kids are nine and 11 now and so I’ve been practicing this for years, but that early phase of, is it just me? Should I bring this up again? Like, that was a hard, hard time because, I was like,  do you trust your gut and keep arguing when you’ve been told so many times, or do you need to look at if your perception is the one that’s erroneous? And that was a hard time for me.

[00:06:05]Emily Melious: So what would you say to that mom out there that’s listening right now who’s in that headspace of, is it me? Can I really not see the situation objectively because it’s my own child, or do I just need to keep pushing until someone will listen? What would you advise them?

[00:06:23] Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you a few things. So one is that, so I graduated in 2002. I no longer practice as a speech therapist, but went to a conference very early on after graduation by, his name was Rosetti I can’t remember his first name. And he talked about how parents almost always know when there’s something up with their child. So I can’t remember the percentage exactly, because my memory is terrible and that was 20 some odd years ago, but it was something like 90, 95% of the time when a parent has a concern about their child they’re rights. And what he said was, they may not be right about the actual thing that is problematic. So a parent may consult with concerns around a child’s language development, and maybe their language development is on par, but maybe their social skills are really weak, and there’s something else going on with emotional regulation. And you know, so I really took that to heart as a professional to leave a lot of space to try to understand the parents’ concerns. And so my message always to moms is, you know your kid. You know yourself. And I’ve seen so, so many clients in my old career who would bring their kids in in grade four and grade five and say, you know what? I was worried when they were two, and everyone kept telling me, well he’s a boy. He’s the fourth child. He speaks two languages, all these reasons that are not reasons why a child should be delayed. And I listened to them and here I am in grade four and grade five, and my kid can’t read and they’re so far behind and their self-esteem is so affected. And it would break my heart thinking, how would this kid in this family’s life have evolved differently had they seen someone who listened to them enough to get to the bottom of what they were sharing. And, you know, there is that I guess five or 10% where the parent is wrong, but that’s a small percentage in the pie. So, yeah, my message is trust your gut, and find people who will listen to you because once they’ve explored things, then it’s easier to feel at ease with their conclusion. I find, you know, if there is nothing going on, then you can trust that if there’s been some listening and exploration of your concern.

[00:08:37] Emily Melious: Much better to dig and consider different options and come up with no issues than to not push for that process and regret it in fourth or fifth grade. You know, it’s good, like you said, just trust your gut and follow what you know to be right. And I believe that statistic wholeheartedly. Moms just know, it’s why we call it a maternal instinct because we’ve got it, and we just know it about our kids and, you’re so right about finding the people that will listen and that take us seriously, and are willing to go through the process of figuring out what’s going on, and just don’t let up until you find those people. We’ve had plenty of people who’ve come on about the same kind of struggles and getting to them, but they do, they get to those people and they are out there. And I know you found those people, so it’s just a matter of being persistent until you really do find them. Lindsay, what can get in the way of a parent’s ability to advocate for their child’s needs?

[00:09:38]Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah. So I think we have this bias in society around authority, and around certain professionals. Medical professionals, around the teaching profession, having this authority of knowledge, which they do have, they do have knowledge. However, it almost like automatically silences our voice, right? So I’ve heard so many people say, well I had these worries, but the doctor told me, but the teacher told me. And I’m not saying the teacher or the doctor’s perspective is not valid because it is, right? I think for this process to work, their perspective needs to be heard and understood as does ours. But I think noticing when these situations of somebody in a position of authority or sharing a different opinion and sometimes messaging it in a way to minimize your concerns, how that influences your ability to advocate. And so I still see this in myself. You know, we were in the ER recently with our son for some medical issues, which had been recurring, I will say. So, you know, multiple occurrences of the same thing. And one, I can’t remember if it was a nurse or a doctor, but anyhow one medical professional said to me, you know, kids get the flu, you don’t need to run to the ER every time your kid gets the flu. Which is really condescending, right? Because A, the symptoms weren’t just the flu. B, I have no history of running to the ER, like my kid is 11 and I’ve never been in the ER for flu before, they’ve gotten the flu before, right? There was nothing to indicate that that conclusion was in any way valid. And so I see in myself that when communication like that is used, I start to feel small. And noticing that helps me to better advocate and say, I do not run to the ER at every flu. I don’t feel you’re listening to my concerns right now, and I need you to do a full differential diagnosis here. So before I would notice that, I would silence my voice and get really frustrated and go home angry, that I hadn’t been heard. And so I think that can get in our way, right? Not noticing in the moment when somebody is saying something to us that makes us feel it. uncomfortable.

