Month: June 2015

Learning When It’s Alright To Break The Rules

Michael has a hard time following rules. Boy, does he ever. Lately he’s been questioning everything his father and I tell him to do. To some degree we both know that this is healthy, but on the other hand, learning to follow rules is a part of life. Michael doesn’t like to hear this and always challenges us.

“I don’t like to follow your rules. I make the rules! I’m the boss!” I am proud of his chutzpah, but know that the sooner he learns the world operates by following rules, the better off he will be.

“Michael we all have to follow rules, even Mommy and Daddy. If we don’t, we won’t have jobs.”

“And your bosses follow rules too? And my teachers follow rules?”

“Of course, everyone does.”

When he would hear this he would listen for a little bit, but at some point we would always be back to him protesting when he didn’t get his way. I’ve felt as Michael has in the past. I follow rules I sometimes don’t like or believe in for the sake of structure and order, and sometimes want to break the rules and do my own thing. Are there times this is appropriate? Sure, there are. But only when you’re older and know the cost of throwing things up in the air. In measured ways it won’t do serious damage, but you may upset a few people along the way. For instance, leaving a job you don’t like means leaving that income and the security that goes with it, along with the friends you have made there. That leads to financial uncertainty (unless you have another job), and loss of your social network. You would need to go out and mingle and make other friends not to feel isolated. Also, having an unpopular opinion on politics or religion can ostracize you, but as long as you do it respectively, you can get away with it. To each his own, most mature people say.

How do I teach this to Michael though? I am still learning some of these ways of breaking the rules myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that when he’s old enough to see the pros and cons of rule breaking, he will be ready to do his mixture of rule following and breaking. The trick is to teach him to be selective. People who aren’t border on the delinquent or criminal side.

Exceptional Moms, have you spoken to your Exceptional Children about rule breaking and when it’s alright, or are you waiting to introduce the concept when your kids are developmentally older?  This has to be done in a way though that is non threatening to the majority and which resonates with who they are inside. I am still learning the concept of this for me, slowly each day. I’m sure I will have mastered it when Michael is mature enough to grasp real control. Until next time .

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Anxiety About New Challenges-Michael’s and My Developing Coping Mechanisms

Today is Michael’s first day of summer camp. Though it is an adapted setting and he went to this camp last year, he was still nervous about attending camp this year. He has been talking to me and his father about it for the last few days. I wrote a social story for him, and have been discussing how all his friends are probably “nervous excited” about camp as he is. I am so happy he knows a few faces again this year. I am especially thrilled that a very good friend will be going to camp for most of the time with him this summer. This morning his father and I waited for the bus that was coming to pick him up for camp, and hopefully provided that reassurance that we are proud of him for conquering his fears of the unknown, and that we are there to help him navigate his emotions.

In seeing Micahel’s stress over the unknown and the change from being home a week from school to a structured setting once more, got me thinking how far I’ve come in handling new things and challenges. I used to feel completely overwhelmed by new things I didn’t understand, and would even become frustrated and shut down. Now, though I can still get nervous and flustered, I am able to admit it to myself, take a deep breath, and face the challenge of whatever situation I am in head on. I remind myself daily that no one is perfect. All we can do is try our best, learn from our mistakes, and if something does not work out, move on. It is an experience we can all learn from.

How do you Exceptional Moms out there handle the challenging situations in your life? What tools or coping mechanisms do you use? How do your Exceptional Children handle stress, and what has helped them move forward when they are stuck? I’m sure in facing your own hardships, you have seen what insights you can give your children, or as in my case, see what insights your children can give you about how far you’ve come in facing challenging situations. Then, together both of you can move forward with confidence. Until next time.

Exceptional Family Vacations And Handling All The Emotions That Go With It

Today on our last day of vacation, our family will be attending the local Jazz Festival. We had a successful outing going last year. as we went early in the day on the first day, the weather was beautiful, and we didn’t stay too long. It was really hot last year, unlike this year’s temperatures which are perfect for being outdoors. We are also prepared with headphones this year if the noises around Michael bother him too much. I’m sure he’ll be fine though, as we will be spending most of our time at the kids corner where they have lots of games, activities and face painting then will go and grab a bite to eat! We will also be going with a good friend of Michael’s and his mother, so that will make it extra fun for him.

