Month: May 2016

5 Things To Do For Sleep Training Success

 

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Ok, I can’t believe I am typing these words on the screen. We had sleep training success last night with Michael. I was so proud of him. I was so proud of me. I was so proud of Dad. Yes, there were nerves, a little bit of testing, and lots of questions from Michael questioning if he was ready to sleep alone. But I sensed it in my gut, his readiness, his maturity, the way he spoke to me about his fears earlier yesterday and on previous days. Many bathroom trips, many visits to our room before bed to try and bargain, but then quiet, blissful quiet while he slept. It took him awhile, but my boy finally saw that he could do it-sleep the whole night by himself. And me. Well, other than getting used to sleeping with my partner again, had a great night’s sleep in my own bed knowing that I had succeeded this time in teaching my son how to self-soothe.Now the trick would be keeping these strategies in place.

I began thinking of the five months we have spent slowly this time, going over how Michael needed to learn to separate from me, and over the techniques and ways he learned basic self-soothing. He is still working on that one, but aren’t we all? And I have vowed to stay strong and continue to show Michael what he can do against the odds. Last time we sleep trained too quickly and I caved when he became fearful. I have changed too, and now know that the best gift I can give him is to let him find his way out of troubled spots.

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I thought back to the 5 basic steps I used in sleep training, thanks to the wonderful suggestions of our Psycho Educator. I have included them here to help other parents in their sleep training issues:

5 Things to Do For Sleep Training Success:

  1. Gentle separation from child: What worked for us was gently separating from Michael, 5 minutes a night. Also, in my case I would still go back to sleep in the same bed until Michael got used to being alone for longer stretches.
  2. Monster Social Story: Our Psycho Educator wrote a wonderful monster social story for us that we still are reading now. If you need help, google Carol Gray social stories or ask for help from a professional in writing one.
  3. Coping strategies list: Michael and I compiled a list of things that would help him cope with nighttime anxiety: monster spray, (you can buy in pharmacy), nightlight, white airplane noise on computer etc. Let your child choose these strategies. Last night he sprayed all the walls with monster spray. A mother could not be prouder. ūüôā
  4. Keep routine EXACTLY the same no matter who puts child to bed: This is imperative. You need to have the basics and keep it consistent. No aterations. Kids will play you when they are insecure. They are smart. We used: shower, story, massage, prayer, cuddling for 12 minutes and I would leave room
  5. Stay strong and don’t try to fix child’s stress: I can’t stress this one enough. I am a nurturing Mom who thought I was helping when I would rescue Michael every time he was scared. Comfort then yes when they are frightened, but I ended up showing him that he needed me to calm down, not intentional. You’ll know when they are refusing to use strategies you have talked about that it is slight manipulation. That is when you gently redirect them to calming down strategies.

I don’t fool myself that there won’t be challenges ahead, but then as a parent there always are. You take it one day at a time.

Exceptional Parents, are you struggling with sleep issues? You are not alone, and the best advice I could give is to work with someone who understands you and your family’s situation. You and your child can do it. Everyone will sleep better¬†as a result, and most importantly, you will show your child that they can soothe themselves and cope with stress, something invaluable to help them in life. Until next time.

 

 

The Next Step in Exceptional Sleep Training

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We have arrived. It has been five months of hard work for me, Michael’s Dad, and Michael. We have slowly been getting Michael used to staying alone a little more each evening as we have left his bedroom at night. It was hard. Michael is a brave child. He has challenged me on many fronts to take risks, live life more in the moment, and impressed me with just how smart he is. At night however, like for many of us, his fears and insecurities would come out. I went through this phase as a child too, and had to learn tools to manage my stress. But Michael’s fears were worse by far.

With the help of our wonderful Psycho Educator, and Dad’s cooperation, we have been on the path of helping Michael manage his nighttime fears. His teacher and the school psychologist have also been wonderful in offering support. They have been telling Michael that he is a big boy and able to finally take that step of sleeping alone all night permanently. You see, we’ve been down this read off and on since he was two years old, the road of Mommy or Daddy needing to be in his room with him at some point of the night.

Traditional sleep training worked for two years, then it was back to the old anxiety and fear response, his and mine. Yep. I gave up too. I remember only too well what the first two years of being a Mom was like. Michael was a great baby, except for the 2-3 times he woke me up every night. I was a sleep deprived mess by the time he was two years old. I recall a conversation with my brother who told me that they tortured prisoners by depriving them of sleep and that I needed to get some help for Michael. It was  easier said than done long term.

