Month: March 2016

Exceptional Report Cards And Dealing With New Elements

Today is Parent/Teacher Interviews at Michael’s school, and I am so very proud of him as usual. He has an amazing report card with progress in every area and the comments I keep seeing are, “Michael is so positive, eager to learn and a good friend to his classmates. We are very pleased with him.” It’s music to a Mom’s ears, and tomorrow in addition to hearing the usual positive stuff as well as how I can further support his challenging areas, Michael will also have a St. Patrick’s Day party at school and a scavenger hunt. He is excited about these activities, but is nervous about a slight change in his schedule; staying behind after school in a special after school program that the school has once a year on Parent/Teacher Interviews Day. Usually he goes to see his grandparents, but as they are still a little under the weather recovering from the flu, this is our best bet. Because he has never done it before Michael is scared. I wrote a social story for him that we read a few times so that he could feel he has a little control over things. That is what it is about control and feeling that he is master of his destiny. I hope this small gesture can give him some comfort as he learns to navigate the world.

 

I completely understand where he is coming from. There are times I want to know everything possible about what is happening so I could have that full control, being a tad on the anxious side myself. But if there is one thing I have learned in life, is that learning to “go with the flow” and leave some things up to fate will usually help life turn out better, even better than if we had planned things. This takes time to accept and come to terms with, and for some of us, it only happens in adulthood.

Exceptional Parents, how good are you at letting go and going with the flow in your own life and with your Exceptional Children? How do you help your children and yourself find the balance between the two? I think it’s a matter of reminding yourself you have some control, and the rest is in the hands of a Higher Power who will guide you along the way if you are open for it.  The important thing is that your children learn from your positive experience of balance in your life. Until next time.

More Exceptional Spiritual Growth

 

So we are still dealing with Michael’s existential angst when it comes to religion. He tells me he doesn’t believe in God, but yet continues to pray and wants to complete his catechism. I know better. I know God and religion is something difficult for him to grasp. It’s not concrete. This causes him anxiety and he doesn’t know how to handle these feelings. I have told him that this is normal. It is for a lot of people, on and off the spectrum. I went through my own spiritual angst many years back. I went through an agnostic stage, a pagan stage, and experienced my own angst about God, Christianity, religion, life, death and everything in between. It was a humbling experience to fully come back to worshiping at a Catholic church for me, and for finding other ways to enhance my prayer life. Some of them are unorthodox and I combine many different types of ways to worship, ways that work for me. Most of these ways, I discovered in the last ten years or so. This is why I completely get Michael, and I don’t pressure him.

Our church has been wonderful with this too. At our second catechism parent/child workshop,  Michael promptly announced to the pastoral animator there that he didn’t believe in God. A few years ago, I would have been absolutely mortified by this and would have wanted to crawl under a rock. Now I sat back with confidence as I knew she would know how to handle this.

“That’s alright Michael,” she said, “You may not believe in God, but God believes in you and always will.”

You have no idea how many times he has repeated this to me and to himself. I think the message sank in and he is taking comfort in that.

Last Saturday, as you all know, we went to the third and last catechism parent/child workshop of the year. At this workshop, the one that went so well, the same animator talked about meditating and going into a special stillness to find God. She spoke about finding God in one’s heart place, and then we all went into the church, closed our eyes, and thought on what kind of guidance we need or want to have from God. It was beautiful. Then, after this was finished, we went back to the workshop room. She gave all the kids rosaries and proceeded to give us a short intro on how to say the rosary. The kids loved them. The kids also made a beautiful craft with a prayer message to Jesus on the back.  Michael’s was : “Dear Jesus, please watch over me as I walk to my favorite shopping center.” And he named the shopping center too!

It was suggested to us parents that the kids keep the rosaries and prayer craft close to their bed at night if they find prayer difficult. I thought to myself what a wonderful idea! Michael prays every morning and night with me, a rattled off quick thanks God for my blessings. Now, guess who has been asking me for his rosary since Saturday night? He commented how cool it was that the white beads glowed in the dark, and though he is not saying the rosary (something his mother still wants to relearn), he fingers it now while he prays, slower, just a little slower and I can see those wheels turning in his head. I believe in her way, this animator has made God a little more concrete for Michael, and for someone with autism, that is huge! I plan on telling her about this in person.

