Month: October 2015

Celebrating Michael’s And My Halloween Progress!

If you had told me five years ago that I would be celebrating Halloween with my son with autism the same way most neuro typical families do, I would have had my doubts. I was always cautiously optimistic, yet afraid to show it. After all, there were speech therapy appointments, OT appointments, ABA sessions and play, music therapy and you name it to get through. This of course didn’t include the one on one early intervention work I did with Michael on the floor. It was fun, but took up a lot of our family’s time. I also worked on picto schedules, later social stories, to explain more complicated outings or family activities. Eventually it became seamless, and Michael joined in with the planning. Then, I could see he was really understanding things and connecting the dots in his social world about holidays and events.

A big dot was when he started understanding what Halloween was and meant, and picking out his own costume! Two years ago was the first time I attempted trick or treating at night in our neighborhood. Other than a little blip starting out that we had to start on a certain side of the street, things went smoothly after that. The few houses where Michael stepped inside to say hi seemed to find him charming and social. That never happened before. ๐Ÿ™‚ But all jokes aside, it went well. Last year I had to be the one to tell him a half hour past his going home time, that my feet were sore and I was ready to go home! He was so excited. The only thing I was sad about was that we had no one to go with. I didn’t think to arrange that in advance. This year it will be different as he will be trick or treating with friends, and unless he changes his mind drastically, he wants Daddy to take him this year! My husband and Michael are both excited about this. I think it will be fun for them too and for me. I’ll be on the other end, giving out the treats at the house and waiting excitedly for news about how the trick or treating went.

Exceptional Parents, did you ever underestimate your child’s participation in events like Halloween? How do they participate now? I wish you and your children a very Happy Halloween! I also wish you many wonderful memories as you watch your children live out their childhoods similar to yours, only in an exceptional way. Until next time.

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Meeting People at the Right Time-Synchronicity in the Universe

I’m learning the older I get, that there are no coincidences and we meet certain people for a reason. Michael has been the number one person to teach me that. After all, most of the people I was supposed to meet to turn my life around, I met since he was born or shortly thereafter. There are the tough days I have with him, like last Sunday, when I went to crawl into a ball and go to sleep until the problem of his anxiety goes away, and instead, he pushes me to go out and interact with the world. After he apologized to me last weekend, he asked me if I could take him to the library.

“Please Mommy. I want to take out new books.”

And it was true. He’d finished reading the other ones with me. But there was something else in his eyes that I saw, some unseen force telling me I needed to go to the library. There was also this twinge in my stomach, my gut. It was screaming at me to go even as my physical body was trying to stop this nonsense and now was relegating itself to a cup of tea in bed with the covers pulled up. ๐Ÿ™‚

“OK, Michael. We’ll go.”

So we went to the library, and guess who I saw there? A woman who I’ve recently become friends with and network with for business! She was there with her small son. I saw down and we started talking. I’ve been running into her all own town, and I realized, this is the universe saying something huge about the role she and I will play in each others’ lives. The other beautiful thing that spawned was a new friendship between Michael and her son. To watch them shake each other’s hands and introduce themselves was so beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. And all of this happened because Michael gave me that push. When he does this, the result is always something perfect, magical. He has that inner sense more developed than I do, and mine is strong when I listen to it.

This is not the first time I have seen synchronicity at work in my personal or work life. It’s there, and it’s powerful if we connect the dots and see what is the world telling us about where we need to be. That is the key question. Sometimes things are revealed that we don’t want to deal with, negative situations, people, but it all happens for a reason. The universe is trying to steer us in the right direction if we let it.

Exceptional Moms, how often have you seen the work of synchronicity in your lives, either due to your children’s influence or your own? How often have you followed the cues? How often have you ignored them? Trust me, follow those cues. If they are right you will feel the pull in your gut telling you, and that pull is unmistakable. You will feel that it is right. If you don’t feel that pull, don’t go for it. Also, pay attention to who keeps popping up in your life. That is a sign that they are there for a reason. And don’t be afraid to let your child lead you to the right people. They are seldom wrong, as that sense of inner knowing is far more developed in their bodies as in ours. Until next time.

