Month: November 2015

Neighbors-Connections of Light in Times of Darkness

I’ve been feeling melancholy lately. The short days, the cloudy dull weather. And I’m so far from ready for the holidays. I put on a Christmas CD this weekend while I baked, but it didn’t do the trick. I was feeling sad, lonely, disconnected. Michael has been a handful too. He has been clingy, difficult, moving too fast when I don’t want him to, and too slow when I need him to move.  I started thinking to myself that to trigger those holiday feelings I wish it would snow. Not the big storm type of snow, but soft while snowflakes, pretty without too much accumulation to make it look like a Christmas postcard outside. And that was when I saw it through my backyard window while washing dishes. I saw the usual neighbor’s home across the fence all  lit up with beautiful outdoor lights, and big lit up Christmas wreath. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and suddenly, I didn’t feel as alone anymore. I didn’t feel so disconnected. I remembered though December is the month where it is darkest, there will be lots of lights shining with holiday decorating, parties, family, friends. I just have to rest, take care of myself, and get there intact.

I was telling Michael this same thing the other day when he was telling me he hated the darkness and wanted snow and winter to come.

“I know this is a hard time of year honey, but remember what comes in December, Christmas decorating, Christmas, seeing family, your birthday.”

“Yes, Mommy. I love all of those things.”

“And only three more weeks of school until you’re home.”

That cheered Michael up fast, and even for me, though there is stress when he is home those weeks, we also have good times, many good times.

And all I have to do is remember the light of the holidays, of family and friends waiting to celebrate, laugh and enjoy each others’ company. And even those people I don’t know and will probably never meet, like those neighbors that I see through my backyard window. Their early Christmas lights fill me with joy every year and remind me that none of us is ever truly alone. There is a light shining somewhere to guide us all, child, adult alike.

What image of light do you keep in mind at this time of year with the upcoming holidays, Exceptional Parents? How do you show your child that light? However, you and your child hold on to it, remember. We are all the light for each other, and never lose hope that things will be bright even in the darkest of December afternoons. Until next time.

 

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The Spirit of Giving-Michael Embracing Real Spirit

Michael may have autism and the holidays may be a little intense for him, but it doesn’t mean he loves it any less. I think he loves it as much as any neuro typical child, and this year it is beautiful to see a new development, Michael’s sense of giving to those who have less. It started in the fall when he decided to give away toys of his that he was not playing with, but that he knew would benefit other kids.

“Mommy, I’m going to go through the toys I don’t play with anymore. I want to bring them to my old preschool and give them to the little ones there who might like them. They could also give them to families who don’t have a lot of money.”

Since he was little, his father and I have always been telling Michael how fortunate he is. And though we are not wealthy, we have always had enough to put food on the table, pay our bills, and Michael has never wanted for anything. It is a lot more than a lot of other families have.  Many struggle every day to eat, keep a roof over their families’ heads, and clothe themselves and their children, never mind things like toys and school supplies which are necessary, but become luxuries when the basic necessities of life are hard to meet. Our church does a lot of collections for various charities, as does Michael’s school, and we always talk to him about what the true meaning of the holidays is, gathering with family and friends to be grateful for all the blessings we have and sharing that with others who may not have as much.  Being Christian, we talk about what Jesus did, how he stayed among the poor and helped the destitute, the people that society frowned upon.

 

When Michael first learned there were children who didn’t have enough to eat or clothes to wear, I remember his shock. Now, every year, and especially around this time of year, he talks about giving to “people who don’t have what I have Mommy.” We will be giving to our church’s sock drive for homeless men and women next week.  This year Michael will be helping us pack the socks. He also knows we give presents to show love for each other, and that giving is better than receiving. I wasn’t sure that the message was getting across, but seeing him act the way he has this year, respecting the cost of things, asking questions about poverty and wealth. and wanting to participate in more giving than receiving, makes me excited and proud that he is understanding the true meaning of the holidays.

