Month: April 2016

Do You Really Hear And See Me-Listening and Giving Strategies

 

 

Last night was the culmination of a few very anxious days and nights. I was seeing Michael’s daytime anxiety rising as he would pick fights with me, get mildly aggressive, but then apologize and do his strategies. I knew the blow out was coming as the week was wearing out, but thought I could handle what he threw at me. Fortunately after our fight at bedtime, Dad was able to take over. And of course, exhausted, spent with emotion and stress, he fell asleep in his usual fifteen minutes. But oh, how I wished I’d listened to my inner voice and let Dad do the whole bedtime routine last night. I was tired. I’d had a long day, so was not patient for the stalling measures, the silliness and the testing.

I realized after when Dad was putting Michael to bed though, that all Michael’s behavior had been showing me was that he wanted to be heard, he wanted his fears and worries to be known. He’s aware and not too happy that we are teaching him to self-soothe away from us at night. He is bothered that each week we stay away longer. He feels out of control, and if he senses distance on my part (which is really plain out tiredness) he rebels. I know this. As the parent coach and writer, I was able to step outside of myself and see all I was doing wrong. As the parent of the child in question, I was triggered by my own tiredness and anger that bedtime always seems to be challenging.

 

Then of course something else hit me. I was upset at Michael for the same reason he was upset at me. I found myself thinking, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do you care?” In other words, do I matter to you? Consciously, I know that it is not a child’s job to nurture the parent. I don’t want or need constant reassurances of my son’s love to feel I matter. I love him in spite of all he says and does. But being a human being, I felt under appreciated as a parent last night. But he was thinking the same thing. I’m here. I’m scared. I’m hurting. Why is Mom mad? The thing is anger is caused by stress, loss of control and not feeling like you have the organization and strategies you need to cope. Both of us were at a loss for these last night, and I realized that in order to model Michael using his strategies, I needed to make sure I was using mine so neither of us felt we were shortchanging the other. I know this. But as a tired parent, you sometimes forget.

Exceptional Parents, when have your felt at wits end with your child due to them not listening or understanding you? When have they felt this with you? It’s ok to once in awhile be angry and fight. As long as you make up, learn from it,  and remember to provide them with strategies to meet those needs on their own without you having to be the fall guy each time. Until next time.

Scooter Time and Dad Love- Exceptional Boy Bonding

 

 

 

It was a sight the other day, Dad and son coming back from an after supper scooter ride. I felt my heart fill with happiness to see the two of them, happy and relaxed after enjoying some beautiful weather and each other’s company. Though Michael is still very close to me, lately I’ve been hearing other echoes in his voice.

“I miss Daddy. I want to play with Daddy. I want Daddy to put me to bed.”

These are words that are music to my ears. Not only because after many years of being the main caretaker I think it’s safe for me to say that I’d like more than one or two nights a week off when I’m at my writer’s groups, but also because it means Michael and his Dad are getting closer. As Michael gets older, like many boys, he identifies with his father more. He wants to do thing with him, he imitates him, for better or worse, (like he used to do me), and he is starting to push me away and demand Daddy time. This is also a victory as there was a time that Dad wasn’t as available to Michael as he is now. Long story short, it was difficult for them to bond. It had nothing to do with love. Michael’s father has loved him from Day 1, but it took him a little while longer to come to terms with Michael’s exceptional status and deal with his own issues around that. I’m happy to say that now, as I have said in many posts, that we are truly at the top of team Michael, after Michael himself, of course, in helping Michael succeed.

 

Exceptional Parents, in your family is there one parent who is more involved in the day to day handling of raising your Exceptional Child or is it evenly divided? And if not, are you seeing a trend with your child moving toward the same sex parent? It is natural at a certain age for a girl to identify with her mother and a boy to his father. If your child is doing that it is a healthy sign and congratulate yourself. If not, don’t despair. Keep encouraging the relationship to develop, give the other parent and child time alone together and let time pass. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Until next time.

