Month: March 2015

Meeko, Meeko’s Sister and Meeko’s Mom-Imaginary Friends and How They Help Exceptional Children and Exceptional Moms

Michael started out with one imaginary friend, Meeko, the racoon from the Poccohontas movies. Yes, he LOVES Poccohontas. It is now his second favorite film, having been replaced by “Frozen” and his love of that film and its characters. Though he likes Frozen more now as a movie, his imaginary friends are still the characters from his beloved Poccohontas. I know that children on the spectrum have challenges with their imagination, so I figured this is why it was easier for Michael to choose an ‘imaginary’ friend who was not too abstract, and was in existence, at least on the big screen. Still, the conversations they have are very real. Michael will play games with Meeko, we’ve baked real brownies and muffins for him for his birthday parties, and apparently the other day, Meeko’s Mom, aptly named Mrs. Meeko, came over to our house after school to show me how to do another massage to help Michael deal with his anxiety. And she was very nice 🙂 On Saturday, Meeko’s sister, aptly named Meeko’s sister, also came to visit and play with the boys, er, I mean boy and male racoon. Michael is learning many things and building some play skills with these friends. I hear the dialogue flowing back and forth between them. I may have a budding writer in the family!

Michael has brought me back to my childhood, when I was a little girl of four and five years old, and had my own imaginary friend named Mary. Exceptional Children start later and have imaginary friends for longer periods of time, I’ve been told. Mary was my playmate when my brother was too young to play with me. She got me through many lonely moments, we laughed and joked together, and then one day she was gone. I know that having that friend helped me enormously with my social development. It ripened my imagination, and paved the way for me making friends in school. Most importantly, like with Michael, it helped me deal with stress and anxiety, all important for leading a happy and productive life.

I really believe that encouraging our Exceptional Children to find any tools they can use to help them navigate society, can be useful for them and for the whole family. Exceptional Moms have to be detectives alongside their children, see what their interests are, and encourage their children, so that they can learn from their play and grow as people. And Exceptional Moms, you also have to be aware of what tools you used as a child in stressful circumstances. Why not try and see if they can work for your child? The fun is in trying, for sure.  You and your child will be playing together. Until next time.

“I’m Having Pizza for Supper! YEAHHH!”- Exceptional (And All Children’s) Joy And Appreciation Of The Little Things

Happy parents and children eating pizza and fries at home - stock ...

After a good day at school and daycare, on Friday night I delivered the best possible news to Michael.

“Michael, guess what we’re having for supper tonight?” I paused a fraction of a second. “Pizza!” And I waited for his response.

“What Mommy? Pizza! Oh wow! Yeahh! I’m so happy! Let’s conga!”

And we proceeded to do a conga singing at the top of our lungs, “Dooo, dooo, conga!” We did this over and over until we reached Michael’s bedroom. This is Johnny’s happy song. Michael would watch Johnny be silly and do this when he had a good day, and Michael would grin along with me. Then he broke into singing one of my favorite songs when we got to his room.

“Ohhh, freak out!”

And he proceeded to sing “Le Freak,” that seventies’ song that was redone in the eighties, and many other times since then, I’m sure. I was doing the “Conga” and “Le Freak” with him laughing all the way. What a joy! This is what it means to being happy with the little things. Pizza for supper, watching a movie, having a friend over. These are things he treasures, that light up his little face. He doesn’t need fancy, expensive things to be happy. Good lesson for Mom. 🙂

When was the last time I had been as happy as I had been with Michael on Friday night? Fortunately, many recent nights came back to me. A lovely lunch I had with two dear friends last week, a writer’s workshop I attend weekly, and a Ladies Night last month with old school friends where I laughed so hard at a joke that I started crying, tears streaming down my face. Therapeutic, fun, and something I can do, any of us can do.

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What simple things and moments in your life have made you happy, exceptional Moms? I know you’ll probably think of many now. And if you can’t, think of the last time you were close to feeling happy, at peace, and joyful. Maybe you need to take a drive or walk to a wilderness area or park. Maybe curl up with a book or a notebook if you write, sketch or paint. What about meditating or exercising to your favorite soundtrack? Whatever you choose, make sure it captures the joy, the happiness of living in the moment. Children, especially exceptional children, tend to do this effortlessly. You’ll remind yourself of what is really important in the journey of life. Until next time.