Setting Limits On My Space And Teaching Michael To Do The Same

A few days ago, I had to lie down on the couch in the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling too well. It had been a hectic weekend, and the Monday was a PED DAY from school so Michael was home with me. This made it an especially busy day as Michael liked to be out and about on PED DAYS and enjoy his “day off.” I booked a haircut for him in the morning then we went with friends to a play center. We got back home for a late lunch, and I don’t know if it had been the stress of my fights with Michael not listening over the course of most of the weekend, going to bed late the night before, or just feeling tired from the morning, but after lunch I crashed. I ate something small then when Michael was watching some tv I went to lie down on the couch. I didn’t have any problems until about twenty minutes into it when Michael demanded I get up.

“Michael, I need to rest a little more. I’m feeling tired. I’ll take you out to the park later after your homework like I promised.”

“No, the last time you lay down you became sick and we couldn’t go anywhere.”

This was true. But then I had been coming down with a flu. This was only exhaustion. How to explain that and deal with a meltdown all while feeling under the weather? Sigh.

“Michael, Mommy needs some time to herself. When I’m all rested we’ll go, ok? You need to give me time, like I give you.”

He paused and seemed to think about it. Then suddenly something occurred to me.

“You’re not worried about me, are you? I’ll be fine honey. I just need to rest a little bit longer.”

Without missing a beat he answered.

“No, I just don’t want to stay home.”

I started to laugh. So, he was not like his uncle who never liked if my mother ever said she needed a break or lay down. He was afraid she was sick. No, Michael was thinking of his entertainment. Still, he finally began to understand that he had to give me my space in order for me to have energy to go somewhere with him later and backed off. I was braced for a meltdown, but so happy Michael reasoned it out. He was starting to see that I needed my alone time as he did and that, whether he liked it or not, he had to give it to me.

Exceptional Moms, do you take your personal space seriously? Do you make sure your children understand you need this space, and, as I saw by my example the other day, do it more often when you are not sick or tired? I haven’t been, but am starting to, so I can teach Michael to respect his own and other people’s space better too. It’s important as our children’s role models, and to remain strong ourselves, we do this. Only by taking that time alone can we be strong for everyone in our lives. Until next time.

Centering Yourself By Simplicity-Michael’s Lesson

“I love you Mommy. You’re the best Mommy in the whole world that God gave me.”

“Do you like me Mommy?”

“I’m very luck I have so many toys.”

“Can you hug me Mommy?”

Theseย  are the phrases I remember when I’m having challenging days with Michael. I hope he does the same with me. It’s been a rough month for both of us with his anxiety, but as the saying goes, the silver lining on the cloud have been what he has been saying above. He has also said some not so choice things to me, pretty much like any kid does when they’re mad. We all did it as children, and I did not hold those against him, especially as he apologized pretty much right after. We have had some beautiful moments in the last couple of days. We did some bike riding together, looked at photo albums with pictures of family members. Michael enjoyed both these experiences smiling and shouting “Whee!” as he went down a little hill, and asking tons of questions about family members in the photos we looked at. We even showed him our wedding video not too long ago. He smiled and enjoyed seeing the people he recognized in the video and even made some sobering comments which touched my heart, like when he saw my mother, who has hip problems and walks with a cane, walking freely and dancing with my father. I did get married, ouch, seventeen years ago. ๐Ÿ™‚

“There’s grandma! She’s walking and dancing. I wish she could do that now, and didn’t need a cane. It makes me sad, Mommy.”

I gave him a hug and told him it made me sad too. These sweet memories sustain me through the harder times, and I could see that even with his anxiety, Michael has lots of happy moments. That is what I want most for him, to be happy and healthy, enjoy his life, and grow into the amazing person he is meant to be. After all, in only eight and a half years, he has shown me how to be a happier and healthier person and opened up my eyes to how rich life really is. All our children do this, but sometimes we are too busy to hear them. We need to stop as parents and listen.