Exceptional Navigation and Talents-Career Building

Michael loves directions as I’ve alluded to in previous blogs. It’s been wonderful to see. What’s coming out now in the last two weeks is how Michael will navigate on his own to future places we will be going to. If he already knows the address, he will use Google Maps and find the streets, sometimes even finding his own shortcuts. It’s amazing how his brain works. I have thought of Temple Grandin and her book “Thinking In Pictures.” This is how she was able to see designs and do things in a totally different way from her neuro- typical peers.

What I am also enjoying is when Michael will ask me for the address of the place we are going, type it into Google Maps and find the way himself. He has surprised us and gone to a friend of ours’ house, a member of my writer’s group or a school or store. It’s amazing to see as he is practicing navigating, spelling, and fine motor when on the computer. I have to watch his audio visual time. Last night he spent a long time on audio visual and it affected his sleep. He was still up waiting for me when I came home after 9:00 pm from one of my writers’ groups.

 

Watching Michael honing his love of directions and navigating once again has reminded me of the importance of taking the time to practice and keep at doing something we love. For me, it’s obviously writing and helping other parents connect. He is reminding me of how important it is to practice what we love doing so it becomes second nature and our talent and enjoyment increases.

Exceptional Parents, what sets your soul on fire and makes you excited? What makes your child excited? Whatever their talent or hobby is, remember this can become a career, something that helps them be a contributing and positive member in their community. Each one of us has something to offer the world. It’s important we nurture it. Until next time.

 

 

Michael’s Love of Music Videos-Conflicting Exceptional Emotions

 

My little boy is growing up. And just like his Mom at his age, has developed a love for music, and music videos in particular. It was shocking to me at first though I am proud that he knows the songs and singers educating me for the first time, and that music helps him move, unwind and is part of his swing/stim routine in the basement. What worries me is the content on the videos, as it does most parents I’m sure. But the thing is Michael is so much more innocent than other kids. Mind you, I was very innocent too about matters of sex and other things at his age. It’s the more risque content out there that scares me and the availability of all music, tame and the not so tame on the internet. Thank God for “audio only”.  We have told Michael that he is not to watch any pop, rock or hip hop videos until his father and I have screened them first. The woman who hasn’t watched many music videos is now screening then whenever she can squeeze them in, but I digress. 🙂 Most of them are fine, but we have caught some “swear words,” so Michael now has learned to type two more words on the computer keyboard, “clean and audio.” I am proud that he is happy to just listen to the music and understands that the content is “not for little kids,” as we told him. Though the other day he did watch a video and forget, (I don’t know if on purpose), and saw the racy version of it. So far no questions, but we’ll see. Dad and I were each negligent in supervising him that day thinking the other one was nearby.

 

This is an amazing step, but I can’t help feeling a little worried. How can I explain some of the images to him that he may come across, some of the lyrics? So far I’ve managed well enough, and I knew this day was coming, still I worry about his innocence. How will he interpret this? My parents never worried about my brother and I. We are neuro typical (or neuro typical enough as a friend and I often joke), and the videos were not today’s level of racy. It’s an added dimension for parents of all kinds of kids. Still, what’s interesting is that I have this problem. Michael likes the teen scene. Maybe next we’ll be having arguments over designer clothes. That would be kinda cool. Of course he is still literal in how he interprets things and we have to be careful how we explain things, but this new problem I have is one I did not see coming. He likes when I sit down next to him to watch, and when I let him watch alone. We are bonding in a new way which is great.

What surprises have your Exceptional Children thrown your way? What issues did you not think you’d be dealing with yet or never? How are you dealing with them? It’s important you identify how you’ll tackle these issues with your kids Exceptional parents, so they can grow up confident in themselves, and you in trusting their abilities. Until next time.

What Do You Need And Can You Give It To Yourself?

 

I have been on a roller coaster lately. And one thing about a roller coaster that we all know. It’s great going up, but coming down is hard. The fear and terror and stress of wondering if you will be ok. Well, like on a roller coaster you do come out fine, but there’s some worry in the meantime. I made sure to be organized with meditation and yoga, and even squeezed in some short workouts along the way, but even with that I came spectacularly down. I was so tired. I’d been burning the midnight oil. It was  with pleasure mind you, but still burning it, for things that fill me with passion and were high priorities for me, Michael of course, my writing, attending a local author’s event. I needed to detach from everything and everyone. I got my chance on Sunday afternoon for a few hours, and in doing so, I learned a lot about me.