We have been quite spontaneous so far with time this week, when we leave and come home from events and for the most part it has worked well. There have been some ups and downs in terms of anxiety, and Michael wanting to control every aspect of the day, but slowly, and sometimes with difficulty, he is learning that it is not always possible. As his parents, his father and I have had our challenging moments this week with him and each other, but overall it has been a success. As an exceptional family, you learn to ride the tide of emotions as best as you can.

How do you and your child navigate through the emotions and misunderstanding that sometimes occur? How do you celebrate the victories and apologize when you don’t handle things as smoothly as you’d like? There have been some moments in the last few days when I have lost my cool, gotten stressed or felt frustrated with some of Michael’s behaviors and mine and my husband’s handling of it. On the other hand, there have also been moments, many moments, of pride in Michael. I have been proud of his maturity in handling some transitions, new skills that I am noticing him developing, riding a scooter, his ability to comfortably talk to people in a socially appropriate way, his maturity in waiting for things if timing is off. This gives me hope when there are tough moments he will sail through them with our help. And we, of course, will get through our tough moments as parents, knowing that we are making a difference in his life. Remember Moms, whether you are right or wrong, your child looks to you for clues at all times. Trust your instincts. You are on the right path. Until next time.

Sensory Tools For A Successful Summer With Your Exceptional Family

Ah, summer time. This is a time most of us love. We get to kick back, relax, let go of routine a little. This scenario is usually a nightmare for many people on the spectrum who like control, order and routine. Michael is one of those people. Without a schedule of what is happening, he feels lost, anxious, and generally acts out with various types of silly, aggressive or rude behaviors. What’s an exceptional parent to do to help their exceptional child enjoy summer vacation with their family? What has worked for Michael and our family are sensory tools. These sensory tools are squeeze toys or thera putty which he can mold or squeeze in his hands when he gets upset, a chewie to bite on when he is anxious, and recently, headphones for when noise overwhelms him. I also give him two therapeutic massages from time to time, brushing and compressions (Wilbargher Protocol) and Qigong, when he lets me. This is not a foolproof solution, but it has helped make things easier for Michael and us as a result. We also mark things on a calendar, use pictos or I ask Michael to draw out on paper what we will be doing on certain days and for the week.

All of us get a little out of whack on holiday. We eat more, sleep less, are completely out of routine. Sometimes we feel more tired or off from a vacation. As neuro typical people though, we find ways to balance this out. We make other types of vacation plans, or we remind ourselves that when we go back to work or back from vacation, we’ll get back to routine. It’s not such a stretch then to say that our children on the spectrum need help remembering this too. I had issues when I was a young adult with summer holidays too. I generally enjoyed the downtime, but had some moments when I felt I wasn’t being productive enough. I found ways to deal with my downtime by planning out in advance events with friends, exercising and other ways to cope. And recently in dealing with my anxieties, I see a little of what it’s like to live in Michael’s world. I am trying to give him as much control to handle his emotions properly, yet remind him that he also has to learn to go with the flow a little. That’s life.

What tools do you all use to help your children and yourselves navigate summer time? What has worked to decrease stress for you? If this is a major area of contention, I hope that you can find the right balance of sensory tools to help the entire exceptional family enjoy summer. After all, we want to teach our children to live in the moment as we do. It’s the only way to truly enjoy life. Until next time.

