Month: August 2015

First Day of School- 5 Exceptional Survival Tips for Exceptional Parents and Kids

So we have arrived. It is the first day of school for Michael, and I have done everything right to arrive here calm and collected. Well, for the most part. And when I had little oops moments, (like forgetting one bag of his school supplies at home and having to make a second trip to school to bring them in), I laughed about them. The old me would have been mortified. I think all parents are frazzled at this time of year, particularly us Exceptional Moms and Dads whose Exceptional Children take anxiety for school to a new level. What can we do as parents to make the first day of school easier? Well, I have found out that the following 5 things have helped me survive that first day (and pretty much the next few weeks until he adjusts to the new schedule. ) So, without further ado, here they are:

5 Tips To Survive The First Day of School:

  1. Start as early as possible buying the school supplies. We get our list at the end of June, beginning of July, but usually end of July to the beginning of August is when the sales start. After four years, I finally do my shopping then instead of running around a week before and wondering where all the supplies are.
  2. Look through their cupboards and see what they have outgrown. I did it late this year, but usually wait until mid summer to see if he needs new shirts, pants, shoes etc. Again, the early bird gets the worm.
  3. This should actually have been number 1 for those REALLY anxious kids. Start talking with your child/ren about back to school, and preparing them by reading books about it, writing a social story, looking at pictures and letting them take part in the prep work: I let Michael bring the school supplies in with me this year to see his classroom and teacher and mentally prepare better as he is SUPER nervous about going back to school. He helped me with a “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” photo album choosing the pictures to put in. Remember, most of our kids are visual learners and have photographic memory. What they see repeatedly stays with them, for better or worse.
  4. Start getting your child/dren used to getting up early and going to bed early at least a week in advance if possible. Make sure as well that you get a good night’s rest. If you are both rested, you will handle things better.
  5. Remind them about seeing their friends, the positive things they like about school (for mine it is Music Class and Recess) 🙂 and how excited you are to hear about their first day when they come home. I have been saying this for weeks now to build momentum. I think is has helped.

So there you have it Exceptional Moms. I hope you find the list helpful, and remember, if you forget things or aren’t as organized as you’d like to be, don’t worry. Go with the flow, stay calm and laugh about the little mishaps. It’s a great way to start the year off right, and show your Exceptional Children that life may be unpredictable sometimes, but it doesn’t have to spell disaster. Oh, and have a nice bottle of wine ready by the end of the day. Here’s wishing you and your child/dren a great first day back to school! Until next time.

How Exceptional Children Help Us Find Our Paths In Life

The other day I found myself thinking once again about why I am on the path I am on now. For better or worse, since having my son Michael eight years ago all my decisions about how to live are based on how to set a good example for him on what is a good and happy life. Sometimes these decisions are not easy. I can’t hide anymore when I’m unhappy in a relationship, a job, a part of my life. I tell Michael that the most important thing he can do is be true to himself, be a good person and human being, and that one day, he will know what he needs to do with his life. I truly believe, as I’ve said before, that we all have callings or vocations, if you will. They are not always readily apparent to us, and many adults struggle to find their vocation, but once you do, it’s true what is said. You know you can’t go back to living as you did before. You have found your purpose in this world, and we all have one. Of course, an eight year old won’t grasp this, but he can grasp how unhappy his parent is if they are not living the words they are teaching. Whenever I’ve found myself wanting to stray from the words I am teaching Michael, that health, happiness and love of  people far outweigh material concerns about things, I gently but firmly remind myself to practice what I preach about living the best life I can, doing what I love, and making sure I am living the way I am supposed to live,  which is within my means, not being afraid of striving higher, but practicing gratitude for the many blessings I already have.

Michael, like most children, is naturally happy most of the time. Little things like playing in the park, eating a favorite meal, or playing a silly game or telling a joke, constantly keeps him living in the moment, which is something we adults with our worrying and schedules sometimes forget. Michael reminds me daily to live in the present, and when I forget, I ask him for five minutes so Mommy can breathe. When I do, I’m never disappointed as it brings me back to what’s really important and what life is all about. We need to be good to ourselves and to others, and make the world a better place.