Exceptional Parents, when did you find a way to make something abstract for your child concrete? How did this change their experience and yours? Was it an eye opening event for both of you? Next time your child is struggling with anything abstract, think about how you can break it down into simple steps for your child. Just like for us, something big is overwhelming, but if we tackle it, one step at a time, we can achieve a miracle in growth. Until next time.

Intimate Marital Connections And Risks

 

I am proud of the small steps Michael’s Dad and I are making in taking care of ourselves as individuals, as well as spending time with Michael. Making time for us as a couple is more difficult, but at at least we are aware of what we need to change. What works best is planning in advance for a “date night” whether that is going out somewhere and arranging a sitter, or a quiet evening in. This month has been hectic for both of us with work and with Michael’s schedule so we have not had a lot of energy by night time. Either he or will crash early, but we are finding ways to communicate, even if it’s just texting each other during the day. I have joked with my friends that my marriage is lived on “text”, but on the hectic busy days it is better than nothing, as they say.

With Michael I am seeing a smooth transition where Dad takes him to activities and they do their evening bonding during the week. I’ll step in when I have to if Michael’s Dad is having a hard day and he will do the same thing. I can see that though there is work to do still, as a couple we are getting stronger. I also see how both of us have learned to ask for what we need to be strong. For me, attending my writer’s meetings in the evenings is important, and for my husband his evening workouts and personal time is important for him. We have both learned to ask for this time around taking care of Michael, and it is working well for us. I am happy that we are both doing this. Michael has helped us see what we need to do to be strong, happy, and healthy people.

Exceptional Parents, how have your Exceptional Children helped you to grow as an individual and in your relationships? To me, Michael has helped to open my eyes to how I need to prioritize time, objectives, and things that are important to me. him being at the top of the list. Remember, when you are strong in yourself, in your  relationships, you are strong for your child to guide them to success in their life. Until next time.

Seeing Things Through And Exceptional Growth

 

 

What a weekend! What a fabulous, hectic, exhausting, but exhilarating weekend. And Michael sailed through it like the champion he is, and taught me a thing or two in the process. I was worried. The previous week for me was exhausting and stressful, and then we had two new things on the agenda for Michael on Saturday. One was his dance class being filmed professionally, which would mean a camera man and more people in the studio, and change, of course. Second, we had our next catechism cafe right afterwards which is challenging for Michael in a different way, and was sandwiched in between his third activity, Gym and Swim. It means coming down and focusing on what is being taught and contemplating spiritual matters, something that is increasingly challenging for Michael.

For me this meant lots of prep work on Friday. I  proceeded to write Michael a  “Social Story” (http://carolgraysocialstories.com/social-stories/) , and went over the steps of the next day.  At first on Saturday, Michael did not want to go to dance class due to his fears, and was nervous about the catechism workshop. We read the social story together several times, prepared his toys and tools to help with transitions, and talked about how if it was too difficult he could calmly tell us he wanted to go home. Barney even came along to one of the events! 🙂 And it was a smashing success at the dance school! We came home, had lunch, and then it was time for part two, catechism. He was nervous and was exhibiting strange behavior. We had a fight where he briefly started screaming, tried to throw something and started to hit his head. It lasted less than five minutes as I reminded him what he could do to calm down, and he did it while asking me to stay in the room with him. In the aftermath a few minutes later, I suggested maybe we skip the catechism workshop if it was too much. And that’s when he looked at me in a shocked way and said:

“But Mommy, we always try first. We don’t quit and give up. Please. I want to go.”

There was no time for the happy tears that wanted to come, as I knew we would be a few minutes late already. I just nodded and agreed.

“You’re right buddy. Let’s go.”

 

He apologized for the fight and the angry words he had yelled and off we went. He did fantastic at catechism too! He participated whenever he could, and when the catechism workshop was tough he asked if we could walk around the church which helped calm his sensory system and then let him focus beautifully for the craft. I was so proud of him. The fun didn’t end there with changes and handling emotions. At his Gym and Swim class his regular instructor was not there and he had a substitute. He missed the instructor, but handled this change superbly as well. He had come a long way from the little boy who needed massive preparation and needed everything to unfold in just a certain manner. A few days heads up for unique events, and for others like at swimming, he went with the flow.

