Month: January 2016

Exceptional Sleep Issues- Dealing With Security Vs Control

Michael has never been much of a solo sleeper. Self-soothing is still something that comes with difficulty for him, hence our current sleep issues. One part of Michael’s “Exceptional Team” are the wonderful Psycho Educators who have been working with us to try and get him sleeping fully independently for the whole night in his own bed. The process of tackling challenging behaviors at home means dealing with the issue of Michael’s fears at night time. He thinks there are monsters in his room that will hurt him if I or his father are not there. We will be continuing with a new sleep program that will be helping Michael, while we wait to see who will be the next individual to come and help us with the challenging daytime behaviors of listening to us and following rules.

 

Today was a tough day for Michael and I. Evening went well only because he was exhausted from the emotions of the day, and I used some Melatonin to get him back on track. I was reassured by the child psychiatrist we saw that it was perfectly safe, as long as it was occasional only and he was really off track. Trust me, lately he’s been REALLY off track with sleep. This is the only the second time I’ve used this, as I know a drug is not the long term solution. And I know that when he starts sleeping better, he’ll handle everything else better too.

It’s been a challenge this week with my Exceptional Boy to say the least. There’s been so much anger, anxiety. I think it’s been the increased academic demands, and I’ve been noticing how as we’ve let him have more choice at home, it has led to him feeling more lost in some ways. Not what we wanted. Before, Michael was a great happy little boy, but very rigid in a lot of his ways of doing things. Now, we no longer have rigidity. He goes a lot more with the flow, but the price we’ve paid is that he tries to negotiate everything and every situation to get his way and make his rules. He doesn’t want to follow our rules, and when we tell him he has to, out comes the aggression. This has been my dilemma. As always, Michael has been my teacher, showing me for better or worse what I had to learn to deal with in my personality (having a hard time being strict with him) with balancing the order in the house with nurturing love. I’ve gone either too much one way, or too way another, and that combined with autism and Michael’s particular character has brought us to where we are now. We are a family having to set boundaries, respect everyone’s needs and wishes, and show love and nurturing at the same time. Michael is quick to anger, but quick to forgive. Me too, but I’ve been showing him that though we are on this journey together, he needs to understand that aggression in any form, verbal, physical or psychological will not be tolerate by anyone. We are growing and learning together.

 

What challenges do you and your Exceptional Child/dren face at home, at other places? What behavior plan/s do you put in place to deal with daytime and nighttime issues? It’s important to remember that we always learn from each other, parents and children, and that we not be afraid to take a step back and admit when we have made a mistake as parents, and show our children how they can do the same. We all learn from our mistakes and that is how we can grow as Exceptional Families and be happier and healthier. Until next time.

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Family History and Mother/Son Bonding-Exceptional Dinner Conversation

 

Whenever Michael starts getting chatty with me, that’s when I realize that I am on to something good. That is, I am on to doing something good with him. I am reaching him somehow, about the importance of family, bonding and things outside of himself, the same way my Mom reached out to me. After snack and homework the other night, Michael started asking me questions about his maternal great grandparents. He was particularly interested in my maternal grandmother and how she spent time with us, baking, talking and discussing religion. He laughed and asked me to recount stories of when she would admonish my brother for teasing me, if she gave us junk food treats like his grandmother does, and if she talked about God a lot. It was a beautiful conversation. He also asked about his other great grandmother. She was a fiesty one with a temper, strict but had a good moral code. I enjoyed answering these questions while we did, believe it or not, crafts together. We were putting together some Minion craft figurines in a book I had ordered for him through his Scholastic book club. He has recently become a major Minions fan due to a good friend’s love of them!

What struck me about this desire to get close to me again, was that it has happened right on the heals of all the behavior challenges we’ve been having over the last few months. He has been pushing me away only to bring me closer. I see now that Michael, like all children, is trying to figure out when he ends and I begin, as I have been trying to figure out where I end and he begins.

We are close. We love one another and have a strong bond, but are two separate people. The bond between mother and child is a tough one to interpret at times, but I am learning how to read him better. He’ll still take me by surprise. Like the other day we had a fight. I was angry, he was in the wrong and I asked him to apologize. He did, but looked at me sadly and said:

“Do you still love me Mommy?”

