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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Sara Greenberg-Hoye

Celebrating every day as an advocate for her son

Parents know their kids. While always attuned to each child's special qualities, they're also intuitively aware of how their children stand facing the world around them. They're protective and ready to rise up as advocates when needed.

For Sara Greenberg-Hoye, her first two children, both in college now, were easy, typical even. But Harry, now 9, posed different challenges in the ways he'd react not only to her parenting but to everything around him. Something about him was different.

When Harry was young, Greenberg-Hoye was director of development at Care Net Pregnancy Center of the Hudson Valley. She had gone through his first years as a single mom, then remarried into a family that, with her own children, numbered seven kids.

Diagnosis was a relief and a grief

"I kept trying to put my finger on what was different," she says now, looking back at her attempts to get help from the schools her son was
attending. "It was very frustrating. Then I got a specialist's diagnosis."

Harry was found to be on the autism spectrum.

"Getting a diagnosis was both a relief and a grief," Greenberg-Hoye recalls. "I realized I had to become his best advocate but didn't know anyone with experience to guide me."

She saw that her son was highfunctioning and he was simply wired differently. Greenberg-Hoye decided to leave her job and spend the next year researching Asperger's while working with Harry in private therapy and social skills groups.

She worked to get Harry a precise Independent Education Plan (IEP) and she did all she could to help him with social skills, reading nonverbal cues and interpreting his actions for others not used to non-typical children.

"It was like learning a new language," she says, speaking about the new levels of sensitivity she had to train herself in. It shifted the ways in which she saw so much of the world around her. "You start noticing a depth to people you didn't before."

READ MORE: Raising a special son

Nurturing her son’s passions
Along the way, Harry discovered baseball as a passion and a focus. And Greenberg-Hoye discovered new work as director of development for Dutchess County-based Greystone Programs, Inc., dedicated to supporting children, adults and families living with autism and other developmental disabilities.

"Harry watches baseball, loves the statistics and plays really well," Greenberg-Hoye says of her son. "He's small but has a mean arm. We went with it, driving him everywhere for the travel teams he plays with, getting him a pitch-back for the back yard, enlisting a private trainer and even taking him to spring training last year to see the Yankees and the Mets. Baseball is like therapy for Harry."

As for Greystone, "it was a perfect match,"  she says. "I lived the mission at work, I live the mission at home."

Trusting her Mom-meter
Over time, she says, she's helped people move beyond seeing Harry's actions as being those of a a child who is acting out, and learned how not to be one of those people who drops their kids places, expecting others to fix him. She's grown to trust her inner "mom-meter" even more than she had raising her older son and daughter.

She's come to understand that therapy isn't about fixing someone, but giving them the tools to cope with life.

In her job at Greystone, Greenberg-Hoye adds, she's learned a lot about how to help others searching for answers.

READ MORE: What to know about early intervention

We aren’t (and shouldn’t be) cookie-cutter

 "I've learned how to adjust the ways in which I respond to things - to measure each word. You can't take anything for granted," she says.

She pauses, then tells a story from the holidays. She and her husband didn't get to bed from "binge-wrapping" until 2am, only to be woken by Harry a few hours later. They told him he could go out and look at the presents and when they later woke up at dawn, everyone found that the boy had neatly arranged everything by color. Greenberg-Hoye likened the scene to Buddy's enthusiastic decorations from the movie, Elf.

"It's all quite intense, but wonderful. We celebrate every day," she says of life with Harry. "We've learned how we're not all cookie-cutter. But also how presumptuous it is to assume that we should be."

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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