Month: June 2016

Camp and Mom Connections

 

http://mrg.bz/5ec6ba

So the first day of camp yesterday was a great success. I knew it would be, both due to the camp’s reputation, and Michael’s maturity and love of organized activities where he can interact with peers. Today they are going swimming to the local pool and he is very excited. There is a calmness about him this year going to  camp, an assurance that I can do this. I am noticing this more in all facets of his life, even in his interactions with his father and I. He is making connections, talking, negotiating, oh yes, always negotiating, and asking for what he needs and wants very clearly. He is also better able to go with the flow of changes than he ever was before, though there are some challenges still. He will tell me he is swearing at me in his head when he doesn’t like something I say or do.  It is funny in one way, yet still concerns me when I see how invested he is in having things unfold a certain way. The good thing is though, I can gently redirect him to his strategies to calm down, and slowly he is starting to do them. He sometimes even does them on his own right away.

For all the times he will tell me that he is bored at home and that he wants to be alone, he will also approach me to play with him, to be in the same room as him, and will ask where I am in the house. He is self-sufficient, insists on making his own breakfast and making his own lunch (most nights) :), but wants to know I am still there in the background to help him if he needs it, to catch him if he falls. I get that. I feel that way too as an adult. I want to know my loved ones, my close friends are there for me too in the tough challenging times in life, in the transitions. After all, what is life if we don’t have those connections, if we are not making a difference, or make a difference, in someone’s life?

Exceptional Parents, how are your Exceptional Children’s connections with you and others? How do they differentiate themselves from you and other people? This can be a tough one for our kids who often feel that they are you are the same. They need to be taught to respect boundaries, theirs and yours. The most important thing is that they are out there making connections to others in their own way though, however they can. Don’t push. Let them go at their own pace and, as with many other things, they will surprise you I’m sure. Until next time.

Exceptional Excitement for Summer Camp

 

http://mrg.bz/5adc10

 

Michael is nervous/excited for summer camp. This is completely normal, and I am so glad he is able to share his feeling so openly with me. This has given me the opportunity to share with Michael times when I have been nervous/excited too. I know he will have a great time at summer camp. He always does. This year he will be doing two different camps than in previous years, but I know he will sail through it. I have made sure to talk with him about what he will be doing. We even had a chance to visit the camp he will be at starting tomorrow, to talk to the coordinator, and to hear about what his counselor will be like. She sounds like a great match for Michael!

I can’t believe a few short years ago I was so scared to send him to summer camp. I knew he needed to be active, but wanted to make sure he had the emotional maturity to be away from home for a whole school day. We are there now, and Michael looks forward to this as much as I do. We both get our break from one another and get to be around people our own age, then meet up, talk and play after camp together. I know he will share all the stories, and after his six weeks of camp he will enjoy a less structured schedule with me and then with me and his Dad when Dad will be home.

I think back to what a Mom once said to me, how we start teaching our babies to move away from us pretty much from the second they are born and come out of our womb. Loving a child is like no other feeling in the world. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve, open for all the world to see, and staying strong at times when you want to fall apart. It’s about teaching said child, challenges or not, to fly away from you as soon as possible, because that is the natural order of things. It is learning to say no for their own good, nursing them through failure, heartbreak, sickness and celebrating every joy with them. When Michael succeeds, I succeed, when he fails, I fail. I know he is separate from me, but I feel him and his spirit in every way. The bond you have with your child is never gone and always remains powerful. That is why seeing him move away from me, becoming independent, mumbling at times like a teenager fills me with joy. My little boy is flying solo and doing great.

Exceptional Parents, what are your plans for your Exceptional Child/dren? Are they in structured summer camp, at home or are you doing things as a family? Whatever you choose, go with what works for your child and your family. And remember each day to help that baby bird fly. Until next time.

 

How Gardening Has Helped Me Grow As An Exceptional Parent

20160618_134631.jpg

 

It is summer, my favorite time of the year. I have loved this season since I was a little girl, though there were a few years after Michael’s autism diagnosis that I started to dislike and even hate summer. I used to watch him unravel with the loss of structure, predictability and the heat. It broke my heart over and over again to see him suffer and not know how to help him.  Oh how the heat used to affect him. In my more bitter times before I saw what God and the Universe were showing me, I believed I was being punished and mocked by ironically dreading my favorite time of year each time it happened. That’s when I started seeing a pattern. I started seeing what I could do to get strong, be positive and be ready for this difficult time of year for Michael. He even has given me fair warning about the difficulties in the last few years by talking about his fears and worries of summer camp, the upcoming school year and other things.