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Of course honey.”

“But when you’re mad you stop loving me, right?”

Where on earth did he get these notions? Where does any child? I quickly corrected him.

“Yes, I was mad at you Michael, but I never ever stop loving you. You apologized. I forgave you.”

“Really? But how much do you love me Mommy?” And he looked scared as he waited for my answer.

I smiled and gave him the answer I have been giving since he was a baby;

“I love you more than anything in the whole universe!”

He smiled, relieved.

Our kids are complex creatures. They read into things messages we don’t always want to convey. I feel fortunate I can communicate with Michael so well, but there are always times when mixed signals get through. The lesson I took away from our bonding is to try to show Michael clearly how much he means to me in small ways every day. He needs that reassurance. Maybe the behaviors are even happening to some degree to test that love, but this was my eye opening moment, and a beautiful one at that, to share our family history.

Exceptional Parents, what precious moments have you had recently where you had a chance to clear the air with your Exceptional Children? What lessons have they taught you about family, life and showing love? Remember, our kids are our best teachers. Let them lead the way to help you get more in touch with yourself as their parent. They need to know you are there regardless, and you need to show them that the best way to reach you is through time spent doing simple things. Until next time.

5 Ways You Know Your Exceptional Child Is Maturing

There are light and dark moments in exceptional parenthood. I have had and continue to have both those types of moments with Michael, and I know he does with me. Sometimes we are both so frustrated with each other. We do not get something the other one is saying. But yesterday afternoon was one of the “light” moments. Michael came off the bus beaming, excited about some new homework, math homework where he gets to be a “detective” and reading homework where he gets to read to me.

“Mommy, I need to read for ten minutes each day, and this reading is fun ’cause I choose the book to read.”

“I can’t wait to hear you read honey.” I was so excited to see him excited about learning. He is very good about doing his homework now, but will moan and groan like a teenager about homework usually.

He choose a Franklin the Turtle story, one of his favorites. I know he can read. He’s a beginner, but can sound out all the syllables now and is getting more and more confident. It’s the same with writing. Still, I was so surprised to hear how fluently he read. I felt my eyes tearing up as they usually do at these moments, the light moments, when Michael surprises me with what he can do. He is so capable, smart and I remember the fears I had about him not talking, not reading, not learning. All unfounded now, though he is undoubtedly learning at his own pace. But then again, all our kids do to some extent. I was so proud watching and hearing him work so hard.

There are many ways I am seeing now that point me to Michael’s maturation from baby to little boy to older boy. These ways are visible in most of our Exceptional Children if we look for them, and I believe it’s important we always look for them as they become the torch we carry in darker times. Remember, Exceptional Parents, our children look to us for their cues and worth. Have a look at these and see if you can’t find the memorable things your children do:

5 Ways to Know If Your Exceptional Child is Maturing:

  1. Pulling away from parents toward independence: This one of the first things I noticed with Michael. He wanted to do more things for himself and got mad if I try to help. A sure fire positive sign that he is growing up!
  2. Negotiation for rewards and understanding of consequences: When your child can do this, you are up the creek without a paddle so to speak, but it is like lying. It is not something you are thrilled about, but you can see they are aware and know about their limits and yours. These are all important skills in growing up.
  3. Life skills improvements and desire to learn: When they want responsibility with chores, want to drive a car one day, and are eager to try new things, you can see that they are happy and optimistic about the future. Encourage them by trying new things.
  4. Talking about  their future life as an adult, either with a job, marriage and family: These things show me how far Michael has come, and other kids who talk about their future in this way also show their maturation. Yes, he has a lot to learn to become fully independent, but though he has anxiety, he is letting others show him the way as someone will do when they feel confident.
  5. Dealing with challenging emotions in a healthy way: This is a biggie for me. He will do deep breathing before he hits and if he forgets and slaps me, will immediately apologize and say, “that was wrong.” It’s a relief when you see your child internalizes the proper way to behave in society and is changing their way of handling hard emotions.