Exceptional Moms, what moments do you most cherish with your Exceptional Children? What times are made more special because of what you both said and did? I think the most important thing we can teach our children is to be happy with the simple things in life and not take these for granted, like health, family, friends and hobbies we enjoy. Only in keeping our lives simple, will it be easier to live in the moment, cherish that moment, and made it register and count for our child and ourselves for years to come. Until next time.

Seeing The Nervous Child And Adult Inside The Routine And Behavior

It was such a beautiful sight. I almost took a picture, and would have, if it would have not been in church, or rather in the church toy room. This is where we sit with Michael now during mass, as he can play and move around freely, without the constraints of the pew or the demands of Sunday school. Like everything lately, church is too much. Following rules, sitting still, anything that requires him relinquishing some control are intolerable. He wants to go, be a part of it, but it’s too long, there’s work and he’s overwhelmed. I was amazed as I watched him set a up a game of school with each of his three figurines on a chair, (a Disney villain figurine, Elmo and Gilbert the cat) facing a little toy table and desk where he sat as a teacher recreating the whole school day. Here he was in charge, made the rules, and felt in control. He played the role and the game so calmly and beautifully, but I knew he was far from calm. Watching him closely at church yesterday morning, I saw the volcano building under the surface, yet here he was doing appropriate play at the same time. A little girl came in the room halfway through the mass and moved his toys and began to color. Michael took this very well. She shared her crayons and markers. They began to color together and talk. It was beautiful to watch. It was a perfect moment in an imperfect morning, but I kept waiting for the emotions to come out. They did. Right at the final prayer Michael started picking his nose. I told him to stop. He did, but then started uttering statements that he knew would get a rise out of me.

“I want God to die!”ย  He shouted.

I’m sure he’d been holding back all his frustrations, and when I told him what to do, whammo! He hit me where he knew it would hurt, my social embarassment at not being able to control my child. I was feeling powerless too, and have been since his anxiety has grown bigger than what I could handle. We exited very tensely and after had a big fight.

Afterwards, as I sat alone after crying and collected my thoughts, I realized, Michael is just like I was at that age. I was so full of anxiety, the need to control things, but being a girl and neuro-typical, it manifested in other ways. I cried a lot when things didn’t go my way, and I had terrible self-esteem. The last point particularly hit me, as our Psycho Educator said to me that she suspects Michael’s self-esteem is very low, hence his ability to handle frustration is limited. Watching him lose control and then me lose control brought me back to my childhood. My mother couldn’t figure out at first how to help me, and she’d lose patience when I would be whining and I could see her struggling how to help me. She didn’t know either. Only time and maturity on both our parts helped. Now I was the Mom at a loss too. My heart broke for Michael, and my anger remained only at myself. How could I handle my own feelings better and not take the bait? It was hard to be sure, and, after all, I am only human. As an Exceptional Parent, I still have a lot to learn. I made my way to the library where I took out a slew of books on anxiety and children as well as on Asperger syndrome and anxiety. This would become part of my arsenal, along with the Psycho Educator and school psychologist’s suggestions for helping Michael.

Even when he is not trying to help me, and actually working against me, I now see how Michael is still opening up my eyes to how to help him, as well as help myself. I can’t enlighten him, if I don’t connect the dots in my own journey with anxiety, anger and depression. I have lots of anger issues I am working through and am glad for it. Anger is at the root of Michael’s problems, as they used to be at mine. And what is anger, after all, but loss of control over emotions because self-esteem is not in place or strong. When the self is strong, we can handle a lot. I will look closely at the tools in these books for both of us.

Exceptional Moms, do you automatically look behind the behaviors and anger of your Exceptional Children when they seek a reaction? It’s hard to do. And many of us fail from time to time. That’s ok. You can share with your child that you’re not perfect, but that, like them, you are working on becoming stronger and there’s no shame in expressing emotions. It’s when we hold them back that we get in trouble. Until next time.