I learned how even with daily meditation and other life balancing acts without being totally honest with myself when the stress built up, I would just be the yelling lady that my family saw over the weekend. I did some necessary housework, some yard work, and then about five minutes into another workout, I realized I needed to rest, rest my brain, rest my body, just for a bit. So I lay down for half an hour. This is a luxury I rarely allow myself. Lie down in the day time when there are things to do? Can I hear an amen Moms and Dads? But I needed it. And I emerged calmer. I did some reading too with a nice cup of tea. A therapist I worked with many years ago told me some wise words that I remembered yesterday, “What do you need and can you give it to yourself?” They were simple words and yet not always the case. Sometimes we could not give ourselves things right off the bat, but I believe we could look for opportunities when we could do this. I needed to unplug, relax and just be for an hour.

 

Michael saw the shift in me too in the morning yet. He saw I didn’t have the patience I normally did. He pointed this out and filled with his own anxiety about school  worries (found out after), had a meltdown. I told him he needed to use his strategies to calm down. I realized only after that neither of us were using our strategies very well. We both crashed on Sunday, but as always, emerged stronger. I hope to continue to encourage Michael to look for signs in his body he needs to stop and slow down. Ironically, he was the one telling me I was off this weekend, and as always, he was right.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you or your child crashed from a high? It’s ok. We’ve all been there and done that. What have you learned from those experiences? What is important is that you take away from it how to be gentler with yourself and stronger as a person and you teach your Exceptional Child the same. Use your “calming down strategies” by figuring out what your body needs to feel whole and relaxed again. Journal your feelings, even a few words a day and you will see the path you need to take towards feeling calm and centered in your body and soul again. Until next time.

 

Affection, Maturity And Exceptional Questions

 

 

There has been a gradual maturity process that has been happening with Michael. Our conversations have gotten more intense with lots of questions and Michael asking thought provoking questions about growing up, my youth and about the world in general. He has also been using his strategies to calm down and when he doesn’t, realizing what he could do the next time. The thing that is really exciting me is that he is connecting the dots of stress with pain or discomfort in his body, and he is also able to show pride in what he is doing, ask for and be happy when he gets praise, and praise or compliment his father and I. He will say that he likes things we have done, we look nice (if he likes the clothes we are wearing), and openly expresses affection and sadness when we are leaving.

Lately most of my encounters with Michael, even when he has been misbehaving, have been much like a typically developing child’s, albeit with his own little twist, but it is very small. And the thing is as he is beginning to understand his autism, his uniqueness to other typically developing children, he is able to find ways that work for him to understand difficult concepts or ask for what he needs. The bargaining is the best. Here I feel that his sophistication has grown. He will routinely try to pull the wool over our eyes to get his way and when we call him on it, I see the little gleam of annoyance. Dang, they caught me! This impresses me as it shows me how fine tuned his brain is, and it keeps me on my toes as his Mom. Every parent knows you have to stay one step ahead of your child in order for them to feel the boundaries of security, to know right from wrong, and know just how far they have to go.

Exceptional Parents, how often do your Exceptional Kids test you, their limits and question their world? I hope it is often in their own way. This is an important skill they need in order to grow strong in mind and spirit. Good news for you as a family. It is also good for you as an individual that it makes your stretch your parenting, your skills and helping you to be your best. Yes, sometimes we want our kids to ask one word questions and we want to give one word answers, but trust me. The more their brains work, the harder you work, and that helps growth and development for both of you in the long run. Until next time.

Exceptional Future Plans-Embracing Change

I love when Michael talks about the future. He will talk about his job one day, his wife and kids, and all the fun things he is going to do. He will make comments about what kind of parent he will be. I can’t help but be reminded of my brother and I at his age.

“I will let my children have more junk food than you do Mommy. And they will be able to stay up late.”

“Well Michael, that will be your choice. You’ll be the parent. Now you are the child.”

“I know Mommy and I have to follow your rules.”

“That’s right.” I smile.