Watching Michael soar through the challenges of navigating change has been amazing, particularly in the last month. I have seen a maturity in him, and when I begin to lose my way or worry I am putting too much on him, he is there to reassure me that he needs to try, we need to try. We must always believe in our children, and try everything, give them every opportunity.

So Exceptional Parents, how well do you give your Exceptional Children the chance to try even if they fail? How often do you do that? Most of the time, when expectations are high and those around us have confidence in us, we not only succeed, but keep the feeling of pride and belief in ourselves for the future. So remember, try and try again always, you and your kids. Until next time.

Exceptional Mistakes and The Universe

 

So today I made two mistakes. One was a personal one as a Mom, the other one was a business one. They both caused me great stress, but were wonderful learning experiences. I learned about how far I’ve come in forgiving myself for errors of judgment, and I learned how easy it is to get caught up in the hectic day to day pace of life that we forget to pace ourselves, as parents and as individuals. I also learned how having a system to keep track of things, again both personal and for business, can help.

Michael had a hard time today handling some morning misbehavior and forgiving himself for it. His anxiety and the mounting pressure to do things right and quickly, ended up making his nervous and through off the beginning of his day and mine. We worked it out after a yelling match, and I drove him into school. The incident involved not finishing his homework on time. He had asked me if we could do his work in the morning as he was tired the night before. I was nervous about this, but figured what the heck. We’ll try. Later in the day, I had a similar incident of seeing an error of judgement I’d made on a piece of writing that I wasn’t sure was finished to the best of its ability.

I had an Aha moment when I realized the universe had been speaking to me on both occasions, my inner voice telling me, “do the homework the night before,” and “have another look at that piece of writing.” Neither choice spelled permanent disaster. Michael and I made up, and I was given another chance to rework the piece of writing. And miracles of all miracles, I felt the full fear of failure I have in the past when I made big mistakes. I would usually at that point proceed to beat myself up with comments like saying I am useless, etc but then peace filled me. A voice inside told me that yes, I failed, but that I am alive and well and I will grow as a Mom and as a writer from this experience, if I use it correctly and don’t see it as punishment. I’ve come a long way from the scared woman I used to be who feared failure and risk. I also immediately thought to some decisions this week I had made where I had listened to my gut. All of them had worked out beautifully, from the small ones to the big ones. If anything, all this outlined to me how important listening to my inner voice is, and how I must teach Michael to listen to his. Had he listened, he would have not left his homework to the last minute either. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, how often have you not listened to your gut, your intuition and your inner voice? What has it cost you and your child when you have done this? I’m sure the experience was not positive when you didn’t follow that voice. Do yourself a favor. Listen to it, in your personal life, in your job, in your relationships. It won’t lead you wrong, I promise you. It will bring you to a freedom that you never imagined possible, and you will be led down a path where you see the beauty of your life and your child’s. Until next time.

Exceptional Mom Escapes And New Adventures

 

The other day while sitting doing a “Hamann Experience” in a local spa with a friend, letting the warm water in the Jacuzzi style tub soak away the stress on my body and enjoying a good catch up conversation with her, I realized how far I’d come. By that I mean that two years ago I would have felt so guilty slipping away to do this while Michael was at school and his Dad was at work. I would have admonished myself “you should be at work too, writing, networking for your business, reading, cleaning.” I would have felt so guilty doing anything that included taking care of myself. I would have used different words, of course. They would have sounded like proper things to do, whereas taking care of me was WAY down on the list. It wouldn’t have mattered that this was reasonably-priced, even as short as a year ago, I would have had to do some convincing to indulge in some self-care after a hectic and busy Spring Break with Michael at home. I had fun catching up with my friend in a beautiful environment that didn’t break the bank. This set the tone for that entire day and my entire week of being back in the swing of life and my business and things have only started looking up from there. l have Michael to thank. Once again my desire to be as strong an advocate, parent and example for him is helping me learn how to be strong, happy and relaxed myself.