How do your Exceptional Children remind you of your gifts? How do they help you stop and breathe? Next time you are feeling stressed Exceptional Moms, witness the incredible miracle that is you, that is your child. We are all gifts in this world to someone and matter a great deal. And it’s only when we stop and think about this, that we will find our true purpose and live joyfully. Until next time.

Early Morning or Late Nightime As Times to Recharge

I’ve been feeling exhausted lately. Michael has been home with me for almost two weeks, it is ragweed season and my allergies have been flaring up, AND I got my period. All of these things are reasons for me to have turned in early to bed the last few nights, but I haven’t. Why, you ask? Well, I am a night owl, and when the house is quiet, child asleep, husband asleep, cat asleep, that is when I can unwind from my day. I am not always super energetic to do this after a busy day, but I am eager for the alone time that is sorely missed in the summer time. Some Moms can do this in the early morning if their kids sleep in, but alas, even when mine does sleep in now, he goes to bed around 9:30 or 9:45 pm. By the time I get myself ready for bed and finish things up, it is late. I am not eager to get up at 6:00 am the next day to have that time then, and when I have tried, sometimes Michael has heard  me and gotten up anyway. Sigh. So I have reverted to staying up a little later to have that me time to read, and occasionally when I have energy, to write. It takes its toll on my energy level by late in the day (can everyone say lots of COFFEE) :), but it sure is nice to give myself that break when I do.

Next week school starts, so I’ll have time for me in the daytime again, but I still plan to make evening time for myself to unwind with reading, writing or even occasional tv. I am truly seeing how important that time is to help me weather parenthood’s storms and life’s storms. I am able to decompress from the day, and see where I am at, and where I am going. Then I can be the best person I can be for me and best parent for Michael.

What time of day is your favorite one, Exceptional Moms? Are you an early bird or night owl, and how has that changed since your children came into your lives? Whatever time is best, remember to make that time for you, even if it is only ten minutes or so. You’ll see how much better you’ll feel the next day, and how much more patience you’ll have for your child. Until next time.

Being On The Same Page As Your Partner

One thing I have learned over the years with raising Michael is how he, like all children, is smarter than we sometimes give him credit for. He learned how to play his father and I off each other about two years ago or so, and at first we, like most parents, couldn’t believe it. I remember thinking that due to his special needs, he wouldn’t reach this milestone this quickly. I was wrong. It was Michael’s father that pointed out to me that he was doing this to us. We had to sit down and find out how we each parented differently, where we could reach compromises, and be consistent with Michael. We started making it clear to Michael to be respectful to both of us, and that neither of us would tolerate hitting, yelling or name calling directed at us. In the past, I was one of those Moms that yelled at the Dad in front of the child. It was not something I was proud of. Though his Dad didn’t do as much active parenting as he does now, there was still no excuse for it, and I came clean to my partner and to Michael. Now if I lose my temper and yell at either Michael or his Dad, I admit it, go somewhere and calm down, then come out ready to begin again.

Being on the same page as your partner has many benefits; lower stress levels for you both, happier more energetic parenting for your child/dren, and growth as a human being dealing with stress in a new positive way. Another plus are friends and family commenting on what a team you two are. Michael’s Dad and I have been getting a lot of compliments from family members and friends on how well we are parenting Michael. I feel like in doing this, we are also recognizing parts of each other that need love and attention and boundaries too. This is helping us grow as individuals and as a couple.

Exceptional Moms, how many of you are on the same page as the Exceptional Dads in your household? How difficult is this to do on a regular basis? From personal experience, I can say that it takes admitting where you both are going wrong at first, to taking small steps and making personal change within yourself. Once you have done that, sitting down together to discuss how you can take the best in both your parenting styles and use it to raise your child/dren will take you a long way. Until next time.