As he has gotten older though, the challenging behaviors have changed. His reactions, his ability to self-regulate is getting better. This is both because I am showing him strategies to manage his emotions, and I have learned to manage my own too. Summer time does not equal Mommy time one hundred percent when camp is not in session. He is slowly learning to find ways to amuse himself, and when I do take him places, I make sure to tell him, I need his help or cooperation in waiting for me to get other things done or get him to help me.

One of the things I do to unwind besides my usual list is gardening. Gardening for me is pruning the massive unruly forest that is my yard and that I love to pieces. It truly represents me, lovingly cluttered, a kind ear to others (so I’ve been told),  and the possibilities of all the beauty that will  unfold with the right care. I am slowly tending to my own inner garden as I am to my yard. It is a slow process, kind of like therapy was for me several years ago, the opening up of my wounds, the work to be done which was hard but gratifying, and the result which is me seeing where I can still grow and get better, and where I was fine all around.

 

20160614_131334.jpg

Plants come back to life, a diagnosis is just a label. It does not predict what or who that person will be, and clearing up clutter is cathartic and can help you move forward. It doesn’t surprise me that I became a gardener when I was pregnant with Michael. I felt life growing inside me and I wanted to tend to life. And then tending and helping Michael to grow while he helped me to grow, made me tackle my crazy yard with a gusto that each year fills me with excitement. Outside I find peace, God, release, joy, birth, death and rebirth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Exceptional Parents, what activities bring you back to yourself and help you find peace and rebirth? Whichever ones they are, make sure you do them regularly. Your child will be better when they see you caring for yourself. They will also learn to find their own activities that complete them as an individual. Until next time.

5 Ways My Exceptional Child Has Taught Me How To “Turn It Around”

 

 

http://mrg.bz/7866f8

 

“Mommy, why are you mad? Why are you raising your voice? Are you upset at me?”

Michael has been my best temperament gauge for as long back as I can remember. Most of the time, though he has a hard time with complex emotions like sadness, worry and fear (in others), he has seen through my best defenses in the past when I was trying to pretend it was “all good.” It wasn’t. He has seen through my subterfuge, and forced me, for the better, to make positive changes to how I see change and unpredictability. And, like a wise teacher at his school said, “you can still turn it around.” She said this to the kids when they were having a rough day and the class was in an uproar. She also said it for the benefit of herself too, I’m sure. She said it to remind herself that no matter how stressed or worried you are, you can still turn things around. So, in honor of those words, here are 5 Ways My Exceptional Child Has Taught Me To Turn Things Around:

  1. Have a few minutes each morning of quiet contemplation: This is crucial. Crucial. Even if you are super late with everything (oversleeping, late start, etc.) take a few minutes to breathe, check in with yourself on how you are feeling before tackling the day.
  2. Make time for prayer, meditation or writing in a gratitude journal: This does not mean praying, meditating or writing for an hour if you can’t in one time frame. Little pockets of time where you say short prayers. There are great short meditations you can do online, and as for the gratitude journal, one or two lines will do. It’s all to remind you on what counts.
  3. When upset, try and see yourself for the outside and laugh: Yes, I know this sounds insane, but laugh at yourself. We all are a little silly and get carried away sometimes with the little things. I also remind myself, “will this matter in five years or even less?” I immediately calm down.
  4. What is God/The Universe/Life teaching me? This is so true. Things happen sometimes and we are meant to learn from them, become stronger and wiser. We don’t always feel it. It’s ok. You’re a human being. So ask yourself the next time, if I am having trouble at work, maybe it means I need to ask for help, I am feeling depressed at home, I need to reach out to people in my community, social groups, volunteer etc. I keep getting sick, what changes do I need to make in my body to get healthy? etc.
  5. The image of the glass half full/half empty: I love this saying. Yesterday Michael and I had a fight at the local pool. I got angry at him for not listening to the lifeguard. Really, he did not understand what she was saying. It was a receptive processing thing. When I realized that,  I felt bad and apologized. When we looked back at the day, I told him I remembered the good times we had at the pool, not the the misunderstanding.

 

http://mrg.bz/da5f5c

 

So there you have it. There are lots of ways to build the “turn it around” mentality into your day to day routine. Michael, like most of our children, has helped me see things more clearly and for the better so I can continue to teach him.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children help you turn things around for the better? How have they been your teachers? You know they are when we realize we need to model our behavior to show them the right way to act in society and in their lives. So watch your child for signs that they are picking up how to be more positive, resilient and don’t be afraid to be so yourself. The whole family will benefit from a more positive outlook. Until next time.

Long Weekend Fun and 8 Ways to Beat The Summer Heat!