The fact that I am able to do outings like this once in awhile, along with my weekly and bi-monthly writers’ meeting and monthly meet ups with friends for coffee, shows me that my body, mind and soul are aligned with what I need to live a full and happy life and teach Michael to do the same. It’s so important when you realize that the once impossible is not only possible now, but that you are doing it and living what you want to live. And isn’t that exactly what we are trying to teach our Exceptional Children? We are trying to show them that nothing is impossible, and that with small changes, trying new things every day, the once difficult things to indulge in will come as naturally as breathing itself. My changes for me at first happened hourly, then daily, weekly and then the changes became part of my life.

Exceptional Parents, what changes do you need to make in your life or what changes have you made that show you how far you’ve come? What changes has your Exceptional Child made that show you the same? Remember, each day doing something a little different towards your goal, be it more attention to self-care, a family or friend, a business, means going easy on yourself and taking it slow. These are the same lessons you can teach to your Exceptional Child so that they too can realize their goals and have long term success. Until next time.

Michael’s and My Exceptional Sixth Sense

 

I have always known that I had a sixth sense. My Mom helped me learn to trust it from a young age. It was more than a gut feeling. I would sense people were about to call me before they did. It could be friends or business acquaintances, and I find that as long as my motive is pure and free of stress it happens. As I have learned to let go and trust the universe more, it has started happening more often lately and in a good way. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Michael has this same ability to read people’s minds, and especially mine. Though he has comprehension difficulties due to his autism, he senses what people are thinking. I will think about a question to ask him and he will answer it before I know it. Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about his Spring Concert and when the date would be. I wasn’t going to ask him though as I knew the teacher would be sending a note home. Michael looked me in the eye and answered with the date. I checked with the teacher who is in the process of confirming that very date, which she told the students would most likely be the concert. Amazing. And I know this won’t be the first or last time he does this.

There have been so many times in the past that I would worry about how Michael would fare in the world. I worried about his ability to cope, handle stress, learn the three r’s as they say. He is slowly learning all those things, important to be sure, but I see how important this other skill is to have too. He is learning how to read people, and really understand what they are about and where they are going. Michael also can tell when a person is not so nice. I have very rarely seen him have negative reactions to people, but the few he has I am sure there was more to it than met the eye. I’m sure there was something about that person that was not authentic, not kind, or not true. Michael, like with everything else, is helping me to trust my inner gut with people reading and learn to go with the flow of the universe. My sixth sense and intuition are valid tools to forge ahead and build my ideal future.

Exceptional Parents, do you notice your Exceptional child behaving differently around certain people? Do you notice an awareness when you or others are stressed, that is even more attuned than the rest of us? If so, you are not alone. Many parents of Exceptional Children report that. I say go with it. Encourage it in your children. It will help them build resilience, trust in what they can do, and I encourage all of you as well to trust your sixth sense, as a parent, as a person in all areas of your life. It will not lead you in the wrong direction. Until next time.

Dual Identities on International Women’s Day-Exceptional and Otherwise

 

So today is International Women’s Day! Happy International Women’s Day to all the Moms out there, all the female caregivers and women in caring professions and other professions. As a feminist and a Mom, I finally see myself coming together as a woman. Feminist causes were at the top of my list before having Michael and before autism came in our lives. Then it moved to the top of the list. I often felt like less of a feminist than I used to be, as my Mom role overshadowed everything in advocating for Michael and for our family. Then I realized one day recently, I am still a feminist, and a humanist. In advocating for Michael I have learned how to advocate for myself as well. In learning how to speak, I am learning how to help other women speak out, help their children, help their families, help themselves.

There is still so much inequality in the world. It is not International Women’s Day everywhere in the world, and still much work to be done to help women advocate for themselves, their families, and the societies. Things like raising your family, taking care of your children, can be, and should be considered, as much a  part of your feminist identity as you job, wages and other issues you are passionate about. Men, fathers, male caregivers can also embrace this label of feminist, as the men of this generation increasingly work alongside women in sharing responsibilities, raising children together, Exceptional or otherwise, and realizing that for full potential and realization, both sexes need to be free to be who they are, and teach their boys and girls to feel free to be who they can become as well.

 

I have said this before many times, but I have felt it more in the past few days. As Michael has been working his miracle in raising me to come out of my shell, I have seen what true human spirit feels like, truly feeling whole, equal and engaged. I have never wanted more to make a difference in the world for women, for children, for all people, than since I became a Mom. My self-growth has been rocky at times, scary at others, but I have enjoyed this ride and continue to enjoy the journey of getting to know myself more each day while teaching others what I know and spreading the joy around. After all, it was the great Maya Angelou who said: “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” And that is what being an Exceptional Mom of an Exceptional Child has taught me. For all those who have given and taught me, I pass on the word every day. But today especially I think of all the women out there, all the Moms fighting for a better world for our children, our people, our planet. I salute all of you.