The Art Of Loving And Letting Go Of Our Children

I used to be a bit of a helicopter parent even before Michael was diagnosed with autism. I was a first time Mom, an anxious character to begin with, and most importantly, I saw that Michael was not developing like the other children around him. He was slow to sit up, crawl, walk and talk, all things related to his developmental delays and later strange behaviors, to his autism. Then I really went a little crazy for awhile. I hovered over him, worked with him to teach him how to play, talk, interact. These were good things and did help over time, along with the wonderful adapted preschool he was going to. But I’ll never forget the word of one of Michael’s first teachers at this school. She saw me helping him put on his shoes and asked me why I was not letting him do it himself. I remember looking at her dumbfounded for a second. Then she said those magical words.

“Joanne, if he didn’t have any delays, would you still be helping him with his shoes at three years old?”

My answer was no, of course.

“Then why are you doing it now? He still needs to learn to be independent. There’s even more reason to not enable him and show him what he’s capable of doing on his own.”

That’s when I realized I was doing to Michael what my Mom had done to me, albeit at a much younger age.

“Don’t treat her like she’s made of glass. She needs to do things for herself and struggle sometimes. That’s how she’ll learn.” My Dad had apparently said those words to my mother when I was two years old or so, and she had repeated the story to me after I had told her of my eye opening experience with Michael’s first preschool teacher.

Needless to say, after that I gave Michael many opportunities to struggle, work and learn on his own, letting him know I was there for him regardless of the outcome. He not only learned to do many things by himself by five years old, but now at eight years old can be heard telling me to leave him alone.

“I can do it Mommy. I’m not a baby.”

Indeed. I learned that the old saying is true. “If you love someone, set them free.”

Truly believing in someone means you love them and let them go at the same time to find their place in the world. It doesn’t matter whether that person is your partner, your child, anyone. Loving someone means letting them make mistakes then learn and grow from them. I have learned that about myself too, and am loving myself along with my victories and failures. The important thing is to get back up again and try.

Exceptional Moms, do you truly let your children fly? If not, it’s time you do. You will be doing them and yourselves a great service. They will learn to trust their instincts and learn from their mistakes, and you will get to experience that pride in them that your parents experienced when you tackled obstacles in your life. They are as capable of doing it as you were, and it’s in the letting go that true love is allowed to continue to grow between the two of you. Until next time.

Pushing Past Our Comfort Zones

The other day Michael wanted to go to a splash park. I had never driven there before. Even armed with directions and a friend to read them to me, I was still a little nervous given my tendency to get lost, but we found the splash park and everyone had a great time. It was even an adventure of sorts!

This was a small thing that scared me, but I knew that I must do it. I am also starting to do other bigger things that scare me both professionally and personally. It’s a rush trying out things that force me to stretch myself a little in terms of what I think I can and cannot do, like in a job. It’s not always easy, particularly if it doesn’t go well, but I console myself that I tried and that now it is something I can say I attempted and am no longer afraid of.

In explaining to Michael that he cannot be afraid to try and fail, I am seeing that I cannot be afraid either. It is helping me to take risks in all areas of my life and is showing me how strong I am. As usual, I have Michael to thank for putting me on this path. 🙂

Are you doing things that scare you a little each day of your lives, Exceptional Moms? If not, you’ll never know how many amazing things you’re capable of doing. By testing your own limits, you’ll be setting a great example for your Exceptional Children, that they should always stretch their own limits, and that they should never be afraid to go outside their comfort zone. As a matter of fact, it’s only when they push past their comfort zones, that they will become free of limits that they and society place on them sometimes. Until next time.

Our Annual Summer BBQ- A Celebration Of Friendship, Togetherness and Acceptance of Differences

bbq 2

I can’t believe that it is almost the end of summer vacation for Michael. It is by far the fastest season of the year! This time of year has me feeling sad that my favorite season is coming to an end, but also happy about the big end of summer BBQ my husband and I host at our house. It is one of the few times of year we gather with friends we have known for many years, (some of them since high school), to celebrate our friendship and catch up. It started out as me and my girlfriends, then grew to include boyfriends as we all coupled off, and now still our children are part of the celebration, those of us that have children. It is a special time for me to eat, laugh and reminisce about all the good times we’ve had over the years.