How Abundance Works

I am slowly learning about something wonderful. It is called abundance. Michael has been teaching me about abundance for years. Abundance means looking at your life as a whole, and seeing all the blessings you have globally, not just in one category. Some of us are healthier than others, some have more friends, some have more money, but everyone, if their life is balanced enough, have abundance in more than one area of their life that makes their life whole. Most of us have family and friends who love us, co workers who respect us, a home, food, luxuries and money for things like leisure pursuits and holidays. We have abundance already, but if we are caught up in a mindset that says only wealth will buy true happiness, or a successful marriage will buy true happiness, or a child will buy this happiness, then we are missing out on the full happiness that is our life. We work on the things we want and are lacking, while at the same time appreciating the things we have that are good. Those of us that have children have learned to do this. Our children have taught it to us, reminding us to live in the moment, appreciate the fun things, the beauty of nature, a get together with a good friend, health and its treasures. Michael has showed me countless times how lucky I am even when I have worried, and now, in the last year, I have really seen the light of what abundance and being rich is. My family, my friends, my health, my writing are all blessings. Other things will come. Material abundance will come as I remember to count my blessings and recall that when I let go, things will fall into place.

Exceptional Moms, how much abundance do you have? I’m sure it’s more than you think you have, and in more than one area. Your child or children are one area of your abundance that show you all the important things you need to be concerned about, loving, living and playing, and learning all you can in life. When you are joyful and in the moment, you can see your blessings more clearly and live the life you are meant to live. Until next time.

Tools for Exceptional Moms and Dads To Handle Their Anger

Some days being a parent is harder than on other days. Some days being a kid is harder than other days too. This is when it is essential to have tools. Our family survives and thrives on the tools we have to deal with stress. We will soon be getting and leaning more, both Michael and my husband and I to deal with stress and anxiety and anger in a calm and collected way. The tools I and my husband use are the same ones we teach Michael to use:

  1. Self-Care: That is, having time away from each other and from being parents, even if just for an hour to do a workout or yoga.
  2. Visualization: Visiuazlizing a calm or “happy place” (in the words of Frasier Krane, Kelsey Grammar’s character in Cheers) :). For me, it is beach, a setting in the forest, or sometimes picturing myself sitting down with a nice glass of wine and a good book.
  3. Talking about our feelings: Once we calm down, talking about what we’ve learned and what we could have done better.
  4. Breathing: This one is harder for Michael, (and sometimes Mom and Dad) but it always helps bring us back to the present.
  5. Distancing ourselves for a second: This applies to my husband and I. I have recently learned to have this calm distance from friends who apply it, and from a great formula for anger I recently found online called SODA it

Sit

Observe

Detach

Awaken

I didn’t use these tools last weekend when I needed them, but now am keeping them close by like my tool kit bible you could say.

Michael has taught me many things, one of them being that by reacting, I am making the situation worse. I am provoking him more as he provokes me. But by remaining calm, I help him learn to be calm and ground himself. Sure we have moments that are less than favorable, but through each one, I am learning how to be better in control of myself, of the unpredictable and learning how to live in the moment while handling my emotions. This was not something easy for me to do before.

Exceptional Moms, what unfavorable and favorable tools have you used to help extinguish anger, your child’s and your own? What has worked, what hasn’t? I think if you keep an open mind, anything is possible, and when others see you learning form your mistakes, they are a lot more tolerant of their own shortcomings in growing and becoming a more tolerant human being of their own and others’ shortcomings. Until next time.

Obsessions, Impecfections And Learning How To Embrace All of Ourselves

It’s hard to be a kid in today’s fast paced world, any kid. But an exceptional child faces so much more. Our world moves faster, people are not always as kind as they can be because they are stressed, and expectations are high, especially if the child looks and talks like everyone else. I see and feel Michael’s pain at times like these. He is so anxious, and worries about what his teachers think of him, what we think of him. He feels bad when he gets angry on the one hand, but on the other, feels justified in making “the rules.”

“Why don’t I get to be in charge? I want to be an adult.”

We had a long walk together after a meltdown yesterday, where we talked about anger, how it is ok to be angry, but hitting, throwing things or screaming insults is not appropriate. We also talked about how though adults make rules, they also have more responsibilities, like jobs, having to pay bills, take care of a house, a car etc. Our ‘play time’ is much more constricted than a child’s who, though they don’t make rules, have the opposite. More play, less reponsibilities.

