Meet Suzy Schettler.
Last month we learned of Suzy's early life, her marriage, and her birth of her two children. Her elder one had problems at school because the school was unable to provide for the needs of someone so bright. The younger one showed signs of following in his footsteps.
Suzy faced a challenge when she was advised to home school the pair of them, one that would daunt any parent. How will it work out?
Thank you for joining us again, Suzy!
We just wanted our son to be happy and healthy and just saw it as a special needs thing where we strived to find the right balance for him academically and emotionally. He was extremely extroverted and liked to be around others, so it was tough to pull him out of school, especially as we didn't have a lot of resources financially, and home schooling was rare in our area except for religious reasons. Our younger son had just entered school part time that year in junior kindergarten, and his teacher told us to pull him out as well. He had begun to wet the bed on nights he had school, and the colourful paintings he used to like to paint were suddenly all black. So we decided to home school.
It actually ended up being an amazing experience for our family. My husband and I both love learning, so we all learned together and we made sure to get the kids out into as many activities as possible, to socialize them as much as possible, and to give them a chance to socialize with other kids...from art and drama to karate, chess, swimming, and sports.
Eventually my husband was transferred to a small city 2 hours east of Toronto, so we moved to a new district. Although the city was really small, it would mean he would be close to home and not commuting, which was awesome, but I found it kind of a culture shock after having grown up in Toronto. But the new school district Head of Special Ed. reached out and had a meeting with our oldest son and invited him to be part of a special program at the nearby university law school, which he loved. He had been thinking about going back to public school now that he was older (girls and sports being the main draws).
The district suggested three grade skips and we finally agreed on two – so he wasn't so far apart in age, and could still play sports and take part in other social activities. We put our younger son into middle school at the regular age-grade level because we were uncertain how he would deal with school having only been in the system for junior kindergarten. The principal skipped him a grade ahead within two weeks and he was skipped another grade the following year. So both started high school two years younger than their classmates, but they adapted well.
Their school was a magnet school for the Arts and affiliated with the National Ballet School of Canada, so a lot of their classmates were dancers, singers, artists and actors, which was wonderful. They both did a lot of volunteer work on the stage crew learning how to work lights and sound and how to build sets, as well as becoming heavily involved in sports. My youngest joined the senior basketball team in his first year, and basketball became his passion for years. He ended up being 6'5" by the time he finished high school so it worked out well.
So essentially the kids and their needs kept me on my toes for most of their younger years dealing with trying to figure out the best accommodations to fit their academic, social, and emotional needs. There wasn't a lot of time or money leftover for much else. Having become immersed in the world of gifted kids, my natural inclination was to learn all I could through research. I got involved in various gifted kid organizations, setting up meetings between kids of similar ages. I aided other families to find help for their kids, and listened to their struggles on the phone, pointing them to resources that would help. I also did my best to educate and advocate for gifted kids so people might better understand their needs.
I continued to write articles for various publications and eventually I began writing a regular column reviewing books for gifted children in a publication that focused on the highly gifted level. I began to learn about politics, something I had always avoided, and eventually began to take a big interest in American politics because of the Daily Show. That continues to be a hobby for me today. And I've become much more aware and interested in Canadian politics, wanting to understand them better as well. It's been an eye opener.
I spent a lot of my childhood being silenced and told not to let anyone know about the abuse I endured and not to make waves. When I got on Facebook years later, I finally started writing more about myself and my own past. I no longer wanted to remain silent and felt that talking about my own abuse might help others, and I joined various survivor groups online and was often motivated to write about injustices and abuse. It was a healthy outlet for the anger I had...and I had a lot of anger to work through. I had suppressed a lot of my feelings to get through the years, but having my own kids really brought a lot of stuff back up and made me face a lot of feelings I had about it, especially the sexual abuse I had suffered as a child.