Writer’s Workshop

“Mommy, I love daycare and my new friends!”- The Importance of Friendship For Wholeness

Michael’s reaction to attending “daycare” the after-school program at a school up the street from us, has been a bit up and down, at least with me. At school, my child apparently happily proclaims, “My Mommy packed me this for daycare. I’m going to daycare today.” With me though, he will sometimes protest why he has to go. He always had fun, and I knew it was only a matter of him getting used to it and making friends. Two young boys from our church who go there have helped, and now he has met a young lady working with his aide who has befriended him. That seems to have sealed the deal, as they say. Not only have the behaviors stopped when I pick him up from daycare, but last night he told me how much he loves daycare. And for summer camp? He actually is excited about potentially going to a local camp for 2 weeks after his adapted camp finishes, where he would be integrated with a shadow! This is music to my ears. Now, it’s just a matter of finalizing things. Fingers crossed or the last weeks of summer vacation will be REALLY LONG. 🙂 But I digress.

Don’t we all need friendship to make us feel whole ladies? Don’t we all crave belonging to a group, to an organization, knowing that we are part of something that is bigger than us? I sure do. Though I am more of an introvert in many ways and solitary (us writers are like that), there is another side of me. It is a side that wants to connect, wants to reach out and help those around me. I always had a bit of this in me. Many moons ago when I was working full time in an office, I would go out evenings to the gym, three writers’ groups and meet up with my girlfriends. I wondered if it was because I hated my job, and this was my escape, temporary, from my mundane boring life, this needing to go out at night. Sigh. Yes, my life was simple and boring in those days. I don’t miss the misery, but sometimes I miss the simplicity of it all. 🙂 I see now that the desire to connect to others was always there. After becoming a new mother and adjusting to it, the desire came back. But, as I mentioned in another blog, I couldn’t find my community. Most Moms had gone back to work and I was a stay-at-home Mom by choice then, so was lonely and lost. Then autism hit. And socializing went out the window. But slowly, slowly, I found my community, the Special Needs Community, that not only helped  me and my family feel confident again, but provided us with support, friendship and helped us feel part of the bigger whole, the purpose of life which I believe is connection, helping others and doing our vocation. This is what we are all here on this earth for.

How many times have you exceptional Moms found yourselves wanting to reach out to other Moms but made excuses for whatever reason? I’m sure, though our children have social challenges, they all want to be accepted for who they are, and want and need friendships in their lives. Michael has once again reminded me of how important those connections are to happiness. Don’t be afraid to take those risks. You won’t regret how good you’ll feel as a woman, as a Mom and as a person. Until next time.

Vision Boards and Finding Our Unique Direction in the Universe: Adapted Visuals/Pictos for the Exceptional Moms!

Yesterday I held a small workshop in my home with some wonderful exceptional mom friends from my support group. This was our first gathering, I hope the first of many, and we met to build Vision Boards together. Some of the Moms couldn’t make it, so I”ll definitively be doing a second Vision Board workshop next month. I first found out about Vision Boards about two or three months ago, when stumbling upon it on a website that talked about finding your true purpose in the world. I also read about it in one of Jack Cansfield’s books, “How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want To  Be,” which motivated me originally to get started on my journey of self-discovery. Shortly afterwards, I built my first Vision Board with two friends, and I have seen many of the things on my board begin to unfold in my life in the last three months. I can therefore attest to its validity, and to the fact that if you pick pictures that represent what you want out of life and where you want to go, it will begin to manifest itself in your daily life.

It also struck me yesterday morning as we were all chatting and cutting out pictures from magazines, that this is not unlike what our exceptional children use and need to find their place in the world. Michael uses visuals and pictos to orient himself and see what’s happening next in the universe for him. More common ground that we Moms have with our exceptional children than ever before! And, as Moms to children who think and feel the world in a different and unique way, we can really begin to understand how piecing our dreams together, having them there on paper, can make a difference in having the confidence to go after what we need to do to make our dreams happen!

Looking at my Vision Board nightly or daily (I have experimented with both), is  helping cement those images of a life of adventure, beauty, and passion for a career that fulfills and completes me, as well as helps me gives back to the world that has given me so much. I meditate on those images sometimes as well, and I ask God, the Universe, to give me strength to overcome my weaknesses, and help me continue to manifest the beauty that my subconscious helped me place on my board. Again, trusting our instincts as exceptional Moms, will help us build on our present for a better and more whole future for ourselves. Until next time.

Curiosity And Learning: How Our Exceptional Children Remind Us To Venture Into The Unknown

I caught myself the other day going down one of the main boulevards near my house and planning out my route, and I mean my exact route, just as Michael, my exceptional son with autism, would do. The first question out of his mouth when he gets off the bus is:

“Mommy, how was your day? What did you do?”

Sweet, I know. And then comes the inevitable, “How did you get there? What streets did you take?”