 

All Exceptional Children will realize these goals, some or all, at different times, but you need to continue to see the light, especially in times of darkness, so that your family can move forward to bring out the best in each other. I treasure and take a snapshot of the moments like this, and hold on to it as proof that each day, Michael and I are learning more about how to help each other be the best mother and son we can. Until next time .

Gathering Michael’s Exceptional Team

 

 

So today is the day the process officially begins. A new team Michael will be forming to add to an already amazing team Michael. I and our Psycho Educator will be meeting with the same psychiatrist that diagnosed my son with autism five and a half years ago to discuss a new home program to help with Michael’s challenging behaviors. As I’ve mentioned before, things have dramatically been improving in the last month. I think the fact Michael has learned new skills from his school psychologist is playing a big part, but I also think that mine and his father’s eyes have been opened by what we can improve upon as parents.

 

However, the honeymoon, as I have been jokingly referring to it, ended a few days ago when for the first time in over two weeks, Michael was aggressive towards himself and me. It’s normal. I think he was afraid at first to upset me, and worried about the “new team Michael” coming, so was being super good not to get on my bad side. But then he got comfortable, and one thing about my son, is that when he gets comfortable around you, he lets it all hang out. He also tries to negotiate terms for rewards. The other day for listening at church he tried to negotiate a toy at the Dollar store. Quite funny. But anyway, he was feeling comfortable with me so began testing. He got angry at something I said so slapped and hit me. I am proud to say that I was firm, told him no hitting and insulting. And before I could say another word about deep breathing and apologizing, he looked at me and in a sad voice said, “I’m sorry Mommy. I’m going to calm down.” He proceeded to sit down on the kitchen chair and deep breathe for a few minutes. This type of scenario happened a few more times. Sometimes he did need the deep breathing and apology reminder, but it worked. He is now able to calm down quickly, realize his mistakes, then tell me he is learning. He will say, “I won’t do that again, Mommy.” I tell him I’m glad, but I know he will do it again, for a little while at least. Don’t we as adults say that all the time when we make mistakes. It’s rare that we don’t need to make the same mistakes again though, before we finally say enough is enough. I know it will take time, but we are getting there.

 

The issues we have with Michael are usually at home or at an event where he is not quite sure what is happening and acts out of discomfort or stress. I am looking forward to getting a plan in order, a way to work with new professionals to help come up with new tools to help Michael communicate his fears and stresses better with us. It doesn’t excuse the bad behavior, of course, but I am seeing that tools for stress, discomfort and sleep issues are what we need. I am excited and nervous at this next step we are taking, but as I told Michael, we will see if it is working. If not, we try other things. I want to make sure the people that work with Michael are a good fit for him and us. It’s only then that we can all help Michael learn to be the best he can be.

Exceptional Parents, what are your Exceptional Children’s teams like? Is there a good vibe, or do you feel something is missing? Remember, if yours or your child’s wishes are not being respected, it is time to seek help elsewhere. The people on your child’s team must be as much in their corner as you are, or it won’t work. We have been fortunate overall, but I always have my antenna tuned in to make sure the absolute best people are helping me see the whole Michael, not the behaviors. Good luck to you all on your journeys. Let your child, as always, be your guide. Until next time.

Altruism and Teaching Empathy-Exceptional Lessons at School

Michael never ceases to amaze me with how he listens when he wants to, and how interested he is in the world around him. Well, that I actually knew already. Truthfully, he’s a bit of snoop, really. He eaves strops on conversations around him, looks at what people are doingm and talks about different scenarios. He’s, ahem, a chip off the old block, that block being me. The only thing is in my case, I didn’t announce or make it obvious that I was eave stropping as a child and now as an adult. What can I say? As a writer, it’s where I used to get and still get all my good ideas. 🙂

Anyway, back to Michael. He is so interested in all that is around him, and this gives me great encouragement and hope about when he will make his way in the world one day as an adult. The other day at snack time, he told me all about some workers from a humanitarian organization that had come to his school to talk to his class about kids in Nigeria who don’t have what kids have in North America. He spoke very solemnly about these kids having to hike for water, food, and not having a lot of money for school supplies. He also spoke of sharing desks as classrooms were small.