Exceptional Parents, how do you explain the spirit of giving during the holidays? How do you explain the true meaning of this time of year to your Exceptional Children? It’s important to start by modeling true giving yourself, volunteering time and effort for good causes, or participating as a family in a cause to help the greater good. By doing this, you show your Exceptional Child the need that is great in our world at the present time as much as ever,  which is connection and helping fellow humankind to live together in harmony. Until next time.

 

Love, Anger and Acceptance

 

Michael is learning a lesson a lot of adults have difficulty with. We can be angry at someone while still loving them at the same time. This has been coming out lately when he and I have a fight or the other day when he heard his father and I fighting. We try not to fight in front of him. I remember witnessing my own parents fighting and how it tore me up inside. But sometimes our best intentions go through the window. When you have three tired people you will get fights and disagreements from time to time.

After everything had calmed down, I spoke with Michael about how people who love each other sometimes fight. He nodded seeming to understand. I made sure he saw his father and I apologizing to each other, and reminding him that we care about each other. Fights happen because of misunderstandings, not lack of love. I think he got it and it was a good reminder to myself and his father too. We need to remember that at the heart of every fight is usually misunderstandings, hurt feelings, exhaustion, but love and friendship is there too. This is what we must hold on to. His father and I both expressed regret and are going to try and see the other one’s point of view from now on.

How do your Exceptional Children handle anger? Do they think you don’t love them or do they know the root of anger is hurt and misunderstandings? How do you handle this, Exceptional Moms and Dads our there? I hope, like I learned, that you remind your Exceptional Child that you love them no matter what they do. Of course they need, like you, to use acceptable behavior and if not there are consequences. We love each other even when we don’t like what the other person does. Until next time.

 

The First Snow Fall-Exceptional Wonder

 

This morning I woke up and saw snow on the ground. My first thought was how wonderful. I’ve always loved the first snowfall of the year. There’s something magical about it. It brings me back to my childhood and all the joy of playing in the snow, of being a kid.

When Michael was first diagnosed with autism the transition of one season to another was very hard for him, and subsequently for me.  He didn’t understand what winter was, why he had to wear certain clothes and didn’t pick up on the social cues of those around him. I distinctly remember having to teach him how to react to winter by looking at me as I acted out surprise, joy, picking up snow in my gloved hands, sticking my tongue out to catch snowflakes, making snow angels. You get the picture. It was difficult the first few years, then about two or three years ago he magically got it. He got the joy of what the season would bring to him, sledding, playing in the snow, skating. And when I saw that snow this morning I eagerly waited for him to get up and see it too. I couldn’t wait to see the expression of joy on his face, the expression of recognition of what was to come.

So I woke him up with the following:

“Michael, there’s a surprise waiting for you. Get up and come see!”

I knew he was up in bed having said good morning. He was just taking his time getting out of bed. All of a sudden I heard quick movement and running. In seconds he was in the living room.

“It’s snowing! Yeah, the first snowfall. Winter is here! No more fall!”

Then he shocked me.

“Mommy, I knew you were talking about the snowfall. I could hear it in your voice! I’m so happy.”

The joy that coursed through me seeing his little face lit up was three fold:

  1. He recognized the changing of the season as something good and what it would bring.
  2. He was happy and excited about change, something that is still difficult from time to time.
  3. He was acting like any kid would, socially appropriate, and the more things he did this way, the easier life would get. BUT yet he was doing his way. He was giving his spin of it with his comment “I knew what you were saying Mommy.”

He knows things before I say them. He’s so intuitive and intense. He senses some things before they happen. It’s a gift. It’s one of his many gifts.

I’ve said this before. I don’t want to change Michael for anything in the world. He is absolutely perfect as he is. Autism is part of that perfect, though it makes his life and his father’s and mine challenging in our crazy world, not built by or for people who think outside the box like him. It is starting to change gradually, but not fast enough sometimes. A lot of us so-called NT people (Neuro Typical, thank you very much) have difficulties in this world too. I’m referring to myself, of course, though I have lots of spectrum markers myself. I think all of us do to a certain extent. But that is not the point. The point is that I want to help him get along as easily as he can in the world, trying to understand and accept the NT world’s foreign language as most NT people are trying to understand his autism language. It’s a pretty cool language, like that of his friends.

