Month: February 2016

Family Excitement and Handling Change Well

So Spring Break has finally arrived, and with it, the scheduling begins! Over the last few years, I have learned from past blunders, that the best way to decrease anxiety and to help us all enjoy “the break” was to schedule the week as much in advance as possible. It doesn’t mean everything, of course, but just enough so we all know what we’re doing and I don’t have Michael asking me, “Who am I seeing today Mommy?” OR “Where are we going?” We make alternate plans if we have things scheduled for outside or out of town as these things can’t happen unless weather permits, but it all ends up working out for the best whatever we do. Saturday morning we did our “dry erase board schedule”, where Michael writes out or rather draws out his schedule with marker on the dry erase board. He helps me (or else I) write it out in words on the bigger menu type dry/erase board after that. It helps us all know what to expect that week and we are all happier for it.

 

I have seen a maturity in Michael growing over the past few months. He wants to see friends, so I have scheduled some play dates, but he also enjoys running errands with me at the grocery store (and now asks for fruits and vegetables. :)), and is interested to go to places like museums, where he is not sure what will happen. He is beginning to like the adventure of it, the unknown, as long as there are some knowns in the picture. Today, weather permitting, we will be going to a museum in nearby Ottawa. He is very excited as are his Dad and I. We have warned Michael though that if the weather forecast is too dicey, we’ll stay in town and take him to a fun center or indoor swimming or skating. He is ok with any of the options. I am proud of this flexibility. In the past, there would have been a tantrum if original plans did not materialize. He has come a long way, and have I and his father in organizing him and ourselves better.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle unexpected changes in a predetermined schedule, whether Spring Break or other, with your Exceptional child? How far have they come in accepting last minute changes, if this is still an issue? If they are still having difficulty, don’t worry. Take it one day at a time. Experiment with dry/erase boards, social stories, going with their cues for what decreases your child’s anxiety whenever you can. As long as you let your child guide you with what they are ready for, you will have success as an Exceptional Family with any change or obstacle. Good luck. Until next time.

 

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The Exceptional Return Home

I am so proud of my little man. And I could call him that now, a little man, as he did so well for his first ever sleep away at Winter Camp for three days two nights. He loved all of it, mostly the food. Those were his words. 🙂  From the time I picked him up at school with his luggage, he talked in excitement non stop about his three days of adventures. He recounted tubing, roasting marshmallows, the great food, playing in the cabins with his friends, and several times made me promise to “sign the forms” next year to send him back again. He never once said he missed me or his Dad which told me that he truly was ready for this experience, though of course he did say he’s happy to be home and hugged me extra hard at bedtime.

For me when I saw him in the classroom for the first time in two days, I had another emotional moment. My throat closed up for a minute, and I silently reminded myself, don’t cry with joy that you are seeing him again. You don’t want him to see you cry and get confused. He’s growing up, spreading his wings, and this is something to be celebrated. Being a parent is such a strange experience. I truly enjoyed the little parental “rest” I’d gotten over the last few days. I enjoyed watching a movie with Michael’s Dad, our couples massage, our dinner out, and, though it was hard, talking about things other than autism, bills and house stuff, though we slipped up a few times. We need more practice, more days and nights like this.

Once you are a parent there’s no going back. I was never totally away from thinking of my little boy. How was he enjoying being at a nature camp? How was he coping with sleeping away from his bed? How was he eating, toileting? Ah, the things Moms worry about. Mind you, even when he is at school, at his grandparents’ house, at an activity, he is never far from my mind, my thoughts. My own mother said to me when I first got married about how having children was the real deal breaker that changed you. You could never “unbecome” a parent though you could have a do over in any other area in your life, a job, a marriage, a friendship. But becoming a parent was forever. Another Mom friend who I spoke to totally getting what three adult days without Michael in the house said, “It’s quiet without him there,eh?” And then she smiled in that knowing way. She had experienced that too when her daughters slept away from home.  You’re always a parent first, even when your kids are elsewhere. With each passing day I see what my Mom meant. There’s no going back. I personally think you are changed for the better, but it is an awesome responsibility all the same.