Family Stay-cations and 5 Fun Affordable Activities for Exceptional Families

Today is officially Michael’s and the rest of our family’s summer vacation, or stay-cation, as I call it. In order to save money, we instead do fun family activities in town and sleep at home. This has also helped us when Michael was young and couldn’t tolerate being in one place for too long.  As a result, over the years we have stayed with this formula. Soon we will be ready to try a vacation out of town, but this year timing of our work schedules did not allow it. As a result, we are perfecting the stay-cation activities, and broadening what we do over the week we are home together. We’ve also had to think about what types of activities are appropriate for a child with sensory issues like Michael. He likes to be active, environments that are not too crowded, and enough predictability in what he can expect so that he could feel secure. On the other hand, we also throw in a few new places. Michael is starting to like to explore and go to different places, even if there is a little bit of the unknown.

This got me thinking about how difficult it is for parents to find economic and fun activities in town. Here is a list of places we like to go with Michael where everyone has fun at a good price:

5 FUN AND AFFORDABLE ACTIVITIES FOR EXCEPTIONAL FAMILIES:

1) Santa’s Village or similar types of kids activity parks. There are sprinklers, games, magicians, and of course, the highlight, sitting on Santa’s lap telling him what he wants for Christmas! 🙂

2) Picnics at nature parks outdoors OR a Family walk in the forest. We pack a picnic and we do a family walk. Afterwards, we go for ice cream!

3) Outdoor music festivals or family festivals with bouncy rides. Again, you can bring your own food, or get away with very reasonable eating out costs. 🙂

4) For rainy days, curling up on the couch with a movie or popcorn OR Family indoor fun centers. The kids get to run around and have fun, Mom and Dad can sit and have a coffee. 🙂

5) Public swimming pools for the afternoon or splash parks. We try and go with friends so it’s even more fun for Michael to be with his buddies.

I never thought that I would have as much fun on these stay-cations as I do. I thought you absolutely HAD to go away to get away from it all. But sometimes staying close to home with kids is fun too, for them and you. I don’t discount going away. There is lots of fun and adventure in that for the whole family. Yet sometimes the simple can be fun and exciting too.

Where do you and your family like to go on vacation, Moms? Do you favor stay- or vacations? Whatever the case, I hope the time off you spend with your family gives you pleasure, fun, adventure and peace to welcome in the summer season. Until next time.

Last Day of School- A Look Back At A Year of Growth For This Exceptional Mom and Child

Today is Michael’s last day of school. I can’t believe the year is finished. I have this same feeling every year around this time, along with dealing with feelings of excitement of a new season, summer, and Michael’s excitement and anxiety about the upcoming change. Every year it’s the same thing, the anxiety about school finishing and summer starting, only with a different twist. As he matures, Michael is better able to articulate to me his feelings of powerlessness, fears, hopes, dreams and what he is looking forward to. I am prepared for all the mixed emotions better. I’ve had five years of practice since he started school to experience it, and now Michael’s Dad is learning to navigate these challenging times too. I see how far we’ve all come in handling our emotions at this time of year. Sometimes we have good days, sometimes we have bad days. But we are surviving and learning new coping mechanisms in the face of change. I try to model my strengths to Michael, and show him that I can learn from my weaknesses and grow as a person. I believe we all can. Drawing pictures, writing social stories, organizing calendars are all things that are working now to help Michael cope with feelings of anxiety and stress. They are things that work for his Exceptional Parents too. 🙂

What challenges await all of you Exceptional Moms and your children at this time of year? How as Moms do you cope with yours and your children’s anxiety? I’m sure as they mature you’ll see different patterns in how they cope with their emotions, and you’ll develop different ways of coping with your emotions too. You’ll grow together as a family. Just remember that there will be good days and bad. It’s important that our children see us being resilient through the rough times and growing stronger by them. Until next time.

Countdown to Summer- Different Schedules and Expectations for Exceptional Families

summer is started and most children have Summer Vacations and they are ...