I am also smiling as my brother and I would also think about what WE would do as parents differently from my folks. I was going to be less strict, have more patience and not yell. Well, I’m learning to do less of that now, but not until after I’d made those mistakes. We all have such plans when we are young. If we are lucky, we follow through with them. If not, we learn from our past mistakes then move forward to feeling better.

What I especially love is Michael’s confidence in himself, and in what he can do. It’s growing every day, and even when he has a tough day he is learning to use his strategies. Michael is reminding me I need to continue to do that when I am scared. He is also following through on difficult things. He’ll tell us he is scared, but still does it. That is what I am now. I am challenging myself to make scary future plans, scary in the fact that it is exciting plans for my future that I would have been too terrified to do before. But the new me, the Mom who learned to advocate for herself by advocating for her son, is embracing this change.

Exceptional Parents, what are your Exceptional future plans for you? What are your Exceptional plans for your child? We all want our kids to be happy, healthy and independent. We all want them to be and do things that make them feel like useful contributing members of society. Make sure you yourself are planning the same things for you. This way you and your child can have a wonderful future to look forward to. Until next time.

Exceptional Events And Navigating Feelings

I am one proud Mom today. Actually, with Michael I am one proud Mom every day. But today was one of those moments when I lit up because I saw him all lit up. And I was so happy it all worked out. We had a little fight this morning with Michael challenging me on the whole listening to Mom thing. In the end, he cooperated as I have learned to stay calm and cool. But I did say one thing I regret. I threatened that if he didn’t listen, I wouldn’t come to see him ice skate at the local arena with his class. He had been talking about me coming for weeks. He was so proud. And I was proud of him! The words slipped out of my mouth in a moment of frustration. I saw the fear and worry that I would follow through, and I would have had to if he had not stopped his yelling and controlling behavior. Fortunately for both of us, he listened. And I worried, but figured he had forgotten all about it. Nope. Not my kid. The older he gets, the more he ruminates on things, and obsesses. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Until two years all I did was ruminate and worry about things. Not anymore, but it took time and patience to teach myself these new skills.

Anyway, on to the good things first. So I watched him ice skate, without a support, holding a hockey stick and hitting the puck across the ice. I took ridiculous amounts of video, waved and chatted with Michael’s friends who came over and blew my little guy kisses. The look of quiet pride and utter happiness on his face made my day and the rest of my week. When he came home, he was grinning and happy to see me as usual. But the first words out of his mouth broke my heart:

“Mommy, why did you say you were not going to come and see me skate? I was so worried. Mommy, I dreamed about it all morning on the bus and all afternoon on the bus ride home.”

He carried that fear with him all day. Poor kid. I have to explain to him the difference between dreaming and worrying. I felt so bad. I apologized and told him the truth. I was mad, he wasn’t listening, and I used that to get him to take me seriously. That wasn’t right to use the visit, and I wouldn’t do that again. I did tell him though that he has to listen to me and not question my authority as his parent. He agreed and though this is something he still struggles with, it is getting better.

 

This event got me to realize other times when he has been worried about things and ruminated or continued to think about them, rather obsessively. I always said I need to address it, but then other things came up and I’d forget. It struck me that I was that kind of child, and wished I had learned the techniques I knew now at an earlier age to not have wasted so much time and energy on worrying. It kept me back from so many amazing experiences. There are days I feel like a child again, reliving beautiful feelings that I haven’t felt in years as I was afraid to then. I was always afraid from age twelve on, even sometimes before. I don’t want Michael to go through most of his adult life before he can experience peace inside and the ability of letting go of past hurts or people that hurt him.

Exceptional Parents, what or who do you need to forgive or let go of in order to move on and be joyful? Life is lived moment to moment. It’s important to stay in the present moment and not look back with worry or forward with stress. Do you know strategies to help yourself if you are a worrier? I can tell you, I never thought I would change my mindset, but it’s not that difficult or impossible. It just takes small changes made every day in little increments. Then you will be that child skating on the ice for the first time with quiet joy or that adult that learns how to be more patient the next time and honestly can express it without berating themselves. Don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. Until next time.