[00:12:01] Emily Melious: And you were respectful, but you were also honest, and you dealt with it in the moment. I’m curious, how did she respond to that? Was that something that turned around that engagement with her in the hospital in the process they were doing to treat your son?

[00:12:16] Lindsay Lapaquette: That’s a good question. So that was actually, it was a nurse friend who had coached me to say that. And actually at that same moment, another doctor came in and took over the case. So I don’t actually really know because sort of the moment where it happened, and I never really saw that professional again, it was ER, you know, you don’t see them back.

[00:12:35] And so, I think it can go both ways. I think it can make the other person upset and not invested. But then again, I think we have grounds to say, you know, I feel like this isn’t working well and I’d like to be transferred to someone else, or I think it can open up a dialogue. And I think what’s tricky is saying it in a way, you know, we tend to get confrontational, right? And I see it in myself around, you know, when it’s my kids’ health or my kids, I’m advocating for something they need in the school and I’m not being heard I get really frustrated. And one of the things I’ve had to learn is, notice when I’m becoming reactive, right? And when I’m starting to say, you know, instead of saying sort of calmly but pointedly or directly, instead saying, you know, you’re not listening to me right now, I told you my kid is sick. That kind of approach, although I understand where it comes from, isn’t terribly effective. And so noticing when we’re slipping into that, stepping back and trying to say, you know, expressing our frustration and anger, but in a way that can be heard better, I find more effective, though not always easy to access when there’s lots of stuff going on with your kids.

[00:13:46] Emily Melious: Yeah. Well, when you’re in that full on mama bear moment and emotions are running high, it’s very difficult to maintain that composure, because we care so much. Something that helps me is always thinking about I language versus you language. I’m sure you talk about this a lot in the work that you do, even in the workplace. But speaking to, you know, I feel this, or I see this, or I noticed this rather than the, you should, or you don’t, or you, you know, and that’s just always been a helpful construct for me in all relationships. And that tends to be better received than pointing out you language seems to be much more accusatory and can be much more difficult to have a productive conversation with that.

[00:14:29] Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:14:32] Emily Melious: So what do we do when people just won’t listen? You had an experience in a doctor’s office with your son’s service dog. You were not getting any kind of meaningful response from them, they just were not listening to what you were saying. So how do we get around that?

[00:14:49] Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah, so one of my big learnings I’d say through my journey with my kids has been getting better at distinguishing, with who, so I was gonna say my time is worth it and I don’t mean that in the sense of, you know, some people aren’t worth it, but it takes my energy to have to advocate for my kids. That is fatiguing to me, and I used to advocate to anyone, including people who didn’t want to listen to a thing, and found my energy depleting over time and hence my frustration increasing. And so one of the things I’ve had to learn is who to spend my energy advocating with, because there may be a piece of education that will change their future practices.

[00:15:29]Whether that impacts our lives today or not, that is important. And where do I have zero hope of opening that door and it’s time for me to walk away and preserve my energy and maybe pursue that in a different way or choose to not. And so in this one particular instance, it was actually a dentist specialized in children with disabilities and we have a service dog. Our son has a service dog, which legally in Canada is allowed in any public space with either the child or the parent. So we are legally allowed in even without our child. And so we had taken our son in, and had been told that the dog was not allowed in the waiting room.