So it’s no wonder I’ve started paying attention to directions! And though he can become, shall we say, obsessed by directions, he is learning how to navigate, how to find his way in the world with his sense of direction. And you know what ladies? He is showing me to do the same! The woman who has no sense of direction (ask anyone who knows me), I am now consciously and unconsciously asking myself how to get places, noticing landmarks, and even when I get lost (yes, still happens unless I have my GPS. Heck, I finally had the courage to get one!), I am less afraid to take chances, venture into the unknown, and take a risk. I always find my way home again, even if it takes me three hours. (just kidding) 🙂  Even with me, I swear.
I’m sure all of you Exceptional Moms out there learn millions of things everyday from your Exceptional Children, and I don’t mean the things society says they can’t do. I mean the things society doesn’t always see that they can do. These are the things they were put here on this earth to show us, their Exceptional Moms, and the rest of the world too. Things like Michael showing me to live life more in the moment, take risks, ask questions about directions over and over till I get it right, and not caring what others think. Michael is genuine, and not afraid to be Michael, and now I, Joanne, am not afraid to be Joanne anymore.

So how about you Moms? What have you been putting off learning, exploring, pushing toward? Let your Exceptional Children be your guides to finding out your inner and outer strengths. They are your guides as much as you are theirs. And when you explore new directions you can’t help but growing as a person.  Until next time.

“I Don’t Want To Listen To You”- Asserting Our Individuality While Learning to Follow Rules and Live In the Now

“I don’t want to listen to you Mommy.” This is the refrain I’m being greeted with more and more these days, along with “I don’t  want to work. I want to play.” Who doesn’t kid, I want to say. Instead, I tell him that there are things we all have to do, must do, rules we need to follow from teachers, parents, bosses. He always laughs when I give the scenario of Daddy or Mommy not listening to their boss, and would their bosses be happy, yet it is hard for him to follow what we tell him to do these days. No, not hard, seemingly impossible. He is pushing the limits of what he can get away with. He is also verbalizing more his disapproval if we don’t do things his way, which to Michael, is the right way.

Don’t we all have moments like that Moms? Don’t we all want things to go a “certain way” with our lives? We need to have this type of house, this much money, our kid to behave this way or achieve this. It can be downright frustrating when we have a view of the world as our ideal, and it doesn’t meet our requirements. We get stressed, frustrated, become unhappy with the people and things around us. I can understand when Michael feels this way. And sometimes when he is disobeying me, I get frustrated on the inside too. How dare he not listen to what I say! How dare he change my view of him as an obedient child who falls into step beside me! Then another part of me wants to rebel with him and say, fine, you go your way and I’ll go mine. But of course, I don’t do that. I can’t. We all have to follow rules, structure with some deviance from time to time. If we don’t do that, our world would cease to function properly. There would be chaos and no one would win.

Today, I challenge all of you ladies out there to let go of your expectations of how things “should” be, and from lives that have to unfold ideally and perfectly in tune. It doesn’t exist, whether your child is exceptional or not. I’ve learned the hard way, that the more I try and control everything, the more it falls out of my control. Yes, there are rules to follow, for me, for Michael, for all of us. But I am also learning to adapt better to my environment, to my child, and to my frustrations with said child and myself when I react less than favorably. After all, I am on a learning curve with Michael, figuring out how to navigate my life in easy, moderate and rough waters at times.

Living life moment to moment, learning from past mistakes, and being gentle with yourself along the way, is the only way I’ve found to strike that perfect balance between structure and asserting yourself. And if you’re lucky, you”ll see the signs the universe is sending that you’re on the right path. These are in the form of good health, good friends, and other types of blessings. Good luck on your journey. Until next time .

The Benefits of Staying Home, Resting, and Cleaning the Clutter In Your Life and Mind

Yesterday was supposed to be a very different kind of day than it was, a different kind of busy day. As Moms, I’m sure like me, you plan ahead for things, especially things concerning your children, especially things that concern your exceptional children. I was going to attend a conference that focused on helping kids with autism. I attended it last year, and learned some really interesting things, saw some familiar faces, and made some new friends. But I woke up yesterday morning, and my body was sending me a very different message. The message was “Skip the conference. You’re tired and need to rest. There will be other conferences, events.” I’d been fighting the feeling of exhaustion on every level for the past two weeks. Even my yoga and meditation were only temporary energy lifters, and all the coffee in the world can’t help you when you’re chronically sleep deprived from having a very clingy eight year old sharing your bed all night. Sigh, This too shall pass, I know. 🙂

At first I didn’t want to listen to that voice. I don’t like backing out of commitments I make, any commitments, but especially commitments to help Michael navigate the world better, and be able to pass on interesting information to other Moms who can’t attend some of these conferences due to time or financial constraints. But this time, it was me who couldn’t attend. My husband saw me in the morning and said, “Don’t go. You need to write, take a nap, do some yoga. You need to re-charge your batteries.” I was flying solo to this all day event, as Michael had church, tutoring, then was visiting his paternal grandparents with my husband. It was good too he had time alone with his Dad. He doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with him during the week. I started to cry and said I did want to, need to, stay home, but didn’t want to let Michael down by not going. My wonderful husband said, “You’re not letting him down.You’re tired and need a break. Take it. You’re a great Mom who does so much for him. Plus you’ve got a busy week ahead.” Smart man!