“It must be hard for those kids Mommy. I’m lucky I have all those things.”

“Yes, it is  honey. And you are lucky. That is why we try to help other people who don’t have as much as us.”

“Yes, I brought toys to church and my old preschool. I brought canned goods to the food basket and socks for the men on the street.”

I got tears in my eyes hearing him recount all the ways he has helped, even with all his challenging behaviors over the last few months, he is understanding, aware of others, and knows about reaching out. I am doing something right. Michael is raising me to be more aware of these things too, for as I teach him, I relearn myself the importance of charity, of gratitude, of struggle.

I plan on writing a note to his teacher to thank her for having these people come in. It’s important that though our kids and their families struggle, financial and otherwise, they need to know they are not alone, and have a lot they could offer to others. We all need to remember this.

Exceptional families, how often have you focused so much on your troubles and stresses in your life with your child and yourselves? How often have you forgotten your blessings? Michael and all our kids, if given the chance, can show us how much we all have to give others, ourselves, and the world. All we need to do is open up the door to gratitude, open our eyes to the world around us, and listen. Thank you Michael, for another exceptional lesson to this Mom and the world around you. 🙂 Until next time.

 

Breathe, Focus, Delegate-Rules for the Whole Family

 

It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you stay in the present moment, are honest with yourself, and ask for help. These are techniques that I have been showing Michael to do, and without realizing it at first, he has been showing to me and his father to do them too. I can say that we are all mastering these techniques together, checking in with each other, and making out a life schedule that works for all of us. We fine tune when it is necessary, cut ourselves some slack when we make mistakes, and move on. What has been amazing to me is that all the hard work of the past few months is slowly coming to fruition. Each of us, in their own way, have been growing as people. Michael has been testing his limits with us,  feeling powerless in some areas, and being unsure how to handle things. As he saw he could talk to his school psychologist, and his father and I have shown me positive attention when he acted appropriately and asked for help with his emotions, it’s like a light bulb went off in his head this past month. He has started using the calming down techniques he has been taught, asking for boundaries when he needs, hugs when he’s scared, and behaving appropriately. He’s been handling stress better than me this week and has been, dare I say it, zen like. 🙂

For my part, I have been learning to be honest with myself about my own feelings of control, patience and when I am overreacting to things or not reacting enough. I have been observing myself, my inconsistencies in handling situations with Michael and in my own life, and have been making changes. It feels so good. I am battling inner emotional demons that I have no more use for, but who had started rearing their ugly heads when the trouble with Michael started again three months ago. I see that I am stronger than I was, and that I don’t need to be afraid. I can let things go, anger about events, at people, and forgive them and myself. After all, we all human and fallible, me included. Michael’s father is learning these same technique and it is making a huge difference in all our lives.

Exceptional Parents,  when was the last time you sat down and stayed in your moment breathing and seeing things as they really are? Not sugar coating your life is painful at first, frustrating at other times, but it is the only way to grow and see what needs to change in order for balance to be present again. Balance in any form means pruning away the old roots to make room for the new plant to grow. Don’t be afraid to step back as a parent and ask for help, then put a new plan of action into effect. You and your whole family will be better for it. Until next time.

Eating Raw Peppers and Deep Breathing-Michael’s Milestones!

I had a wonderful and unexpected moment the other afternoon with Michael. We had had a string of challenging days, but this particular day was turning out to be a good one. He was listening without defiance, we were talking and laughing, and eating a tasty lunch. I had given Michael some broccoli or green beans to eat with his lunch of hard boiled eggs and soup. I was having the same thing with raw orange peppers. I was chomping away on my peppers, when all of a sudden Michael spoke:

“Mommy, can I smell one of your pepper pieces?”
Surprised, I nodded and gave it to him. He gazed thoughtfully at it then said.

“I used to eat raw peppers when I was a baby, right Mommy?”

I smiled. “Yes. You loved red and orange particularly, but you even ate green. And tomotoes. Then you stopped liking them.” It was around two years old when the signs of autism really started coming out.  His sensory issues became more prominent then and I’m sure affected his food preferences. Figuring I was being too pushy but not being able to help it, I added that. Then in shock I watched and heard him say:

“I’m going to try this pepper now.”