It is officially summer on the calendar now, and in two days Michael will be finished school for the year. With the change in season brings a change in our exceptional children who are usually sensory. Unfortunately for them and us, the change is often negative as change provokes anxiety in many of our children, even the ones who are looking forward to summer and no school. The thing is exceptional children need a break from learning as do all kids, but with the structure of the school day gone, many of them feel lost and don’t know what to expect. I know that feeling first hand with Michael, who though he looks forward to summer vacation, dreads the unknown or time not scheduled. So, since last year what I have started doing with Michael is scheduling his downtime with him, as much as is possible. This means we take out a calendar and write or down different activities and what he or we will be doing that day and week. With seven weeks of structured summer camp, I’m hoping this year will be easier for him and me, but we do have this week where his Dad and I are home for the most part and we will be having a family vacation. We planned this week out too with different activities and alternatives if the weather doesn’t cooperate and that seems to have helped calm Michael’s anxiety. This morning we were even talking about the last two weeks of August when Michael will be home with me alone and no summer camp. I told him if he is nervous we will plan those weeks out too.

... for visitng MY BLOG - I am away on vacation until February 13th

Many of us are anxious about the unknown and like and need to plan out our days. It is also mandatory in business to book things in a calendar and be organized or we would get nowhere. Neuro typical people also feel sometimes that they are thrown off when their schedules change, particularly when they are on vacation. The difference is that they are aware of it, feel the tensions in their bodies, and know better how to address those feelings. They prepare. This is what exceptional parents have to teach to their exceptional children. Having this skill to be able to navigate change is crucial for success for the whole family. Michael has taught me how much I have taken for granted my innate ability to do this. He also showed me that for years I wasn’t doing as good a job of predicting how I would react to things. Prior to last year, I wasn’t as aware of some of the habits I had that were holding me back from handling stress well, such as perfectionism that I had to do everything right all the time, being afraid to ask for help, and ruminating with negative thoughts. Now that I have become aware of these bad habits and have worked at transforming the way I handle stress, I have seen a huge improvement in how I handle anxiety and stress. More importantly, I see when I’ve fallen off the wagon, so to speak, and seek help immediately through professional counseling, talking to family and friends, and meditating or exercising.

Exceptional Moms, are you nervous about summer downtime and how to survive and thrive in the days to come with your children? What has worked for you and your children in the past? Remember, we want to teach our kids that change is inevitable, and though they do not have control over everything, they can control their own reactions inside their bodies and how they perceive change. This way they can have happy productive days and everyone gets to enjoy summer downtime. Until next time.

Celebrating Father’s Day as An Exceptional Family- Growth All Around!

Happy Father's Day

Michael is so excited about the Father’s Day gift he is making for his Dad. He has been talking about it all week. And yesterday, he let the cat out of the bag and told his Dad what he was making him. Then he realized that it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore now that his Dad knew what he was making him. He looked a little worried for a minute, until his father reassured him that he would love it and still be surprised. It was a cute few minutes. The other thing Michael is excited about is going out for breakfast at one of his favorite family breakfast places in our neighborhood. He announced that he wanted to go out for breakfast for Father’s Day about a month ago. I smiled and reminded him to check with his Dad what he wanted to do. After all, it’s his father’s special day. Since I work on the weekends, lunch is out, and dinner would have to be later, not the best thing for a child who gets hungry by five-thirty or six pm. So an early breakfast is actually the best compromise. Michael has come a long way in comprehending different holidays and events and what they mean. The other day a neighbor who sometimes gets him off the bus commented how aware he is of so many things. He knows where I work, he knows where he lives and streets around us. Lots of children on the spectrum have massive challenges in these areas. Here we are lucky that Michael has progressed so much.

Father's Day

There are still challenges with understanding someone else’s perspective, reading facial expressions, and of course, writing and understanding numbers and the concept of time. But slowly things are falling into place for Michael and us. I know he will get there. Looking at Father’s Day this year, brings to mind how his relationship to his Dad has changed. Over the course of the the year, their relationship has gotten stronger, I’m happy to say. Michael’s father has taken a more active role with Michael, and is confident in his parenting abilities. When he struggles, just like me, he has sought out help from me, other parents, articles, and professionals. This has not only in turn given him more confidence as a father, but as a husband and human being. I know the signs. I’ve been there. Though this Father’s Day is my husband’s day and all fathers with him, I feel in a small way that we are also celebrating Michael and me embracing this new side of his Dad. Yes, I’m sure there will be meltdowns, outbursts at some point on the day,  (we are an Exceptional Family after all), but there will also be far more fun family moments to enjoy as we celebrate Michael’s Dad in the limelight as an Exceptional Father.