Michael has taught me so much, and continues to teach me so much. Going for a drive in the car has me seeing directions in a whole new way. His version of imaginary friends and making them TONS of birthday cakes is unique. His questions on spirituality, reincarnation and the like, are things I’d never thought I’d be discussing with him until he was way into his teens. His sense of compassion, caring and his quirky sense of humor also keep me on my toes. So watching him enjoy the first snowfall, the exceptional way, was beautiful too.

In what ways do your Exceptional Children make you see life, and typical events like first snowfalls, in their own way? How have they opened your eyes, Exceptional Moms and Dads? For me, each child is a unique gift and brings that gift into the world. Our exceptional children are no different. Here’s wishing you lots more magical moments where they open your eyes to the exceptional things to come. Until next time.

 

 

Adapted Tennis-Sport and Life Lessons for Michael and his Parents!

 

Michael recently started in a great extra curricular adapted tennis program in our city called “Proset Autism”: http://prosetautism.ca/tennis. It is a wonderful tennis program and his father and I have seen him grow leaps and bounds since doing it! His coordination, excitement in trying new things, and willingness to experiment with different sports has been incredible to see! It had its challenges for him at the beginning of the program due to him having to focus in a group without being one on one. But just as he enjoyed participating in an adapted soccer program that was similarly constructed, he is now blossoming in this program. I have only seen him play once as this is his father/son activity, but wanted to come and see him play and we were headed out for a family visit afterwards.

His father has been telling me that though he is getting better and the teacher and head of the program will even take time out to help him focus each time, I suggested  that we give him his headphones. Maybe blocking out the exterior noises and sensory input would help more with his concentration level when teacher was addressing the other eight boys in the class. I can’t believe it took me until almost the end of the first session to realize this, but as you all know, life is busy with a special needs child! 🙂

Watching him play, and the pride in his face when he looked back and saw us so proud of him made me want to shout it to the rooftops that this is what our exceptional children need. They need more programs like the ones our community is blessed with. They need teachers and coordinators and volunteers who take the time to meet them on their own ground, respect their strengths and view them in terms of those strengths. This program is so well coordinated and effortlessly teaches exceptional children confidence, balance, coordination and being part of a group.

Exceptional Parents, how many of you are happy when you see your children living their full potential? How many of you are fortunate to have great extra curricular activities that focus on bringing out the best in your exceptional children? I would strongly encourage you to check out activities that challenge your kids at their level, and be willing to try anything once. I was nervous at first, as tennis is quite an intense game, but Michael’s interest combined with the wonderful approach the program takes, makes me realize that we must believe in our kids and do all we can to encourage them to stretch themselves. After all, we as parents need to do the same as well to grow, and we always feel better when we do, right? Until next time .

Proper Behavior Management In This Exceptional Family

 

Yesterday was a really interesting day. It was one of those days that started off on the rocky side with Michael’s behavior problems, but then surprisingly turned out to be one of the best days he and we have had as a family in awhile. I think it was all due to family teamwork and being good detectives at what we all needed to do to be focused on doing.

The first thing was skipping church. That was a tough judgement call I made due to Michael not listening and being off. His sequencing, understanding the order in which events had to happen, was not going smoothly and I knew that we had a busy day of tennis and visiting his grandparents ahead of us. I wanted to ensure as much success for him as possible. So we stayed home. Michael surprised me by going through the entire mass structure on his own. He asked me if he could do church at home and I told him sure. It was amazing to watch him! He did everything. After doing church, I let him watch children’s music videos on You Tube. I let him watch for a little longer than was healthy for him, and we all paid for that with a meltdown. But then he and his father and I rebounded from that.