[00:16:09] And, it was presented as, I think the first thing was in case other clients are allergic. And the case law in Canada is very clear that even in the situation of somebody having an allergy, the dog takes precedence, which I’m not sure I even agree, but that is the law. And there was nobody in the waiting room, so it was kind of a moot point. And so we had said, you know, allergies, there’s nobody here I don’t understand. Anyhow, the story kept changing, making it clear to us that it was excuses rather than real concerns, right? Because then it was concerns about with COVID it wasn’t safe and what if a child with autism comes in, et cetera. And so we kept trying to show them, you know, say, this is what the law says. I have something on my phone I can show you to read. There was no interest. They just kept saying, nope, this is not, no. And so there was really no openness to even considering what their legal responsibility was.

[00:17:04] And at one point we had said to them, listen, there were court rulings of companies refusing to let a service dog in Canada who are fined $8,000 after one instance. So our next steps are, if you continue to tell us we’re not allowed in, are to follow human rights complaints commission, and that is a possibility that you end up potentially with an $8,000 fine. And their answer to us was we’ll take our chances. And so, you know I realized, okay, this is not an open door. I’m not happy about it, but in the end we didn’t take the dog and that time we got our child’s teeth cleaned, you know, phoned back to discuss it further, the door was just as closed.

[00:17:42]And so you know, deciding that continuing to argue with the people we were speaking with was not a fruitful path. And in that situation, we’re choosing to file a complaint. To contrast, we had some issue getting into the local hospital a few days later with the dog, and it was hard to get through security, managed to get through security, and then triaged was asking us questions about what the diagnoses were to determine whether or not the dog was allowed in. And I had said to her, we don’t have to disclose that because the dog is allowed in no matter the diagnosis. Which in Canada, they are allowed to ask for, we don’t have to answer. I know in the States you’re not even allowed to ask. And she said to me, but I don’t understand, you’re going to have to tell the doctor the diagnosis anyhow. And my answer to her was, it’s an accessibility issue, and I want to educate that I do not have to answer that to get in here. And so with her, I stayed and I engaged in a dialogue quite a bit.

[00:18:36] She wasn’t happy, but she was listening and open to hearing me out, that felt worth my time more. I did pursue a complaint with the ombudsman because I wasn’t sure practices would change. But so I guess it’s, you know, again, just how much energy are you going to put into that conversation? For me it’s a lot about, is there any hope anything will change and if not, am I just spinning my wheels and my energy because I’m so frustrated at the lack of understanding of the reality of what we experience on a daily basis.

[00:19:08] Emily Melious: Yeah I appreciate that because we all have limited mental energy and we all must make choices about where we spend it. And if we don’t choose wisely we exhaust it and then we don’t have the energy left for our kids and for our family. But that’s exhausting, and I really feel for you because these aren’t just any public institutions. I mean, these were medical facilities, which you would think would be the most knowledgeable about the policies and procedures around these issues. And I just, I take a deep breath for you because it is exhausting. And speaking of, I mean, everybody listening just, I mean motherhood in general is exhausting, but then taking care of kids with extra needs takes so much energy. I mean, every time you go out in public you have to prepare yourself for the legal conversation. How do you manage to maintain and keep it all going without burning out?

[00:20:09]Lindsay Lapaquette: Yeah, I had to make a shift in my life a while back to, you know, putting my well-being, my energy management, kind of at the forefront of everything. And I remember so clearly, our son had just finished an assessment at around three and a half, and a psychologist that had seen, you know, assessed him pulled me aside and said to me, of all the things you’re spending money on for therapy, you need to shift some of that to get respite for you and your husband. You need to be focusing on yourselves as equally much as you are focusing on supporting your children. And that, you know, I walked away thinking, gosh, what is she seeing that brought her to say that, right? Okay, this is a big deal, and realizing the impact of the struggles. And I would say that, I think at the time I saw all of it as the kids’ needs. And in hindsight, I think it was a mix of the kids’ needs with my experience of grief around what it was like to parent kids with needs, the loss of connection with so many people, right? The loss of friendships that came from, you know, me deciding to speak up and speak my truth and share when it bothered me when people were saying things that were minimizing or unsupportive. And that led to lots of loss of friendship.