I do have a busy week ahead. As a Mom, every week was busy! I needed to rest and re-charge my batteries, right after I did some much needed laundry and other housework. With the radio playing on my favorite pop rock station, I moved through the house doing this mundane work, but it calmed me. Then, I had lunch, and as I looked around at my clutter free house, my mind uncluttered, and I wrote two poems and a short piece for my creative fiction workshop class I attend at my local library. After that, the exhaustion hit full steam, and I lay down and rested for an hour. When I got up, I felt like a million dollars. Even though I didn’t sleep, my mind needed that break, to rest from all the anxiety about behavior charts, summer camp paperwork, my job, and feeling like I couldn’t learn enough about what else to do to help Michael.

Have you Moms out there ever felt so tired and knew you needed to rest, but as a Mom felt guilty at the thought of saying no to something, to someone? I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this. But ladies, sometimes the best and most sensible thing you can do for yourself, your child, and your family, is to lie down, rest and take care of yourself. Sometimes it’s good, as I am trying to teach Michael, to change our scheduled plans, spend a day at home to work at organizing our environment, and in that way, organizing ourselves. I will never feel any shame in listening to that inner voice again telling me it’s time to rest. It means I am putting my health first, and that, in the end, means I will stay strong, happy and healthy for the long haul. And so will you when you listen to that voice. Until next time.

PED DAY Outings: How My Exceptional Child Has Re-Awakened My Inner Child!

Today is a PED DAY so Michael is home with me. I love it, but am worried, because Michael, if you don’t already know him, needs to be busy and have places to go. He will inevitably take short breaks to do things like say, eat, pee, but then it’s off again on the next adventure. As he’s gotten older, we’ve learned to plan these days together. We usually will go to a park or store in the am, and have a play date in the pm. Some days we’ve done two play dates, one in the am, and one in the pm, but that’s a lot of legwork and gas for the car, so that is a rarity. 🙂 Today we will be going to walk around in his favorite shopping mall in the am, grab an overpriced smoothie (and probably an overpriced latte for Mom), at one of our favorite coffee places. Then, we will walk around some more with Michael saying things like this:

“Mommy, what does that store sell?”

“Can I buy that?” (when we pass a toy store with the lovely stuffed animals displayed in the windows).

Now he has started greeting the cashier when we are paying for things in stores and asking their name. If prompted, he will usually tell them what he is planning to do for the rest of the day. Cute, and he generally gets a good reception. I do too from these outings. A cashier recently told me what a good boy I have, or I get told how helpful he is when he has come grocery shopping with me and is packing up the bags with me.

Michael’s adventures, as he nicknamed them, have become my adventures. I do put my foot down for some time at home when I am tired and/or if I feel he needs a break. The last PED DAY we stayed home and played in the backyard then up at the park on the corner. It was invigorating for both of us. But I have to say these outings with Michael are showing me a new spontaneous way of being in the world. An outing can be something like going to an animal petting zoo at the local shopping center (see below). This is something I haven’t done since I was a child. When we are young, it’s the little things that make life fun and exciting. For him, a trip like this is the equivalent of a fun center, and WAY cheaper for Mom. 🙂  He also loves the library.

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Having a child has helped bring back the child-like innocence and curiosity about life that I had pushed far down inside of me. He has changed my whole view of the world, some of it has been hard like living with the challenges autism presents in our lives, but the other side has been refreshing. I have realized that life is fun, an adventure, and that too many of us adults are so busy getting the to do lists done that we lose sight of  living in the moment, and doing things with those that are precious to us.

Moms, I challenge you to do the same with your inner child. Get down on the floor and play with your exceptional children when you can, take them on nature walks, to the park, and enjoy the child inside you come alive again. Take time for the important people and other things in your life. Remember, you’re only as old as you feel. Until next time.