 

http://mrg.bz/a39e0a

 

Here in Montreal, Quebec it is the first long weekend of summer, Jean-Baptiste or National Day. School is officially over, most people are home, and this weekend the weather will be cooperating beautifully, hot and sunny! It’s also going to be on the humid and sticky side though, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially a lot of “Exceptional Children’s”. I’m fortunate that Michael has gotten better over the years at handling heat and staying outside, after all, summer is so short.  What has also helped is learning how to keep cool as an “Exceptional Family,” metaphorically and literally.. Here are 8 Ways that our family has learned to beat the heat on the first long weekend of summer:

  1. Splash Pads at local parks: This is the greatest invention of humankind, and perfect for the child who is not a terrific swimmer or is a little water shy. Also, it’s FREE, and you can usually bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it as most are usually attached to parks where kids could play while the adults talk. 🙂
  2. Public swimming pool: We are lucky to live in the suburbs where we have our choice of which public swimming pool to attend. And, if cost is an issue, or you feel as if you may not be going enough times to make it worth it, try paying as you go. Most offer that for $5.00 a person.  Here Michael can shout, do silly things, and hey, he’s just a kid like the others. Your child can be themselves and you can relax.
  3. Sprinkler : Michael still likes to go in the sprinkler. These days you can buy all types which make the water a more friendly premise for the kiddies. I adjusted the height so he was not intimidated to go in. Try writing a social story for kids with more water fear.
  4. Baby Pool: This is great when they are little, (as long as you are always nearby, of course), and what I did was throw in many of Michael’s toys and figurines, squeeze toys, whatever helped him feel comfortable.
  5. Water guns or water balloons: This depends how you feel as a parent about them, but this could be a gentle way to cool off and introduce your child to fun water activity. It’s turn taking, refreshing when you get a squirt or splash, and then you could move up to one of the bigger water activities above.
  6. Going to the beach: When and if kids would rather play on the sand, they have that option while staying cool enough with the breeze. Sand also is a great tool for meeting sensory needs.
  7. Amusement parks with water slides :  This costs a lot more, but your kids can go on rides, and then as an afterthought, go in the water parks, no pressure if they are a little nervous. There are passes you could get that state your child has Autism which would get you to the front of the line. Usually all they require is proof of diagnosis.
  8. Water parks: Finally, for those Exceptional Kids who are little fish (like mine), a full blown water park may be your best bet. But check out exactly how big it is. We did not do this, and afterwards realized that it was too big for Michael at the time.

 

http://mrg.bz/23854e

 

Exceptional Parents, how do you keep cool with your Exceptional Children? I would love to hear what your tips are. Just remember, like with everything else, go with the flow of your child, make it fun, and you will all have a blast. Until next time.

Exceptional Family Growth This School Year

 

 

http://mrg.bz/7fc80d

 

I can’t believe that another school year is over. Yesterday was Michael’s last day. And though it started out rainy and stormy, it ended on a great note. The kids still had their bouncy rides, BBQ and fun day (albeit inside the school gym instead of the schoolyard), and it was magical for Michael as always. What also made the end of this school year easier, is that we found out that Michael will be having the same teacher and assistant as this year. The stress of who will be in his class was also slightly elevated when Michael found out that a few of his friends from this year would be following him into the same class next year. We even get the school supply list so busy Moms and Dads can shop early if more convenient. 🙂

As I was waiting for his school bus to round the corner yesterday afternoon,  I thought back to the year we had had, shocked that it was already over.  I found myself getting emotional over how far he has come, how much he has learned. He could not write his name at the beginning of the year. He now he writes semi legibly, and is getting more legible by the day. He did not have the skills to manage his emotions. By the end of the year, he was doing a fantastic job of this the majority of the time. Finally, he was co-sleeping with me due to severe night terrors, and now for the last month (over a period of several months of me gradually distancing myself from him at night),  he goes to bed by himself and uses strategies to fall asleep on his own and STAY asleep. I am beyond proud of my little guy. He has come far, and I can see that he will continue this progress with the help and support of understanding family, friends, teachers and therapists.

 

http://mrg.bz/78236b

 

What I also realized though, was how far I have come this year as an Exceptional Mom, Michael’s Exceptional Mom. I learned even more about advocating for Michael, while continuing to learn to advocate for myself as a woman and parent. It was like climbing up a hill. It was hard at first. I was out of breath like when I began to exercise again after a long break. As I got better at it though,  I became stronger and soon was in great shape. I did this by recognizing what my emotional triggers are, and putting healthy coping strategies in place. I also learned how to ask Dad and other family and friends for whatever I needed, down time, friend time, alone time, writing time. And finally, I took the next step in my business and launched a website and parent coaching programs to help other Moms and Dads learn to trust their gut when it comes to their child or children. I remind them to never give up on their children, and to reach out to the community. Isolation for any of us is deadly. Connection is everything.