[00:21:36] And so it was that whole process and it wasn’t just the kids’ needs. It was this combination of my, and I would say my husband’s, yeah, process of sort of getting to accepting that this is what we’re dealing with. And so in terms of burnout, it came to realizing that it takes me more energy to pretend that things are the way that people need them to be to be okay with us being around them, you know? And so the autism community talks of the notion of masking, right? So wearing a mask so you can fit in socially. So I think back to when they were young, and I would be so stressed out going to a restaurant about whether they were sitting down and so on edge about people’s looks towards us, and you know, really trying to control the kids into good behavior, quote unquote.

[00:22:26] And the weight of that was so much bigger than starting to say to my friends, you know, going to that setting that really doesn’t work for us. Our kids don’t function well in that setting, our family doesn’t function well in that setting. I don’t want to participate in those activities anymore. Here are the types of things we can do with you. And starting to accept that those who absolutely had a vision of us being friends, being dependent on doing certain things that didn’t work for our family, that I needed to let that go.

[00:22:58] And so sort of looking at, again, where was my energy being taken? Where was it being renewed? How could I get more of the renewing things in my life? How could I cut ties and let go of the things that were taking my energy? And sort of making better choices of who I surrounded myself with so that my energy wasn’t dissipating as much. And that I had people to help lift me up through the hard times. People that got the reality of, our daughter right now is, God help her, she’s up till like 5:00 AM some days. She’s nine, nine and a half and right now sleep is horrific. You know, being around people who aren’t going to shame me for having a child who’s not sleeping and telling me I’m a bad parent because my child isn’t sleeping, but rather be able to empathize how that’s hard and how it affects our family’s functioning, that really has been a huge, huge factor in, I think being able to continue managing it with some semblance of ongoing energy.

[00:23:54] Emily Melious: Clarifying where your energy is being taken and where your energy is being renewed. That is powerful, that’s something we can all do. And I love that, that differentiation and not settling, not settling for where you spend your time or settling for meeting the outside expectations of the world that you don’t always fit in, which is Mothers of Misfits, right? Advocating for our kids in a one size fits all world. Lindsay, this is so amazing. I admire your bravery and that you take a stand and have so encouraged all of us today. If folks want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

[00:24:32]Lindsay Lapaquette: So when you talked about what brings you energy and what doesn’t, for me one of the big signs of where my energy is not quite where it needs to be is when I start to get crankier in my communication. And so I work a lot with leaders who want to notice that and improve their communication. So, you can check that out at LindsayLapaquette.com. I will also share that I have a little mini video course at LindsayLapaquette.com/conflict, if anyone’s interested in taking a peek at that.

[00:24:58]Emily Melious: Absolutely. And as somebody who works in a similar field, all of those concepts are transferrable. As long as human beings are around, good communication matters and all the principles are the same. So if you’re listening and you’re in a business and, you know, you’re really interested in those concepts for your professional life, I know it’s going to be amazing, but even if that doesn’t pertain to you, those concepts are going to be great even for your family life. You know, we get cranky and communicate poorly when we’re in our families. And good communication is good communication, no matter what the context. So I hope everybody takes you up on that offer and Lindsay, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you again for giving us a little bit more bravery in our own interactions and encouraging us to think very intentionally about where we spend our time and where we don’t.

[00:25:46]Lindsay Lapaquette: Well, thanks for having me. I really appreciate this chance to get to chat with you, Emily.

[00:25:50]Mothers of Misfits: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Make sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. We also invite you to visit us at MothersOfMisfits.com.



Emily Melious

Emily Melious

Talent Management Consultant | Career Coach | Podcast Host

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Mom | Trainer & Leadership Coach | Host of The Workplace Communication Podcast


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