I was worried as I had not had a chance to do my yoga and meditation, but I managed. We went to tennis as a family and with headphones Michael did his best ever! Then he had a great visit with his grandparents. I really believe it was because we all paced ourselves, remained calm, and let Michael know he needed to decompress and what was expected of him in terms of behavior.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you seen a day start out rocky only to see it go in the opposite direction with your Exceptional Children? How many times have they surprised you and you surprised yourselves? It is possible, by remaining calm, collected and talking things out that things do start to work out the way you want them to. Until next time.

 

 

Networking and Learning-The Importance of Exceptional Community Organizations

I am very excited that today I will have the opportunity to be meeting with and talking to great local community organizations that work to help individuals with special needs across our city. It will be a chance to talk, to learn, and to explain both the situation of parents with special needs kids and special needs children’s requirements in the school and community at large. I hope to be both a parent representative and an open professional individual to work as the liaison between parents and community organizations.

In the journey I have been on since Michael came into my life, I have met so many interesting people, both on and off the spectrum, who have opened up my eyes to all that is possible for my son and those like him. I want to do my part to encourage families, their children and societal organizations to invest in our kids because they are the future.

What organizations have helped you and your children in the past, Exceptional Parents? What professionals have worked alongside you to open up your eyes to your child’s potential? How have your grown as a person to see your child’s potential? All of these things are important, namely connecting to people and organizations that help you, your family and most importantly, your child be all they can be in the world. Until next time.

 

 

Parent/Teacher Meetings-Celebrating Growth/Working on Challenges

 

Today are the Parent/Teacher Meetings. I will be going later in the afternoon to hear from the staff at Michael’s school all about his growth this year and the challenges he is still facing. He had an amazing report card. I am proud, as usual, of how hard he is working even when things are difficult for him. That is something difficult for most of us.

I have seen him struggling with lots of anxiety in and outside of the classroom, and am glad that as usual, the staff at this school worked with me on this and gave him a stress ball for times of anxiety in the class. I have also been trying to help him become more independent at home, taking my cue from his teacher, by giving him a little more responsibility with chores and other tasks he was ready for.

It’s not always easy to find the balance of praising the child’s strengths without overpraising them, and helping them work on difficult areas. Sometimes I’ve been successful, other times I’ve caused frustration for Michael and I . He beats himself up when he makes mistakes, and I’m trying to teach him not to do that. It’s hard.  I know as I did that for many years.

But what stands out for me is that despite the emotional and learning struggles, I see Michael improving in so many areas. I see him excited about learning most subjects, and pushing himself forward with a little help from those around him. 🙂 This first Parent/Teacher Interview reminds me how important it is to touch base with the staff at his school so that as “Team Michael” we can help him achieve everything he is meant to achieve.

Exceptional Moms and Dads, how does Parent/Teacher Meeting go in your household? Do you see the gradual improvement your child/dren are making? Do you use it as an opportunity to grow too, challenge your child and yourself to advocate for them as much as they need? Remember, you are the main individual on their team, there to help them succeed to their utmost. And you are the best person for the job as you see all that your child is capable of. Until next time.

 

 

New Interests, Rewards And Emotional Exploration

Yesterday after school Michael threw me a curve ball. I didn’t mind though, as it was a good curve ball. He came home from school and told me he wanted to prepare stickers to bring to his friends. He put such attention and focus into this, like he usually does when he plays his musical instruments, maps out directions or does his pretend play. I was amazed to watch him. Then he did two more surprising things. First, he told me he did not want to eat.

“I’m too excited to eat Mommy. I want to finish putting these stickers in the plastic bag for my friends then I’ll have snack. Is that ok?”

“Sure it is buddy. Do you want some water?”

Thoughtful face.

“Yes. I am a little thirsty.”

Now anyone who knows Michael really well, knows that he is a foodie like his mother and father, and that he never does anything other than pee and wash his hands before having snack. So this was quite the surprise. I watched him focused on this new task and was proud of him for this new interest. Meanwhile, I put supper on early so we could then meet up and have snack together.

A few minutes after beginning his sticker task though, Michael surprised me with something else. He came up to me and placed a few stickers on each of my hands;

“Here Mommy. These are your stickers for good work on your blog. I’m so proud of you!”