Exceptional Parents, what kind of growth did your Exceptional Child experience this year? How did it affect your growth as an Exceptional Parent? And remember, even the mistakes we make are great learning experiences. Sometimes the down times are when we learn the most about ourselves and our children’s resilience. After all, it’s often how you bounce back from setbacks that determines future success. Don’t give up. Celebrate yours and your child’s small and big victories. And remember, in the fall there will be another school year to learn wonderful things. Until next time.

How Dry Erase Boards Can Help End Of School Anxiety

 

http://mrg.bz/cfc0b7

 

We are in the final few days of a very difficult transition time for kids: the end of school. Michael is no different. Exceptional Kids only handle the transition into the unknown with a little more of a twist than their neuro typical peers. Some of the ways Michael is handling it is very impressive. He has expressed his fears and anxieties to me by telling me that he is happy school is ending, but will miss his friends. He also has asked if he could set up the next week’s schedule on our dry erase board, a wonderful tool I was told about last year by our Psycho Educator to help Michael handle the changes that come with summer. The fact that he brought it up to me, was a huge milestone. I’m very proud of how he is starting to handle his anxieties. So yesterday afternoon, away we went on the dry erase board structuring his first week of summer vacation which starts on Thursday, June 23rd.

 

Of course there have been some pitfalls along the way. He has started more intense negotiations for things we have said no to, swearing has increased, and he has been a little more short tempered or emotional. This is all normal for all exceptional children, and as parents, we need to give them time to settle into a new routine.  Monday was a prime example of Michael acting out. After school I had taken Michael to a splash park. It’s a small one and I warned him he may be bored, but he insisted he wanted to go there. Well, guess what. He was bored with me and complained that he was not having a good time. Then he started to cry looking at all the other kids playing while he was alone. They were babies and toddlers with their siblings. I explained again about it being for a younger age group, but then realized he needed to let the emotions out by crying. He later told me he was crying because he did not try to enjoy himself when he was there and make the best of it. I was impressed again how he is picking up on these things. I shared with him a time recently when I did something similar, and had regrets. Live and learn.

 

Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use with your Exceptional Children to ease the transition from end of school to summer? Do you let your children pick the tools or is it easier for them when you do the picking? Again, like with every thing else, it is important to find what works for your child/dren, but I would say a balance of them having choice and you suggesting things is probably the best balance between the two. Remember, as a parent you need to give them more space and be more tolerant of challenging behaviors at this time of year, and they need to vent and also learn how to self-regulate too. If the two of you meet halfway, you are doing amazing. Until next time.

Church, Community and Appreciation of Difference

 

http://mrg.bz/ee96c2

 

The other day we went out for a Father’s Day brunch at one of our local shopping mall restaurants. Most of the parishioners from our church go for breakfast there after the 9:00 am mass we all attend. Michael loves this mall. There is a Bulk Barn there, a Dollarama and many other beautiful little stores that he loves to look at when we go on the weekends. So there we were, treating Dad to a Father’s Dad brunch out when we were joined by some lovely people from our church. What ensued, besides delicious food, were great conversations between Michael and these parishioners that he has gotten to know over nine years ago since he started attending mass with us. I have often said that we are blessed with many ‘second’ families in our community. Other than a community organization for special needs families, Michael’s school, our other second family is our church. They embraced me as a new parishioner, my husband and then our son before and after his autism diagnosis. They are open, accepting, loving and welcoming in all they do, and, not surprisingly, I have learned there are other special needs families in the parish who feel the same way. We are blessed to have found them as is Michael.

 

http://mrg.bz/6c7d5b

 

Watching Michael grow in the way he interacts with the other parishioners he knows from catechism (and those he does not), is endearing. I love how he is open, talkative and excited to share his life with them. One of the catechism teachers who sat with us knows him well. She began showing him pictures of where she went on vacation, her grandchildren and other such details which she knew would interest him. She also told him where she lived, (prompted by Michael, asking of course). I know what he will be mapping out in the next few days and where. 🙂 I feel so privileged for our family, that we are excepted and embraced by such a wonderful community. And I know that they are all impressed with Michael. They have known him since babyhood, and have seen the amazing changes, the growth that has taken place. And when we had to briefly step away from church they understood. This church, like Michael, brought me back to myself, to who I am inside. I will be forever thankful for the transformation of this community accepting us as our special needs community does.