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/c/chromatoast/preview/fldr_2010_08_16/file1051281942506.jpghttp://mrg.bz/fbbad8 Via Morgue File Photos

 

I finally got the confidence in me to see that I could be strong for Michael and for myself. We all need to be able to put out our own fires, and stay firm when the going gets tough. Seeing my little boy suffer and not be able to self-regulate in the past almost destroyed me. By lying next to him, I wanted to provide that comfort, that safe haven. I knew it couldn’t be forever, but at the time it¬† was my best bet so he and I wouldn’t be the sleep deprived duo.¬† I think I made the right call. I sense a new confidence in Michael, as I have one in myself. He’s raising me, remember? In the end, a parent has to trust their gut as I’ve said before to know when it is the right time to move to the next phase of anything with their child.

Exceptional Parents, are you struggling with sleep issues with your Exceptional Child? How have you handled it so far? What techniques have been successful and what have failed? I have learned as a Mom struggling with this issue for many years, that until you are ready to face your fears and the fallout from your child’s, you will experience many difficulties. There is lots of good help out there, from great sleep books, to Psycho Educators, to psychologists trained to help you make a schedule that is reasonable for you, your child and the rest of your family. Don’t suffer in silence. Give your child and yourself the tools to be able to regulate, handle stress and fear, and get a good night’s sleep. Until next time.

5 Ways to Deal With End of Year Changes/Transitions

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We are almost at the end of another school year. I don’t know about children you know, but Michael is usually all over the place at this time of year. It is easier to talk to him about it now that he is able to communicate better. He will show his anxiety by asking about what teacher he will have next year, about where his summer camp will be taking place. Even something like his first soccer game will make him nervous/excited. All normal emotions. It’s a new soccer team for him, so we went to check out the park and have talked about it being at night instead of during the day, and like how he has to eat an earlier dinner that day at 5:30 pm instead of 6:00 or 6:30 pm. These are little things, but if we do not discuss them I know they pile up and his anxiety gets worse.

As adults, we have these anxieties as well when we have to go to new places or do things that are not familiar to us. Preparation, planning. and talking them through with others or using our own strategies can go a long way to helping ease the transition. With our children the same techniques work.

I have found these 5 techniques work best to help your Exceptional Child navigate transitions:

  1. Talk about and draw on a dry-erase board: The combination of both these two things in advance, will give your child the chance to digest that a change is coming.
  2. Go visit the future place and get familiar: This works well for summer camp, a new sports team at a new location, and even a new school.
  3. Remind your child that it is normal to be nervous: This sounds counterproductive, but really it is a good technique. Remind them that everyone gets nervous about change and new things. All you can do is breathe and prepare the best you can.
  4. Model change being exciting: This has been trickier for me, as I am not one who loves change myself, but over the years I have learned to see the adventure of doing new things, becoming stronger and wiser, and have been passing it on to Michael.
  5. Get enough sleep and eat well: This probably belonged at number 1. As hard as it is, keep the dinner and bedtime routine as consistent as possible, so that your child is in good shape to try out the other tips with you.

 

Exceptional Parents, what tips do you use with your Exceptional Children? What have they taught you about navigating change? I have learned how to more resilient, calmer as I know I am Michael’s port. When I have failed, I have used the phrase that a teacher at school once uttered, “we can still turn this around.” And this is what I now use as my model. The important thing is to practice these techniques yourself, be consistent, and your child will pick up from you on what they can do. Until next time.

 

Mistakes + Hardship= Exceptional Growth

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The last little while I have been going through growing pains. Spring has brought with it new things sprouting up in me, as well as old fears of accomplishing everything in a day while fighting feelings of exhaustion. I had forgotten how to really relax for a few weeks until God and the Universe gently reminded me when I hurt my back. It gave time to think about what I could have done differently so that I could have enjoyed my exercise alongside my meditation and yoga. There were some mornings last week that I did not even meditate as well due to pain. But it was good. I was scared. I’m not someone who gets sick often, thank God, and so it was my wake up call to where ¬†I needed to go on my life journey, personal and business wise.

Last night Michael was tired and had a fight with his Dad and I. After he apologized to us, I realized some of the anxiety was due to a big change coming next week in the bedtime routine which I had mentioned yesterday afternoon. Michael would be attempting to sleep by himself ALL NIGHT for the first time in over a year. Last night after his Qigong Massage, I put his mind at ease about his bedtime worries. I told him how scared I was sometimes about doing the wrong thing, or how I made mistakes, like working out vigorously when I had a sore back. We talked about how suffering or hardship makes us stronger in the end as it pushes us to find strategies to get better and heal ourselves. By the end of the conversation, he was less nervous about his big change next week, and I reassured him that I would be there to support him as he found his ways to cope.