As more memories and feelings began to surface in intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and deep depression, I found I was really spiralling downwards. I had gotten to a point of being suicidal and sitting in dark closets crying. A mental breakdown really, and I knew I needed help. I had been nervous of any meds because of my mother's addiction, but things were so bad I knew I had to try them. I talked to my doctor and tried counselling and some antidepressants. They literally saved my life. They helped calm the anger and hurt enough that I could function again.
The only downside was that whenever I went on any type of meds I would immediately put on 20-40 lbs. After being super thin my entire life, it was a huge shock to suddenly have my metabolism change so completely, and the sudden weight gain was like watching a balloon being blown up. It happened so fast that I had to wear my husband's clothing because nothing I had fit. I'm still struggling with too much weight, but I don't regret the meds. I repeat: they saved my life.
Both or our sons graduated from high school as Ontario Scholars (averages over 80%) and were accepted everywhere they applied. There were a lot of ups and down in spite of that. My oldest didn't know what he wanted to do with his life, and he was feeling a lot of pressure. Plus he began to get sick with a lot of strange, seemingly unrelated symptoms. It went on for years and he kept getting worse. He got dizzy and blacked out driving home one night and drove off the highway, ending up upside down in a ditch, lucky to be alive.
He was sent to specialists and more tests were run. He was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare genetic condition that affects the connective tissue/collagen in the body. The symptoms are varied because it's everywhere: connective tissues provide support in skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, internal organs and bones, and so symptoms can be as diverse as constant joint dislocations to vision and dental issues, to gastrointestinal problems and more. It can even affect the heart.
He was especially unfortunate in that, in his case, the EDS showed up as severe musculoskeletal pain, along with occasional vision, digestive, and stability issues. The specialist said he might be in a wheelchair by the time he's forty, but for now he does the best he can to stay active. He had to drop out of university because he just could not handle sitting in classes for hours, and he was dealing with a lot of depression. The one positive in his life was music.
He played guitar and bass in a number of bands, and loved punk bands the best. He had a lot of anger within him as well, and punk music helped him release it. Plus he made amazing and loyal friends and my husband and I were blown away when, at his wedding, so many of his friends made a point to come up and tell us how much he meant to them in their lives, and what an amazing friend he was. He quit his last band when the pandemic shut all the live gigs down, and being a father began to take up all his time. He currently works from home doing various temp work and plans to home school the kids if he can manage it. My daughter-in-law works as a registered nurse in a long-term care facility, but is currently on maternity leave with their daughter.
After his diagnosis, we were advised to get tested, and I was diagnosed with hypermobility EDS. My younger son as well, which explained all his severe sports injuries. We both have trouble with dislocation and loose joints, etc., but don't have the same chronic severe pain issues my oldest has.
My younger son struggled to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He has a biology degree, a mechanical engineering degree, and taught himself computer programming and machine learning engineering on the side – and loved it. He currently works as a machine-learning engineer and has found his passion. His wife is a professional artist and she sells her paintings and prints at her shop Coastal Ink Studios, and through various shows.
My husband worked for over three decades as a senior research scientist for a large corporation, and retired when the pandemic hit. I'm so glad he did because it's been great. We love doing things together like going hunting for books in thrift stores and having fun with our grandkids, whom we look after a few times a week to give our son anddaughter-in-law a break. We are both in our early sixties now and looking forward to doing more travelling. We currently have five cats. We had three dachshunds at one point, but the last two passed away during the pandemic and we've put off getting another pup for now until things calm down a bit more. I always had dachshunds growing up, and my younger son and his wife have one as well.
I like quilting, cooking, history, and was an avid stamp collector in the past. I love earth sciences, mountains, caves, archaeology and anthropology. And I have always been fascinated by true crime. I think if forensic science had been a thing when I went to uni, that would definitely have been the field I would have gone into, or at least forensic psychology and profiling. I've always been interested in outliers, cults, killers, and what makes people do what they do. I find people and their motivations endlessly fascinating.