Exceptional Parents, what experiences have you all had when your Exceptional Children slept away from home, if you’ve experienced this with them yet? Was it a positive one for you, for them? Michael’s Dad and I had a weird moment going for a late dinner the other night. We remembered back when we used to do this before Michael was born. It seemed eons ago, not nine years. Parenthood is a growth experience. It opens up your mind to a different kind of loving, and if you let it, to a different way of experiencing the world. So let it change and mold you. Let your Exceptional Child be your Exceptional Teacher. Until next time.

Winter Camp Stories-Sharing in the Fun

 

So today Michael is coming home from his Winter Camp adventure! I can’t wait to hear all about the fun he had. His teacher sent a little email update to us last night detailing the fun he had sledding, hiking and roasting marshmallows and smores with his friends. He will undoubtedly ask about what his father and I did when he was away. I plan to tell him Mommy and Daddy had our own Winter Camp fun. I’m sure he’ll be just as excited to hear about our adventures.

I’m so glad that the teacher told me how much he had at camp, and hopefully had as great a time on his last day of camp today. I will be picking him up at school and will find out. I’m also proud at how well he did at bedtime at camp. I had one sleep over when I was his age and did not like being away from home. I did not sleep well at all, but was glad that I tried it. But then again, Michael is more social than I was at his age. Regardless, I think it is great to try new things as a child and adult. It’s the only way you’ll know what you like and don’t like.

 

Michael will be telling me stories for days to come, and I will enjoy hearing the stories. He will make me feel like I am right there with him. He has a way of doing that. I will try and do the same, and of course, we will be planning out the Spring Break schedule with him as he is home with me all next week.

Exceptional Parents, have your Exceptional Children experienced sleep away camp? If they have was it a positive or negative experience? Did they ask you about your experiences when they were away? It’s important to recount all our adventures, positive and negative, to our children and for them to do the same to us. Only in doing that, can we all learn from each other and see where we’re going and what the future holds. Until next time.

 

Exceptional Outdoor Adventures-6 Ways to Go Adventuring With Your Special Needs Child

I love being outside and active as does Michael. I especially love nature, and as Michael gets older, I want to expose him to different activities out there in the world. The other day I was fortunate to come across this great site, LiveOutThere http://www.liveouthere.com,  that sell wonderful outdoor equipment for your nature and other types of adventures. I love how the site and the other bloggers promote the beauty of life outdoors and all the wonderful experiences people have while being active outside.

As I particularly feel that children benefit from being outside as much as possible, especially kids like Michael who have autism or any other special needs, I wrote the following piece about all the great activities that parents can do with their special needs child. LiveOutThere shared the following piece of writing with their readers, and  I am happy to share it with all of you in the link below:

https://blog.liveoutthere.com/out-there/6-ways-go-adventuring-special-needs-child/.

Have a great time when you are out there with your little ones and big ones! Until next time.

 

 

 

 

Exceptional Couple Time-Our Date Day

So today Michael’s father and I are going to have our own Winter Camp fun! We are planning to have a “date day”, something we have not done in a LONG time. We won’t be doing anything too crazy, but I have booked us a couple massage and we will have a nice dinner out. Mostly I know it will give us a chance to reconnect as a couple, or at least try to. It’s hard when you are parents to talk about anything else except your children. And the rest of the time you end up talking about practicalities like bill paying, home repairs, errands etc. We are both looking forward to to this time, though I have to say that last night felt weird to be “alone” in our home without Michael. Each of us experienced it in a different way.

I had a few moments yesterday morning when I was overcome with emotion and teared up, but I know that Michael’s winter camp adventure and his parents’ will both be filled with new things we will learn, experience, and share with each other. I am planning today to try and talk to my husband about those thoughts that seem to pop into my head at random, but with a busy household and a child that is quite the talker, (like his Mom), doesn’t get to be aired. Consequently, I hope he too gets a chance to share his thoughts, feelings and talk about things that matter to him as an individual. This is something hard for all parents to do, but necessary from time to time if they are to grow as individuals and as a couple.

Exceptional Parents, how good are you at planning date days or nights? Don’t worry if the answer is not very good. Parenting a child is hard work. Parenting a special needs child is a marathon. And when you run a marathon the top priority is to pace yourself; mentally, physically and spiritually. Take care by eating well, exercising and making time for you and adult activities. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun and helps you connect to a deeper part of yourself as well as to your partner. Until next time.