“So you and Daddy don’t play?”

“Not the same as you buddy. We have chores to do. Now that you are getting older, slowly you will have chores to do also. But for the most part, you still get to play. And you get some choices, choices of extra curricular activities, choice of which fruit or vegetable to eat, and choice of which park to go to. Lots of kids don’t have that. ”
“I know. I’m lucky Mommy.”

“You are. So remember that, you do have some choice. But Mommy and Daddy make the rules to keep you safe and because that’s what adults do.”

This is an ongoing fight and discussion between us, and last night’s talk certainly would not be the last. But at least the dialogue is going. Michael is also getting short term counseling at school. His first visit with the school psychologist was yesterday too. I spoke with him about when I went to speak to a lady therapist two years ago, and about how much it helped me get stronger, and learn new tools to cope with anxiety and anger, when I would be sad or mad.

Seeing Michael going through a hard time lately with anxiety, self-esteem, and generally having to face some difficult parts of his character, has forced me to turn to my own way of dealing with my imperfections, lifestyle stresses and self-esteem issues. I’ve found that barring a few difficult days last weekend, I am doing pretty well. I have come a long way from the woman who doubted her own decisions, made herself feel guilty when she couldn’t be everything to everyone, and in general, didn’t acknowledge that her self-esteem was pretty low. I have days when I’m hard on myself, (certain times of the month are challenging due to hormones and emotions running high): ), but other than that, I can feel when I’m about to have a negative thought, and am able to stop myself from proceeding further into self-destructive thoughts. This is something that at eight years old, and being on the autism spectrum, is still very challenging for Michael to do. I get it. I have to give him a break. I have to give myself a break.

Exceptional Moms, how hard have you been on yourselves in the past, before and now with your Exceptional Children? What issues has your Exceptional Child helped you work through? Our kids are our best teachers as I always say, and Michael is now showing me what I am made of and what he is made of. Each day, his ways of coping with anger, anxiety and aggression are getting better. He is crying and asking for a hug sooner. This was what helped me break down my anger, crying and asking others around me for support. Remember Moms, we’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help for your and your children. You’ve come a far way already. Until next time.

“Is God In My Heart When I’m Mad?” Exceptional Questions about Anger and Forgiveness

So the other day Michael threw me another curve ball, one of the religious variety.

“Mommy, is God in my heart when I’m angry?”

“God is always with you, but He lets you choose how to feel and act. When you’re angry, do you think you’re acting like God wants you to?”
“No, I don’t Mommy.”

“You’re right. But remember, God forgives you your sins. He forgives everyone their sins and you can always start over. Daddy and I feel the same way. We all make mistakes and need to be forgiven.”

“Oh, ok. I don’t know if I believe in God anymore. I can’t see him.”

“It’s hard eh Michael? We can’t see God with our eyes, but remember that we can feel Him with our heart, and see His work in nature. God made everything in the world.”

” I know Mommy. Can I look at maps now?”

And so ended our religion class for the day. Michael is honestly an amazing kid who comes up with great questions for me, always when I least expect it, but I do my best to answer them as well as I can. I also appreciate how much his questions teach me. It gives me an idea what is going on in his head, his worries and fears, and his curiosity. All these things are beautiful and exciting to see.

I had questions about religion like that only when I entered my twenties. Until then, I pretty much followed what my parents said and did. I didn’t question much. Then I went through an agnostic then an anti church phase, which brought me back to the balance of today, where I am a Christian Roman Catholic, but I subscribe to many other forms of religious truth and follow a lot of their tenets. This includes Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as some tenets of pantheism. My parents always left the floor open for my brother and I to have deep discussions with them about life, religion, politics, and I knew that I would do the same with my child. Just because he has autism did not mean we would not have these deep discussions and I was right. We are having them!

What deep questions do your Exceptional Children ask? How do you handle them? Are they challenging or calm discussions? I really believe that the way we as parents answer the questions mean as much as our children asking them. Our answers help define us and our children, as well as our future bonding and viewpoints. I wish all of you great discussions in the future. Until next time.