Parent/Teacher/Staff Interviews and Community-Important Ingredients in Raising Me and My Exceptional Child

... 2012 | By Joy Anderson | Category: Featured Articles , Teaching Tips

This afternoon will be the Spring Parent/Teacher/Staff Interviews. This is the chance where I get to see Michael’s school’s perception of him, his strengths and weaknesses, and share the other side of who Michael is at home. And like a lot of children, he is different in the two places, obedient in school, and rebellious at home. I am always so excited to go to these sessions, as his school is so receptive to sharing their side of who Michael is, and I do the same with them. They are like a second family to me, similar to the community organization  we belong to that helps exceptional families in our area. I feel like I can share anything and they will understand. The whole school is full of exceptional children who learn differently so they’ve seen it all, you can say. Michael’s teachers and therapists are as much my helpers as they are Michael’s, and I like to think I am their helper too. To me, we are all on the same team at the end, team Michael. This team’s goal is helping Michael win the most important game there is, the game of life, and leading it in a happy, healthy and productive way. I think we are all God’s instruments in helping shape Michael into the human being he is meant to become. There are difficult conversations to have too, challenges that Michael still struggles with, his handwriting and fine motor delays, anxiety about change, and worries about certain more aggressive behaviors he is exhibiting at home such as hitting himself and us at times. I also have our Psycho Educator from our community health organization, another helper for Michael and I on the home front. I am in touch with her giving her feedback about school, as I do with them and what is happening at home.

Top 10 Preschool Teacher Interview Questions

I am growing along with Michael, and when I leave the company of these professionals, I feel stronger, better able to cope with the difficult moments I face as an Exceptional Mom, and most importantly, know I am not alone. I will inevitably see Mom friends this afternoon who are on this same voyage as me, all of us there to celebrate our children’s triumphs and help encourage them to take the next step in overcoming their weaknesses. Their smiling faces, our social exchanges, will help me as much as speaking to Michael’s teacher and the therapists, knowing that there is a purpose for all of us, all our kids, and that together we will navigate the rough waters of life.

Making mom friends at the school yard

If there’s anything I have learned from being an Exceptional Mom of an Exceptional Child, is that we need to reach out to  family, friends, community, in person, on-line, and of course to the school and health care organizations. There are many people waiting to help, but don’t know how to approach exceptional families. I’ve learned that the first step is to approach them, showing yourself as a partner in helping your exceptional child and family flourish. As Moms, we are being supported as much by our children getting help as they are. Because if they flourish, we all flourish, and then all of us can live the life we are meant to live. Until next time.

Learning Not To Over Prepare and Control Everything Around Me

It occurred to me yesterday that a lot of the stress I’ve faced in my life has been about my difficulty in letting things go. I would worry about not having enough money, not getting together enough with good friends, and about mistakes I’ve made with decisions in my life in the past. On the other hand, I’ve tried to overcompensate and make things EASIER for myself by over preparing, over studying for an exam, over rehearsing what I would say on that first date, (when I had one eons ago), and you know what ended up happening? Usually, exactly the opposite of what I’d planned, which would throw me for a loop, and it was usually better than I’d planned. God knows, (or if you prefer), the Universe knows what you need, when you need it, and will give it to you. And even if it doesn’t seem like the best thing at the time, I’m learning that it is the best thing for you at that time. This is tricky if it is not something good that is happening. How can that be positive? Well, the answer is that it is teaching you about how you need to take better care of yourself in that area and learn to grow.

I learned such a lesson yesterday while talking with our Psycho Educator about Michael. He is exhibiting a lot of testing behaviors, and as you all have heard before, night fears. As we were talking, she made the suggestion that perhaps I’ve been explaining too much to Michael about my job, our schedule, our family life. I was just thinking those same things myself last week! Could Michael be more nervous because I am over preparing him for possible changes in my work schedule, our family life? Maybe I am adding to it inadvertently? It’s hard because he is so aware of everything. He senses how we feel as we are feeling it. But there are still things that are adult responsibilities, not a child’s.

It’s only when I forget that I’m not completely in charge that I suffer stress and am hit with a setback. Then, it’s like a little light turns on in my head and says, “stop, listen and feel what and where the universe is leading you.” Right now, today, it’s telling me to take care to lighten my and Michael’s emotional load, by prioritizing what’s really important and in my control to worry about, and leaving the rest alone for another day. Pictograms and planning for you and your Exceptional Children are helpful in some respects, but in others, you know that it is best to let things unfold in a more natural way and deal with people, emotions and problems in the moment. I feel happiest and whole in my body when I do this, because I believe this is how we are all meant to live as human beings. As Exceptional Moms particularly, we have learned to go with our gut when it comes to what works best with and for our Exceptional Child/ren. We need to apply this same way of life ourselves. It is the path to a much happier and balanced life. Until next time.