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Exceptional Parents, how have your mistakes helped you parent your Exceptional Child better? Have you incorporated it in your parenting? If not, I strongly encourage you to do so.  Good luck and remember that with difficulties come growth and better outcomes in the future. Until next time.

6 Ways Advocating For My Son Michael Has Helped Me in My Business

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As I was taking a shower yesterday, I thought of how far I’ve come in my parenting journey and in my life, and of how one thing helped me take the next step I needed to take: advocating. I started thinking that even with all the fears, mistakes and challenges, I have learned so much about how to run my life and business, actually pretty much everything, from advocating for Michael in school and life. As cliche as it may sound, we learn through our trials more than through our victories. I tell this to Michael all the time, and he now repeats it back to me as well as reminding me to “smile” and “use my strategies.” Yes, sometimes it is him talking back. At those times I take a deep calm breath, and tell Michael he is being rude and needs to apologize which he eventually does. But there are other times I can see, feel, nd hear what he is telling me: Take it easy Mom. You know what to do. Advocate for yourself. Write, talk, and live your life the way you know you need and want to. Tell others that it is in their power to change their own circumstances.

Below are 6 Ways I have learned to advocate for me while advocating for Michael (and make my life better):

  1. Trust your gut: Yes, Moms and Dads, we¬†¬†are told to trust our gut when advocating for our children’s education and opportunities. Do you trust it when making choices for ourselves, personal or business? If not think of fighting for you and what you need like you fight for your child. It is the only way you will truly be happy in life.
  2. Confidence in public speaking: I was afraid to address a wall before Michael, unless it was at one of my writer’s groups. Even then, I felt like I was slipping into my characters and it was not ME reading so I relaxed. I have learned, and continue to, how to speak at conferences, workshops, events and am excited to do so. I am out of my shell whether I like it or not. And you know what, I kind of like it. ūüôā
  3. Asking for time, money, help: This was another hard one for me before. Now I know when to ask for assistance, outsource help, or ask for time for me, for my writing, for other pursuits. I deserve to feel and be whole. We all do.
  4. What to let go of and what to pursue: At times I still have difficulty with this one, but for the most part, I have learned what is worth fighting for when it comes to services and help for Michael, how to play with him on his terms and mine, and now in my business and personal life, which people I want to stay in my life and which I no longer want in my life as they are not supportive to me as a person.
  5. How to enjoy the simple things: Being a Mom has helped me remember how to be playful, and how the best learning and growth take place when we do that. With Michael it has been doing the normal simple family activities. How this has translated for me in my life has meant no more guilt at taking time for walks in nature. You can learn a lot from mother ducks. They lead, their ducklings follow, but it is their good example of what to do that helps everyone. I also have learned how exercise, lunches or dinners with friends, writing for pure pleasure and singing and dancing help clear my mind.
  6. How to be happy with “me” and not be someone else:¬†In learning how to help Michael be the best little person he could be, I¬†have learned how I used to one of those women who thought that others had it all and I was lacking. Not anymore. I like me, and though I admire others for what they have accomplished, it is just that, admiration, not jealousy or envy anymore.¬†One day I will have the things I like in their life,¬†but on my terms and with my twist on it. I am in charge of my own destiny and am starting to go after things I want and need to live a happy and whole life.

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Exceptional Parents, how has advocating for your child changed your life? If you are just starting on your advocating journey and haven’t seen this change, don’t worry. It will come. When your child is born you are as much transformed as they are, as you both raise each other. You’ll see that though special needs parenting is a hard journey, bitter and stressful one day, a spiritually moving experience¬†the next, it will equip you with skills, and help you become stronger than you ever dreamed possible. You’ll need to be to help everyone in your family grow and succeed in life. And a funny thing will happen along the way. You will find joy, purpose and a true calling and vocation that will fill places in your life that you did not know were empty. Good luck on your journey. I am here to guide you if you need it. See my website http://www.exceptionalparenting.net¬†for further details. Until next time.¬†

5 Ways to Chip Away at Exceptional Fears

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http://www.morguefile.com-Stresshacker

My weekend spent gardening, talking with my son, spending time alone with his Dad and then at a spa with a close girlfriend showed me many things, positive and negative. The positive things were that I am finally learning to prioritize time with family alongside work and negative were the stress I’ve been carrying around for the last few months which culminated when I injured my back mid-week. Why? I was pushing with exercise. Why? I had to MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME. I was chasing the elusive demon I tell other Moms and Dads to not chase. And here I was just squeezing it in. I also was not using my adult strategies to handle stress as well as I would have liked.