Blood Tests, Courage And Stepping Into the Unknown

 

Michael never ceases to amaze me with how well he copes under pressure, albeit a few tantrums here or there. The stress last week was due to worry about upcoming blood tests. Michael was getting ready to have his first set of blood work done. His pediatrician had noticed that we had never done blood work, and was concerned about ruling things out due to his very aggressive behavior in the fall. I had been so happy that we had not had to worry about up it until this point. Explaining fasting and what happens during a blood test is hard for any kid. But take a kid on the spectrum who is very anxious and scared of losing control and you have yourself a dilemma. Like in many other cases though, I am a lucky woman. I have very dear friends in the community that told me about a private service that will come to your house and do the tests. It is expensive, but thanks to Dad’s insurance we were able to manage. I was dreading taking a hungry child to the hospital for blood tests, especially as it was his first time. If we had had to do it, I know we would have managed. Still, I was so grateful for this option. And other than a  challenging Friday night, Michael had his tests done Saturday morning at our house at his and our leisure without worrying about being late for school.

It went very well. I wrote a social story that we read the last two days of last week, he had his strategies in place to cope. He wrote them out on the social story page. I was so proud of him. And we’re lucky that he’s a kid who never eats breakfast right away so between having an 8:00 am appointment and getting up at 7:00 am, he managed well. After the test was done he even forgave the technician who he complained “pinched me.” He asked if he could come and babysit him!

We all have to face our fears and do things we sometimes don’t want to do. That was Michael’s big thing. But why do I have to do this Mommy? I heard myself in him. There have been so many things I have not wanted to do, to speak of, to face. But now I am starting to push myself with my version of a social story. Looking at what’s coming up, writing down or troubleshooting strategies, and really, really thinking to myself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I need to face it and move on.

Exceptional Parents, how often have you seen your child tackle a fear and been enormously proud of them? I’m sure it happens several times a day. You are your child’s best cheerleader, right? How about doing the same thing for yourself? How about cheering “you” on when the going gets tough. We all have days when we need to do those proverbial “blood tests” and want to be anywhere but. It’s important you face those fears, find ways to deal with the stress, and grow from the experience. When you do, you’ll be a happier, more secure individual and parent. Good luck with your troubleshooting. Until next time.

 

 

New Friends, New Openings

 

So today something amazing happened. Actually, two amazing things happened. One was that I was given an opportunity to help another Mom, and the second thing was that Michael made a friend. When he was doing his usual “dancing” during the offertory hymn outside of the baby/quiet room where parents can go with their little ones, he all of a sudden disappeared from view for a few seconds. And that’s when I saw the other little boy that had been playing in the quiet room too go over to Michael and start dancing with him. The other children in the quiet room are all babies as the older kids go to Sunday school. This has become difficult for Michael with all his spiritual questions and the large classes so he is back with us.  When they came back to the quiet room together, (after the m they started talking and became “friends.” Then when it was time to go up to the altar to say the “Our Father” Michael looked for his friend. He turned to me and said,

“It’s ok Mommy. I’ll got my friend to go with.”

The tears of happiness pooled in my eyes. I still went up in case, but there they were in the circle with the rest of the children. It was beautiful. I am seeing that Michael is slowly getting comfortable in his own way at church and it warms my heart. Any place besides school and home where he sees he is accepted and loved is helping to build up his confidence and show him the world is a place that sometimes can embrace difference, even if it is difficult.

 

The chance I got to help another Mom with a special needs son was my beautiful moment. We exchanged phone numbers and I look forward to helping her on her journey with her child. I also know she in turn will help me. That is what it is all about in this world, in this life. New beginnings, new openings for all of us are chances to be reborn, grow, and make a difference in someone else’s life for the better.

What special moments are you reborn in, Exceptional Parents? What moments have you witnessed where the same can be said for your Exceptional Children? The thing is, these moments are usually “small moments.” That is what makes them easy to miss, especially amidst the trials and tribulations we sometimes experience with our children. So remember to look for the little moments of growth for you, for your child. You won’t regret that you did. And the universe, God, will respond with giving you more of these moments to shine your light in the world. Until next time.