I laughed with delight. It was so cute! I smiled and thanked Michael.

The fact that he was making the connection to pleasurable things, rewards, compliments, and interacting with me and on his own in a whole new way, made me very proud.

He has been a lot calmer the last few days. I know at school there have been methods put in place to help with his anxiety, and as always, I highly appreciate the attentive staff who have listened to my input and been open to discussing everything with me.

 

Seeing Michael trying out new things, changing up the routine, was also good for me. It reminded me to try new things, pick up new interests and never shy away from “throwing things up in the air.” It’s hard to do sometimes being an exceptional parent, but I see it is mandatory as it teaches said exceptional child about changes, new interests and helps them develop new behaviors. So I have started branching out as a speaker, organizer of events in my Mommy groups, and even with my writing, trying out a whole new genre, fantasy/horror writing!

In what ways do your Exceptional Children throw you curve balls, Exceptional Parents? How have they made you open up more to the world? If you haven’t yet, don’t worry. Tomorrow’s another day to get that sticker for doing a good job, trying out another way to ease anxiety, and just breaking out of your comfort zone. It’s hard, but it’s like when that caterpillar transforms into the butterfly. It’s scary at first until it feels its wings and then flies into the air. Until next time.

The Importance of Love and Acceptance

 

Michael is full of surprises. Sometimes they have been stressful surprises, but lately there have been more happy surprises thankfully. And one of these happy surprises was him shocking me by doing something I have been telling him to do for some time: clean his room and the toys in his playroom. In a twenty-four hour span he took care of both rooms, putting me to shame with his ordering of the rooms. My office is in shambles, not to mention other rooms that I tackle when I get around to it. Writing for a living is enjoyable, hard and time-consuming work. I am learning how to slowly delegate and ask for help. But Michael truly amazed and surprised me by cooperating in doing what he was told.

It has been such a chore these past few months getting him to listen, follow rules. There has been testing, challenging behavior, questions about everything, with why being a favorite word. The other day I felt so bad at the relief I felt when he was safely on the school bus on the way to school. Phew! I wouldn’t have to field any more “why” questions, protect the cat from his “love” and over-exuberance” and could enjoy some quiet. Having a social, talkative and anxious boy around some mornings is daunting for this non-morning Mom. What works is if I wake up earlier and get caffeinated in order to more fully engage with Michael who is “on” the second he gets up. I love him and wouldn’t change him for anything in the world, but he comes with his challenges. Still, I see with his recent behavior, he so wants to please, and I think he thinks I will love him more if he outdoes himself with doing tasks. I must have unintentionally sent this message, so today I was praising him for listening, while at the same time reminding him that I love him no matter what.

 

 

“You love Mommy, right? Even when you’re mad at me, you still care about me, right Dude?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Well that’s the way I feel about you.”

Pause.

“You’re the best Mommy God ever gave me. I love you.”

“And I you.”

We have had our fair share of conversations that went totally opposite to this one. The other night he was so mad at his father that he started hurling insults, every bad word he knew. Eventually when he ran out of them, he started saying “you apple, you orange.” Then he began to laugh. That’s when I knew he was ready to talk, apologize and ask for forgiveness. And his father was able to meet him there and tell him that he accepted and loved him for who he was. We all make mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge that, learn from it, and move on.

Michael has taught me how I have looked all my life for acceptance, love and credibility, usually when I already had it. My self-esteem was not too strong, and it took years for me to see I was worth everything my loved ones said about me. I see that with my newfound self-love, I must teach Michael to see that in himself, as those that care about him see it in him.

Exceptional Moms and Dads, how many times have your Exceptional Children not felt accepted by you, by others? Have they voiced it to you? If so, you know how to start to fix the problem. Praise their efforts at cooperation, but also find ways to tell them you love them no matter what else happens. Respect, love and kindness must be shown to all, but as everyone makes mistakes, show them how to forgive and forget too. Only in this way can they learn how to lead happy and healthy emotional lives. Until next time.