New Friends and New Discoveries Of Playing

 

I love watching how Michael is maturing and growing. He is developing new friendships and distinguishing how he plays with these friends differently. The other day he was telling me about his buddies at school, his best BFF that I have talked about in other posts, and his friends outside of school that he is eager to see and play with. With Spring Break coming up, he is excited that he will be seeing them.

As always, Michael has been modeling for me about growing my friendship circle, something that was very difficult for me to do before he was born. I had a hard time letting people in, even though I am surrounded by many wonderful people around me, friends from childhood, Mom friends I have met since was born, writer friends and recently, some women entrepreneurs in my networking groups that are becoming friends. I am expanding my circle as Michael is because having people in your life is important.

Being social and having connections helps people ward off sickness, depression and as all humans are social creatures, we are meant to be social, to help, to be needed and to create something worthwhile. When we matter to someone and they matter to us, life takes on new meaning, positive meaning, and our direction and purpose for being here on this planet become clear to us.

I am so happy that Michael has taken this message on and is connecting and more importantly, wants to connect. We all connect in different ways. There is not one right way. It’s like that old saying. You can be sitting quietly in a room with someone not saying a word and feel at home. That is what I am fortunate to have with my partner, my family, and my close friends. Thanks Michael for reminding me of the importance of different friendships and relationships.

Exceptional Parents, are you modeling healthy relationships, both family and friends, to your Exceptional Child? Are you showing them the importance of reaching out to others around us, to help, to listen, to just be there. Are you letting your child set the pace? For some children who are less social, they need time and space, for other more extrovert children, they are ready to jump in. No matter which category you or your child fit into, as long as you both have connections, to each other and other important people in your life, it will help you in the long run to be more resilient, happy and healthy. Until next time.

 

Winter Carnival Fun and Important Exceptional Activity

It’s great to see Michael having so much fun at school with Winter Carnival. Not only is he happy that he is having fun at school with winter sports like hockey, snow fort building and other such activities, but is glad to have a break from homework for a few days. I have to say though, that he is getting so much better at doing his homework, and is improving in his reading and writing skills. I think it is mainly the need to be active that’s so important for Michael, for all exceptional children, and when you think about it, all children.

In today’s world kids don’t move enough. I’ve seen so many articles on the rise of children’s obesity, stress and anxiety levels, and recently read a great article on why there are so many preschoolers showing signs of Sensory Integration Disorder. They are not moving enough inside at gym or outside at recess. Kids need activity as much as food and rest. They also need free time to cultivate their imagination, the creativity. This is something that is lacking in today’s fast paced industrial world. I try to remember when Michael is asking me to go on adventures and roam around our neighborhood, that it is so good he wants to explore. I am equally proud he loves sledding, skating and is interested in hockey. I look forward to the day he may play with friends from school.

As parents we get so caught up with academics, with making our kids learn more, get smarter. As Exceptional Parents, we are so worried that they are behind with milestones, walking, speaking, fine motor, gross motor, then academics, reading ,writing, math. Yes, all those things are important, but I am really beginning to see how important movement is for the brain, for reducing anxiety and opening up learning in different channels. This goes for myself as well as for Michael. When I don’t move with stretching my body and exercising, I don’t think as clearly. I  think better though when I am in balance physically. Thanks again Michael, for reminding me of this life lesson.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you praised your child for being active and having fun? Try it next time they come in from dancing, swimming, skating, sledding or plain old winter fun. You won’t regret the message you are sending, which is that winter carnival fun can be all winter long, and that physical movement belongs up there as a priority right alongside academics. Until next time.

Exploring Platonic and Romantic Affections

 

So Michael has a new crush. This time it’s the assistant swim instructor at his adapted local swim program. He gave her a nickname of “snail” and she calls him “turtle,” and she is all he is talking about this days.

“One day I’m going to marry Snail Mommy.”

I smile.

“Michael that is not her name.”

“I know, but it’s my name for her. I love her Mommy. She is so pretty. Can she come and babysit me?”