Exceptional Parents, how many of you give yourself a pat on the back for all the hard work you do with your Exceptional Children? Today is the day to do that if you haven’t already. All the Moms, Dads, caregivers out there fighting, nurturing, and helping to make the world a better place. Your children will shine and do shine every day because of what you do, and you shine because of what they are becoming. Until next time.

Return To Routine And Exceptional Transitions

 

So today is back to school from Spring Break and the wear and tear on Michael’s nerves erupted a bit on Saturday night and last night. Change and the unknown have always been difficult for Michael to handle. As he has gotten older, and fortunately better at expressing himself, we have seen the toll change and transitions have taken on his nerves. First, he gets VERY physically active, then talks a lot, more than usual. Finally, things start adding up and his nerves get pushed over the edge until an innocent comment from his Dad or I send him over the edge. We had two mini meltdowns on the weekend based on exhaustion, nerves and transition/changes. I’m beginning to read his signs better, but as we haven’t seen outbursts like these in two months, they took me a little by surprise. Then I realized. Ah, yes, the back to school routine is stressful. He will act out with behaviors when he doesn’t know how to read his own signs. He will be extra wild until he gets those feelings out. Too late, both nights I realized and though I helped him defuse his meltdown and went over his calming down strategies with him, there was still something I learned from these incidents as did Michael. We both need to read his signs of stress better, him more than me, because he knows the tools, only needs to be reminded to use them. Once I reminded him, he knew what to do.

 

We had so many beautiful moments even with the stress. He has been cuddling more, talking and dancing and laughing a lot too. He had a great visit with his grandparents and godmother, but brewing beneath the surface was that tension, that dread, that stress eating him up. At least that’s the way I see it. I used to feel a bit like that as a child myself. I learned later in life techniques to manage it, or I would suffer in silence. The result was low self-esteem,  and stomach or leg pain, but as I found ways to heal myself, I found ways to deal with stress too. I hope to encourage Michael to find his own now so he doesn’t have  to wait until adulthood to battle his inner demons.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children and you handle transitions and change? What has worked ? What hasn’t? I know for us staying true to who Michael is and who we are as his parents have helped us find our balance in what works and what doesn’t. Michael is a mover and shaker, so no more pushing him to deep breath. I have our Psycho Educator to thank for that reminder. We also try to model different techniques for him too. Whatever way you handle it with your children, remember you know them best. You are their caregiver. So trust your instinct and always go with that first. Until next time.

 

 

Out of Town Exceptional Adventures And Balancing Adventure and Stability

 

Today we will be going on an out of town adventure to a museum and some sightseeing in a nearby city. Michael is excited about the adventure as are we, his parents. It wasn’t that long ago that outings like these terrified me. How would he act? How would he handle anything unpredictable? How would we as his parents handle it? Yes, there have been colossal successes and colossal failures, but through it all we’ve had adventures to say the least, exceptional adventures, and we have all learned from one another. We don’t take these outings for granted. I know there will be challenges, but we will get through them. Sometimes we are nervous to try new things, but I find that with time and practice we learn to do different things and it helps to form us as people, all of us.

Michael of course loves to go driving anywhere and continuously talks about getting his driver’s license one day. We encourage him that he can with enough hard work and practice, and I hope he does do it. Believing in your child’s potential can only help them in achieving the best things out there, in my opinion.

It has been quite the Spring/March Break for us. Lots of play dates, Michael and I playing at home, yoga sessions, and witnessing Michael’s musical and emerging drama talents. Over the weekend he will have some of his extra curricular activities back and some down time. I think the balance will do him good as he slowly transitions back to Monday’s return to school.

Exceptional Parents, how do your out of town adventures go with your Exceptional Children? Are they adventure seekers outside of the home or are they more of a home body? I think as with everything else, balance is key, a little bit of home and the outside world can do a lot to shape their characters and help unleash the gifts that lie in each of our Exceptional Children. Until next time.