When Michael was first diagnosed with autism, I was nervous about continuing this tradition. I didn’t know how my friends from my pre-autism life would react to my child now that he was labeled as having a disability. I was so scared of pity, discomfort and fear, though I kept saying all the while to myself that if our friendships couldn’t withstand this, the friendships weren’t as strong as I had once thought. I am so glad my fears were unfounded, and I approached the topic with honesty, openness, and encouraged questions up front. I didn’t want autism to become the elephant in the room. Michael was still the sweet little boy they had always known. I think because of mine and Michael’s father’s comfort, and my friends willingness to ask questions and be open, my relationship with all of them got stronger. They love and are as continually amazed by Michael as we are, and now  that he is older,  he knows them too, and calls them all Auntie and Uncle as I did my parents’ close friends growing up. He even is starting to form a little relationship with one of my friend’s daughters which is so sweet. All my friends’ children are girls, but that doesn’t bother Michael one bit!

What Michael has taught me once again, is if his father and I as his parents embrace him fully for who he is, others who genuinely are our friends, will do the same. Most people will accept difference once it is demystified, and without going into Autism 101 lecturing, I think we have answered questions over the years and shown directly how we and Michael live with autism daily. Yes, there are challenges. Yes, we need to be aware of what he needs at any time to regulate with, and we are always honest that we may need to leave a party early, we may seem stressed. It is all part of being exceptional parents, and though difficult, we wouldn’t change our child and lives for anything.

What special family and friend activities do you participate in with your Exceptional Child? Are the people from your “other life” before autism receptive to your child, to your new family? If not, it is definitively better to let them go as you’ll all be happier that way. If yes, then that’s great. Treasure those friends who, even when they find your life hard to understand, make the effort to try, as you do with their life that is different from yours. By celebrating the little moments in big ways, you remind yourself of who you were before your child was born, who you still in some ways are now, and who you can become. Until next time.

Growing The Mother/Child Bond

A beautiful thing has started happening lately. My bond with Michael has been growing. He has begun to really understand about sharing his feelings and what emotions are, from anger, to fear, to happiness, to love, and everything in between. We have had some amazing discussions in the last few days about his fears, why he does certain things, and he has started asking me questions of how I felt as a little girl. He loves to hear stories of how I overcame obstacles, learned to be stronger, and sometimes failed, only to be picked up again by my parents. But what is really cool is how when he now tells me he loves me, I can really see that he means it. The other day he accidentally stepped on my toe with his shoe. I yelled out in pain, and he not only apologized, but kissed my cheek and hugged me asking if I was alright. I have started doing Qigong again daily, as well as Wilbargher Protocol with him. He is asking for them again. I am sure this is helping him handle the anxiety he feels, but I also think it is knowing that he can truly trust me with all his thoughts and feelings, and that he can say anything, and I will forgive him and give him a chance. He sees and now knows my love is unconditional.

Yesterday when we were in the park for awhile in the intense heat, I noticed he went to sit under a tree. He looked tired and a bit stressed. I called out did he want company or need a drink. Michael came running over telling me how nice it was that I cared and that he loved me, but that he was fine. It was such a beautiful moment for me.

“You really understand me Mommy, and when you don’t, you ask me to tell you. I am so glad.”

Every morning and night I am showered with kisses, and told I am the “best Mommy in the world that I could ever have asked for, even when I drive you crazy.” I laugh and reiterate the same back to Michael. He is quite an incredible little boy, and as usual, he is showing me each day what I need to do to live life to the fullest.

What key moments have you experienced with your Exceptional Children that made you see that they, and you, had reached a big milestone in your relationship? What I am beginning to see is that when I change and handle my stress and anxiety better, I set the better example for my child. I also am seeing that when I am  confident, calm, and loving to myself, I am better able to be that way for my child. So Exceptional Moms, be yourself with your children and show them they are loved and respected for who they are. Only good things will come out of this for you both. Until next time.