After this, he waits a few seconds more to add.

“Alexia is still my other girlfriend. I have two.”

I laugh. How could you not? Alexia is a little girl close to his age. We haven’t seen her in awhile, but Michael still remembers giving her big kisses at the pool a few summers ago. To me, it could have been yesterday.

 

 

He is also talking so much these days about his platonic male BFF, called Alex. I refer to this little boy as truly his soul brother. They are inseparable when they see each other. The hugs flow freely and the I love you’s. Michael has bonded with a few boys this year, but not like this. Is the same for his buddy. I watch these platonic and and romantic forms of love grow daily with Michael. It is beautiful to see him exploring relationships, seeing where they fit in the world. He is also very affectionate with me lately too. He tells me “God gave me the best mother. I love you,” and my second absolute favorite, “I love hugging you Mommy.” Right before bed each night he does this deep hugs with me, before turning on his side doing a few more cuddles then falling asleep.

Love and friendship are very complex things for all of us to understand. We don’t always know what draws us to a person. Attraction means that they make us feel good inside. They bring out our best as we do for them. It is a beautiful thing to see Michael bringing that beauty out in people outside of our family as well as those people continuing to bring out Michael’s inner beauty.  I am reminded how each of us has something to share with the world, and how important it is to show others that they matter.

Exceptional Parents, in what way have your Exceptional Children touched the lives of those around them? How have those around them responded? It doesn’t have to be with words. There are many ways we affect one another by our actions, our presence, the beauty of a smile or kind gesture. Start to look for these signs in your Exceptional Children. By you looking to those signs, you will surely see more of them blossoming into the world and exploring their own versions of platonic and romantic love. Until next time.

 

 

The Beauty of Renewed Affection: Exceptional Love Lessons

Talking with Michael after school and seeing my little guy making jokes  with me, I was reminded of what was really important yesterday afternoon. My son shows me this every day for at least a few minutes, if not longer. Lately, it’s been for longer periods of time which is a great thing. I am remembering how symbiotic a parent and child can be when they are on the same wavelength. When the parent finds a way to reach their child at their deepest emotional core, there is nothing better than this. I am experiencing this with Michael now once again. I can feel that he sees I truly understand him and want to help him. And I see that he feels the same with me. He wants to please me, wants to be close, and get along. He is physically affectionate with hugs and kisses, and when he needs his space, he’ll tell me “no Mommy, I don’t want help. I’m a big boy. I’ll take care of it.”

Sometimes as Exceptional Parents of our Exceptional Children life feels a little bit like a battlefield. You are are at war, but you don’t know why. You are at odds and not symbiotic with each other, and instead it feels like you are enemies with your child.  It’s not usually due to one person being completely wrong either. Like among two adults, various tensions and misunderstandings ensue and cause hurt feelings. Sometimes one of you is tired, sick or worried about something, and you lash out at your loved one. Sometimes both of you. You know, the “kick the dog syndrome”, for lack of a better phrase. As parents, when we are the exhausted, sick and/or stressed ones, this is easy to forget so we lash back at our kids. It’s an all too human reaction. Our kids feel our love, but also our distance. It’s important we remember to be present for them, but first it means being present for ourselves and nurturing that part of ourselves that needs nurturing.

I always say Michael is raising me to be the best person I can. He is showing and reflecting back to me what it is to be patient, calm, positive and persistent. It is not always easy to be all of these things. Sometimes it is near impossible, but I have learned that when I cannot be strong, I need to admit that to myself and to Michael. I need to take my time alone to compose myself, breathe, and then when I am positive and able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, slowly get Michael to start seeing that light again too. We both know it’s there. Sometimes it’s challenging to navigate in the darkness, but I know that with prayer, meditation, and looking for signs from the amazing people around me, I am able to find out what are the next steps to take in growing with my little boy.

Exceptional Parents, what surprises have you learned from your Exceptional Children after you’ve been through a tough time with them, either short or long term? How have they surprised you with what they have wanted and needed?  For instance, I see that Michael has been needing more affection and attention for positive things. Children are always learning and growing themselves, and they take us on that journey with them, if we are so lucky to follow the signs around us. Until next time.