I have learned how to meditate properly, how to exercise properly, but in the rush of Spring Fever, I temporarily got the fever to do it all. Then I crashed. The spa trip with my friend opened my eyes as to how much I’ve been running, both physically and spiritually away from me, from time alone, and more importantly, from tackling fears inside about getting it all done, being all for everybody, moving forward, and not being afraid to go after my dreams. ¬†I realized while meditating in this amazing bubble chair in the relaxing warm water, that fear is normal, particularly when you are pushing your boundaries, pushing past what has been holding you back. As a writer and coach, I have been increasingly pushing myself slowly in my personal and professional life. The result has been a growth and confidence that is real, permanent, and that when doubt creeps in, I can recognize as growing pains. I can help other parents see this in themselves, as Michael has helped me see the butterfly in me.

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The question is, how do you heal and chip away those old fears? Here are 5 ways I have learned to do it:

  1. Ask for time alone: No matter how little it is, even 5 minutes a day, can help you to see what you need to do and where you need to make change. Be gentle and tell yourself one step at a time.
  2. Read great spiritual or uplifting self-help book or attend lectures/classes to help: The more I read these types of texts, the more it is has helped me align my life to greater good, purpose, and when I am off, see how far I am from the meridian and find my way back.
  3. Gratitude Journaling: This is something I will be going back to. I start my day with a prayer thanking God for the day and life. From there I usually meditate, but know that what is written stays. I believe that writing down what one is grateful for brings it all into focus and helps us learn appreciation.
  4. Laugh at absurdity and don’t sweat the small stuff: My spa friend and I were talking about this, how important it is to turn unexpected stress into a gift, “what is this trying to teach me?” “what do I need to learn?” and as another good friend is famous for saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s all true.
  5. Connect with nature, a walk outside, sitting by a river, and on rainy days, looking at pictures of nature or water: This has helped relieve so much stress. It was part of my burnout therapy two years ago and what helped me heal.

The most important thing is to remember that you are a work of art. Chipping away at the granite that are your fears, anger and what not, takes time. One day at a time. Go easy on your selves parents.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you helped your Exceptional Children chip away at their fears, insecurities and bring out their strengths? You need to apply those same tools for yourself, and it’s not easy. You may need a day, two, a week or more. Take care. Do your best. And ask for guidance from God, the Universe, to show you your path. It will all come at the right time. Until next time.

Why I’m Going To Stop Worrying About Autism

 

This morning I woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Yes, this is mainly due to a wonderful night away with a girlfriend at a nearby spa where I was able to fully unwind body and soul and enjoy a delicious continental breakfast that I didn’t have to make or clean up after, but that is besides the point. The other reason I am feeling this way is due to Michael’s increasing maturity and the comments I am getting from teachers and babysitters praising his maturity and growth over the course of the year, and especially over course of the last six months. Saturday night when Dad and I came back from our date, our babysitter said how calm and organized Michael was. These were two words I could not associate with him several months ago when we were¬† struggling increasingly with challenging behaviors. I also had a note from the school teacher about how mature he is at school. She spoke about how he is assuming more responsibilities with classroom chores and social interaction and learning about conversing with people. At home he is starting to help me with chores like gardening. It made this exceptional mom’s heart swell with joy, to say the least.

Yes, we still have challenging days, Michael and I both. And when I hear about a family whose  child has been diagnosed with autism I am both supportive and open to them at the same time. Supportive as it is an extremely difficult time for the parents, the child, siblings if any and any other family member. Learning to live with a family member who sees the world differently will always have its challenges. Still it has its rewards, and the other night I was reminded of these rewards as I heard Michael telling the babysitter how to get home and navigating the streets with her. His brain is amazing! He is amazing! People with autism have incredible gifts, and this should be celebrated always, even when there are the tantrums, meltdowns and difficult days, remembering the intelligence that resides there is the most important thing.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have your Exceptional Children shown you what they are made of ? How many times have they shown you what you are made of? Never underestimate the gift of life, of looking at things in a different light, and about being open to new experiences, both opening yourself and your child up to learning and growing. When you do that, you, your child and society will benefit in the long run. Until next time.

Exceptional Long Weekend And Mommy Spa Get Away!