Exceptional Moms, what are your families planning to do this Father’s Day? Do you have your own special ways to mark the day? How do the Exceptional Dads out there feel about Father’s Day? It may get less press than Mother’s Day, but it is equally important, as Exceptional Dads have a big role to play in shaping their children’s behavior. So I give a big shout out to these fathers and wish them a great day and year of growth, love and special times with their family. Until next time.

More On Mentors And What They Have Taught Me

Yesterday’s post on mentors and how they helped Michael and me in our life as an exceptional family, got me thinking about the other mentors in my life that are equally important. They have helped and continue to help me on my journey of self-discovery, both personally and professionally. Of course there are the Moms at my Coffee Break Support Group Community Organization, the Moms and fellow women at my church, and my Writer’s Group. These organizations and individuals have all helped me grow as a woman and human being. But there are two other important groups to mention. These are business networking groups for entrepreneurs that I discovered through a friend. I communicate with them mainly on line and attend some live networking events. These groups of men and women have been invaluable in helping me grow professionally, and helping me find the courage to write a book about raising Michael, start my blog, and build my business. This has been something that I have been wanting yet afraid to do, and meeting these wonderful individuals have helped me learn to believe in myself as they believe in me. The support is invaluable. I compare it to the support I have received in the special needs community learning to advocate for Michael. Having acquired those skills as an Exceptional Mom, I am now learning to advocate for myself personally and professionally. Thank you ladies and gentlemen!

Moms, do you have a personal or professional dream that you want to realize, but don’t feel you have the courage to do it? Are you afraid to take the next step? There are so many wonderful coaches, professionals and organizations out there to help you find yourself personally and professionally if you just look around. It’s worth taking that leap, trust me. For only when you truly know yourself, can you feel whole and lead a purposeful life. Good luck to you in your search. Until next time.

Mentors-Invaluable Support For All of Us

Two weeks ago at one of Michael’s adapted extracurricular activities, Michael met another mentor. We have been blessed with many mentors in Michael’s life, who have in turn become mine and my husband’s mentors, supporting us as parents of an Exceptional Child. But this mentor had something extra special. He himself is on the autism spectrum. He knows exactly how it feels to live life in a body and brain that work differently from the neuro typical person’s. And he made quite the impression on Michael. As with anything new, Michael was nervous at this activity. But under this young man’s guidance, he played and interacted with him as if he had known him all his life. Michael was so excited as this young man loves to sing and played some interesting pretend play games with him. I heard from my husband who witnessed the bonding first hand how incredible this young man was with Michael.

I inquired about this young man’s contact information, and a short while later he sent me a long and detailed email about himself, what he does, and how he enjoyed playing with Michael. I was touched beyond words, as not many people take the time to do this nowadays. But a mentor will always make the time. I answered him back, and hope that this young man will be a big part of Michael’s life growing up. He has already made an impression, and I know as Michael starts to question why he is different and asks for an explanation about his autism, it will be great that he knows other adults on the spectrum who can guide and answer questions I may not be able to address.

We all need mentors to guide us down the rocky road of life. Those of us lucky to have them, usually can recognize it in the way we interact with them, share things with them, and turn to them for advice. I myself have several close female friends who are my mentors in and out of my Mom support group, and am lucky to have a mentor mother too. Who is your mentor? Who is your guide in the world when you have questions or issues that need solving? If you don’t have one, don’t despair. If you join organizations, hobby groups, or even at school or work you’re bound to meet someone if you open yourself up to the possibility. Mentors provide us with grounding, clear cut rules, and support when we need it most. I don’t underestimate them. And being Exceptional Moms means we really need to have our own mentors to sort out the issues weighing us down. Then we are better equipped to tackle life on all levels. Until next time.