And calmly, without incident he ate the pepper and made a yum face. A yum face Moms and Dads! This kind of face is usually reserved for chips and pizza!

“This is good Mommy. Can I have some more?”

I almost tripped going to the fridge to get him more peppers, though of course I played it cool and walked calmly. Amazing. When emotionally I feel like we’ve been in a battlefield for everything, I get this beautiful moment. I laughed on the inside. Kids. All kids are like this to some degree, but with Exceptional ones like Michael these surprises really make you stop and think about milestones, victories you wouldn’t normally think of celebrating, but with special kids you celebrate because it is so unexpected. I felt the same way the first time he read a word to me, wrote his name all crocked. Even now as I see him struggle with handwriting, I want to bear hug him every time he forms a letter. I can see the struggle and what it takes for him to accomplish it. Getting dressed is like that too, holding a pen. I am so proud of him when he tries hard. Yesterday we started to have a fight, and then again he did it. He sat down and started deep breathing to calm down. I let him be, he apologized for yelling and not listening to me, and we moved forward. We had another great night! So nice when we as parents have these moments and see what our kids are capable of.

Exceptional Parents, what crunchy vegetables or deep breathing moments have you had with your Exceptional Children? Do you keep track of all the positive moments? They are more important than the negative ones in the long run, for they help us remember how far our kids have come and how far they will go. They also help us keep striving to do our best as parents and individuals. Never stop believing that anything is possible, even in the midst of rough times. Until next time.

Simple Moments, Serious Family and Friend Fun

 

It has struck me recently that the more serious life gets for our family, the more we need, as a family, to get out and have some good old fashioned simple fun. Sounds like an oxymoron, right, but it really works. With the anxieties and lack of control Michael has been feeling in his life, and hence I’m thinking part of the reason why he has been challenging his father and I much more, simple fun like tubing with his Dad on a Sunday morning, going out for a smoothie with his Mom, and playing outside in the snow with a good friend, seem to be the balm he needs to be a typical kid home on a PED DAY or a weekend. And for us, his parents, we are so happy to do these simple regular family activities with Michael. It gives us all a chance to have fun, laugh, and forget about fixing things for awhile. We all need these times I believe, kids and adults both.

Being with Michael in moments like this also gives us the chance as his parents to recharge our parenting batteries doing typical everyday stuff with him that all kids like to do. Lately with his challenging behaviors, testing, questions and negotiations, it has been a mentally exhausting time parenting him. There have been mornings I wake up stressed, dreading the drama and episodes of tantrums that sometimes ensued. This happened, that is, before I learned how to get calm inside myself and manifest that calm on the outside. Part of doing this was by self-care techniques, the other part was in remembering my son is not a project to be fixed, completed. He is a little boy who needs to have fun, let loose and do kid things too. As our family has gravitated more towards these moments, it makes the other more challenging moments small in comparison. We remember how much fun Michael is, how he lights up each moment with his enthusiasm, and how he continues to inspire his parents to be better human beings. Then we can draw on these times when he is driving us crazy in those other moments. We remember what our job as parents is in the first place. We are but his guides in this world, as he lives his life and purpose which is still unfolding.

 

Exceptional Parents, what simple activities do you do as a family that help you remember your child’s purpose and yours as his parents? Remember, our children need therapy, need tools to help with their challenges, but most of all, they need to be just like other children and play, have fun and experience the simple things in life. This will help them be happier and healthier individuals, as it will their parents. Until next time .

 

Exceptional Birthday Parties-Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser

 

So Saturday was Michael’s birthday party with his friends, party number 4. Yes, I sometimes worry that his “healthy” self-esteem may morph into conceit over “his” day, but so far so good. 🙂 He always has a party at school, one on his actual day with us and one side of the family, another one on another day with the other side of the family, and then of course, his outside of school party. This was the one we had yesterday at our local YMCA.He had requested a sports themed party and that was what we got. I was a little nervous that I did not disclose that all the children at this part have special needs, but knew the Y’s reputation for acceptance and integration so I crossed my fingers, toes and other body parts that his first “center” party outside of our house with friends would go well. It did not only go well, but was phenomenal!