 

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So it’s the first long weekend of the summer, and our family is excited. Other than a sore back due to some over exuberant Zumba, I am feeling tip top and ready to go. Michael’s holiday weekend starts today with a PED DAY that we have planned out in advance. After his summer haircut it’s back home for some chores, lunch and a play date with a good friend in the afternoon. I am SO happy that they are calling for nice weather today and the rest of the weekend. It will help with moods.

Saturday (if the old back cooperates), it’s planting, lawn mowing and first BBQ of the Season Day along with a Date Night with Michael’s Dad. We are SO OVERDUE. Michael is excited to help with planting and some yard work and will love to see his sitter.

Sunday after church and some last minute packing, I am off after our family lunch, with a good friend for our annual ladies spa getaway, year three! And with a sore back this year, I definitively timed the getaway well. ūüôā ¬†This tradition started two years ago when I was starting my depression/burnout recovery, and a good friend of my husband’s recommended a nearby spa to start my healing process. My friend in question needed to get away too that year, (and really Moms and Dads, do we need an excuse for a spa night away? I didn’t think so.). Looking at their spa pictures alone, make me relax and I can’t wait to be there. ¬†It’s one of those package deals of a one night stay, a 60 minute massage along with access to the baths.¬†Recharging your parenting batteries is SO important. Michael has started understanding why we need our downtime to exercise, be with friends, or date nights.

Exceptional Parents, What are your long weekend plans? Are you going away as a family? Are you chilling in town, or doing a combination of both? Whatever you do, make sure to make it easy on your child with planning it out either on paper, talking about strategies to cope with the downtime, and make sure you have their sensory bag nearby if needed. Remember also to recharge your batteries. Long weekends need to have some downtime built in so don’t overdo it. Have a great one! Until next time.

Sensory Overload and Present Focusing

 

The other afternoon I was not paying attention as a Mom. It happens. I did not read Michael’s signals. He was tired. He asked to go downstairs on his swing before we looked at his catechism homework. Normally he understands he does work first then play after snack. I offered him to do the catechism on another day. It was his last few chapters anyway until he is finished the program for this year. He insisted. And then the problem began. Michael had problems with one of the questions. I tried to be patient and help him, but he wouldn’t have it, yet was becoming increasingly frustrated as he did not understand. It was then that I saw we were headed for a fight, but I misunderstood that it was bigger than that. He started repeating himself, his face flushed, his voice rose and though I tried in the early stages to remind him of his strategies to calm down, be blew. It was sensory overload and it took him (and me) a long time to come down from it. I regretted not seeing sooner where he was headed and stopping it, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

As I do now, though thankfully it does not happen as much anymore, I remind myself to learn from my mistakes and teach Michael to do the same. After he had recovered, we talked about using better strategies at the beginning to recognize anger and fear. I also took some of the blame for being concerned with other future events, like the long weekend and not focusing on the here and now. I did A LOT of work that day. I even squeezed in a longer workout where I pushed just a little too much. I am paying for that now with a pulled muscle in my back. I have had to slow down due to this, and it is my reminder to focus on the now, and be more aware of everything happening, Michael’s mood, my body, so that there can be balance.

Exceptional Parents, are you feeling balanced or is that something you are striving towards? It is important to be aware of what is off so that you can adjust and show your child how to do that too. We all have days when our minds are not where we want them to be. Don’t despair, but learn from it and teach your child the lesson in the mistake. Then you will both be happier and stronger for it. Until next time.

Exceptional Vision Boards

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I was visiting a friend not too long ago and I noticed she had done something wonderful. She had done a Vision Board with her Exceptional Son. A Vision Board is a Bristol board where one puts up pictures from magazines or other sources that show what we would like to accomplish in the near future and what we desire more of in our life. In her case, she tailored it kid’s style. It was pictures of her son doing various things that interested him and that he wanted to learn now or in the future. In one, it was him superimposed on an astronaut as he was curious about space, in another he is playing the keyboard, on a third painting etc. Well, as with adult Vision Boards, and I could attest to this with the two I’ve done, most of what you put on there, if it is really what you want and you look and meditate on it daily, will happen. Sure enough, my friend told me that everything on that board happened, (other than the astronaut) in the last year.¬†I looked at her amazed, and knew that this was a great tool to use with Michael and any parent to use with their child if they are feeling sad and are not confident in themselves.

I have yet to do this with Michael. He has asked me lots of questions about my Vision Board, but so far does want to build his in the same way. He thinks it is like arts and crafts, though I have told him otherwise. A few years ago we did something close to this. Michael was going through a lot of fears about what he is capable of doing. I took pictures of him skating , swimming, playing soccer, and put them up on the wall in his room. Continue reading “Exceptional Vision Boards”