The Words That Almost Take My Life
January 26, 2017
Remembering Stuart McLean
March 3, 2017


There are 3 things that I feel helped Corbin and our family the most when he was in early years of elementary school. One was Camp Winston ; then there was Occupational Therapy and then respite. According to the Family Respite Services website

We are a Windsor-Essex community organization that works with families caring for children under the age of eighteen who have intellectual, physical and mental health disabilities. We facilitate the provision of respite services that contribute to:

  • The sustaining and enriching of a family’s quality of life.
  • Seek the fullest participation of the child in the community.

We have always felt it important that respite be viewed more as a way of connecting   Corbin to his community than a break for us. While needing a break was very real we also stressed to workers that Corbin also needed a break from his family. No kid should spend 24/7 with their parents.

I believe respite started around his 7th birthday. When we didn’t qualify for any other programs, Family Respite Services stepped in with some mental health dollars and we had a couple of hours per week when he did something fun with his worker.We had a wonderful coordinator, Jane, who stayed with us for over 10 years. She was always working to make sure Corbin had a good match in his worker and she was there for me when for so many years we could not figure out Corbin’s diagnosis thus we couldn’t get appropriate services. I can’t count the amount of times I sobbed over the phone and guiltily shared that I didn’t know how much longer our family could go on without the right help. There was nothing she could do to help us – but she listened and I will always be grateful for her in our lives.

Over the years we had several respite workers, all who were amazing in their own way. The following are just a few of them. Sarah was known for playing Playmobil with him – they would spend hours together just setting the scene for a war or storming the castle. This time with Corbin was so important for him because he was struggling so much at school and he had difficulty knowing how to play with toys. 2008-04-23-180132

Becky was great for taking Corbin out and doing activities in the community or visiting her cat. Even after she moved on she stepped in and helped us out when Corbin was going through his mental health crisis.


Michelle came along just in time for Corbin’s greatest struggles. She endured rages and a complete inability to function out in the world. She was so calm no matter what was thrown at her (figuratively and literally) and I often wondered what kept bringing her back when things were so bleak.


All of these ladies saved my sanity again and again. During their time with Corbin I could spend more time with my younger son Jeremy, run errands or hide in my room with a coffee and a good book. Sometimes we were able to arrange for care for our younger son and my husband and I would take the Respite time to go out for coffee and visit the bookstore. One glorious time we even went to see a movie.

It’s hard trying to convey how much respite helped our family. Without the reprieve and without the opportunities for Corbin to socialize and be successful we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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