 

Like with practically everything since his birth, Michael continues to amaze me with what he can do, cope with, and knows. His friends do the same. There they were, all with various sensory issues, balance/coordination delays and what not, playing sports with the animators. Their limits were not visible. All I saw and filmed were a bunch of boys, and one girl, playing, laughing, running, being kids like all kids, and having fun with the two animators. My heart sang with joy, and I have the beautiful memories captured on video! They played soccer, basketball, and floor hockey while the proud Moms and Dads chatted on the sidelines watching. Seeing the joy of these kids being kids, no therapy schedules, no IEP goals, no measuring against others, was so inspiring to me. It also was uplifting to me, to all the parents there, whose kids struggle with one thing or another. For us, with Michael’s behavioral challenges and emotional issues, having a joyful carefree afternoon where I saw him happy and relaxed was therapy for me. It reminded me how, like a dear friend recently put it, Michael is finding his own way in the world, exploring, learning, growing with ups and downs, and I am here only as “his tour guide” in this world. He is and has shown me a different way of being in the world, and helping me experience how to be the best “me” I can so I can help him be the best “him” he can.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you had those moments with your Exceptional Child/dren that took your breath away? How many times have you sat back and watched them shine and see them as the child they are, no work to be done on them? It’s hard as society tells us our kids are broken. I assure you they are not. They have different ways of seeing the world and challenges, but with our help, encouragement, and humor, we can expose them to all kinds of possibilities and open up their world as they have opened up ours for the better. Don’t shy away from trying anything new. Let intuition, your child’s and their childlike excitement, be your guide to letting the whole family and community experience the joy of having our kids participate in every day kid activities. Until next time.

Exceptional Events and Recovery

 

So today was one of those days with Michael that started rough and continued that way after school. And I, with good intentions but not too clued in to Michael’s red flags, did not pick up on any of the warning signs that he was about to erupt, not one, but two times due to my poor timing of bringing certain things up at the wrong time. Sigh. I also didn’t pick up on my red flags of exhaustion and stress of all the unpredictable things that have been happening lately in our family, from electrical problems in the house, to Michael’s challenging behaviors due in part, to him getting up earlier in the morning as well as other issues he is facing. It was a tough afternoon for both of us. I lost control and threw a book at him. Not a proud Mommy moment. When Michael and I had both calmed down, Michael asked me if what I had was right. Of course, I told him no. I was wrong. I told Michael that Mommy was angry and tired and forgot to do her deep breathing. I tried to help Michael focus on deep breathing when he first started losing control, but it was too late. He was too far gone and my “help” only served to make him angrier.

It was only when Michael had calmed down and was cleaning up the tornado of scattered toys in his room, that I had good long cry and let out my own frustrations of how badly I had handled things. I cried for my own exhaustion from several nights of burning the midnight oil for my business. I enjoy that night time for myself, but as a Mom, when Michael has hard days I pay the price as well. I also cried for not making time for myself to exercise today. The two days I did exercise gave me a bigger energy reserve to handle unpredictability like this. Finally I cried, because my life today felt like walking on a tightrope, juggling the needs of an aging house, with the needs of a demanding child, with the needs of my business. Where do I fit in? When do I get a chance to just breathe in and out and exhale and not worry that the ground will cave beneath me? I don’t. No special needs parent has that option. And of course, today when talking on the phone, I made the mistake of telling the Psycho Educator we are working with that things are getting better. Moms  and Dads out there, this is the kiss of death with our kids, right? We say those words, and automatically you have a crappy day or night or both.

 

Walking on a tightrope is how I live my life these days. I curse it on days like today, when I feel so powerless and don’t know what to do to restore my balance. On days like today I want a “DO OVER” button, but life doesn’t work that way. We make the best of the situation, learn and move on.

What hard lessons have your Exceptional Children taught you about life, Exceptional Parents? What do you take away from your exchanges with them, good and bad? Know you are never alone. It doesn’t remove the problem, but at least you know there is help out there for you, for your child, and that with enough belief in the two of you, you can accomplish anything. Tomorrow is another day. Until next time.