Exceptional Questions About Security And Anxiety About The Future

Lately Michael has started talking about sickness and hospitals again. I’m not sure if it’s due to overlying anxiety at this time of the summer, or because his grandparents have various health issues, but there you have it. We are reading books about characters going to the hospital, talking about brain injuries (probably due to his father and I telling him not to hit his head or he will hurt himself), all the way to Michael talking about how one day he is going to be a doctor. It has ranged from a heart doctor to a brain doctor to an eye doctor. He is also asking questions about mortality. This is all very normal. I was a nervous kid, and though neuro-typical, asked my mother questions about my death, her death, everyone’s death. I have noticed too that on some of our outings, Barney the Dinosaur, yes that Barney, and even his sidekicks BJ and Baby Bop, come with us. As Michael himself reiterates. “They help me to stay calm Mommy.”

He often puts them away when he is settled in the new place, or even leaves them in the car when we arrive on other occasions. I am beginning to see how insecurity plays into all his fears, and am able to help Michael see different ways he can cope with his emotions. Mind you, most of the time he is telling me what he needs, I need two massages, I need a stronger chewie to bite on, I need to walk, jump, I need heavy blankets.

This summer has been an interesting mix of emotions for Michael and I. There is so much more awareness of his feelings, our feelings, and even when he is making excuses for why he is misbehaving or doesn’t want to listen, I can’t help but be impressed with his knowledge of consequences and actions. My little boy is growing up and coming into his own. It doesn’t mean there are easy moments. There are times I can’t reach him, like the other night when he couldn’t tell me why he wasn’t falling asleep, and I was tired and frustrated with it and we had a fight and I made him cry. The other day he had five meltdowns, but not the ones where he hits and screams, but cries mournfully and has a hard time stopping. I felt horrible to be part of the cause, but he let me hug him, and afterwards we talked and worked it out.

Do you find your Exceptional Children ask more or less questions when they are feeling anxious or insecure? How do you handle it, Exceptional Moms? How do they deal with it? I’ve found that it could be hit and miss with how parents and children communicate, but if you as the parent remain calm, speak slowly, and then listen with openness remembering your child’s ultimate trust in you, that goes a long way to helping them cope with insecurity and anxiety. Until next time.

The Art And Advantages of Boredom

Today is day two of Michael being home full time with me since his summer camp ended. We have lots of activities and places that we plan to go in the next two weeks, but what I am also trying to concentrate on, is giving Michael the chance to chill out at home. The problem with this has been complaints of boredom or anxiety from Michael, but as a wise friend once told me, boredom is just the thing kids need to get creative and learn their own solutions to problems. So now I am slowly starting to give Michael chances at boredom, and not freak out if he becomes anxious, irritable or demands to go somewhere. I believe that over time he will learn ways to amuse himself doing things that don’t involve the trampoline, swing, or his rocking. These are all fine to help ground or calm an exceptional child, but there is more than meets the eyes to exceptional kids and their abilities as their parents know it!

This morning while waiting for me to finish up some things, I gave Michael some suggestions of things he could do to keep busy. And you know what, he did them all and had fun! I was so proud when I heard him reading his library books to himself,  jumping on the trampoline in our yard and preparing his sand toys for our beach outing, as well as playing on his swing. He also volunteered to feed our cat. I had time to finish stuff on the computer, and he was able, after some gentle encouragement, to entertain himself. Although it is not always easy, I am beginning to see how boredom can be as good a thing for exceptional kids like Michael as they are for all children.

What experiences have you Exceptional Moms had with boredom and your Exceptional Children? I hope that they have had time to expand and do new things, and for you to get a break to do your things. Also, I truly hope it has shown you, as it has me, that we all need down or quiet time to get creative in whatever way we are meant to be. It is what will keep us all balanced. Until next time.