Exceptional Parents, do you and your Exceptional Children have your community? Whatever community and wherever it is, make sure you and your child feel comfortable being yourselves, being true to who you are, and that you can feel like you can contribute something to them in return. Michael looks forward to doing his catechism, I look forward to helping out in future in the church now that he is older, and Dad, well, he is so touched to be loved and embraced by this community as he is by our special needs community. Good luck, and remember, don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Until next time.

 

A Flower In Bloom-Results from Team Michael

 

So this morning we will get our latest update on Michael’s ASD status for governmental purposes, but I have to say that Dad and I will be interested to see where he scores, not because it will be something we don’t already know, but out of curiosity how the world views Michael. I have seen him grow by leaps and bounds this year at school, even when we were in the midst of challenging behaviors. His body and mind have grown, and he is now able to understand so much more about his feelings, the world, and due to his recent victories over night difficulties and conquering handwriting problems, his confidence has risen too. Dad and I both proud, and though today’s meeting brings up a lot of emotions in both of us, I can honestly say that we, and Michael, have had lots of positive experiences with therapists and medical personnel. We’ve been lucky in that regard.

Michael, for his part, knows we are going to get the results from these members of “Team Michael,” so that we have even more tools to help him succeed in life. We now have regular talks about his autism, his different brain, and how and why he sees the world in this unique way. Dad and I are having to teach him appropriate physical boundaries with people as well as emotional ones. We have an individual who loves to hug, talk to strangers, and sometimes, well, has revealed some personal information. Dad and I are trying to tread that fine line of teaching him stranger danger while not making him too frightened of our world. He does not understand how scary it can be. I hope in time our examples, social stories, and being open to answering all his questions, will help Michael continue to mature and become confident in himself, in his body, and in the world. He talks to us in a more confident manner, sometimes even bordering on teenage arrogance. We have to correct him often when he uses “his attitude”, but another part of me sees the strong personality and mind behind it, and knows that once he learns social skills in a more appropriate manner, then watch out world, he’ll be a force to reckon with!

Exceptional Parents, how do you feel when you go to get evaluations for your Exceptional Child/dren? Are you ever surprised by what the professionals say, or do you feel that all of you are on the same page when it comes to your child’s progress? I hope it is the latter. There is much our children teach us parents and professionals, so I hope your experience is a positive one. I hope yours and your child’s “team” can see their talents, their intelligence, and help continue to lead your child, along with your help, on to bigger and better things. Until next time.

 

Celebrating Michael’s Exceptional Father

 

http://mrg.bz/0d08b6

 

So this weekend is Father’s Day, and our family is blessed to have four wonderful fathers to celebrate with, Michael’s Dad, my Dad, my brother and my Father-In-Law. Although we mark the celebrations for all four on different days as it is easier logistically speaking,  it does not make that day any less special as we always call our fathers and my brother on that day to wish them. And each year I have the same thought: we are a lucky family to have such good nurturing men among us. I particularly see the strong bond that continues to grow between Michael and his Dad. It warms my heart the way Michael greets his Dad when he comes home, is eager to talk and share parts of his day with him, and will be heard saying often;

“I want Daddy to take me to the park. I want to go alone with Daddy.”

He even told me several days in advance about his craft for Daddy for Father’s Day and the card. He proudly told his father what he made him and how he can’t wait to give it to him on Sunday. It’s great that he is attaching more and more to Dad as time goes on. Little boys need a good strong male role model as they grow up. I am particularly happy as Dad and Michael seem to be developing their own language and ways of playing and interacting. It is separate from me, yet it is not as if I am excluded. It is just “boys stuff” and I love how this is bringing them closer. Michael and I have our Mommy and son time which is special too, and then we have our family time when it is special for all of us.

 

http://mrg.bz/449f55

 

What I find particularly beautiful is how Dad is learning to relate more and more to Michael’s autism, and help him find ways to navigate the rough patches as well as celebrate the victories. I will hear Dad reminding Michael to use his strategies, he remains calmer than me when Michael tests and shows Michael the port in the storm. He also makes that extra effort when he is tired to play with Michael, to be there for him, to show him love. And he encourages him with reading, writing and sports. He is proud of Michael and sees more and more Michael’s potential. It has been a long road for these two as accepting Michael’s diagnosis was not easy for Dad. He was not the one home to see all that I saw, so it was normal that he doubted things at first. Like many Dads, he needed his own time to reflect and come to terms. When he did, the bond between the two began to grow. Now, he is not only Michael’s Exceptional Father but my Exceptional Husband, a true partner in advocating for our Exceptional Little boy, and helping him grow into the wonderful little person he is.

Exceptional Parents, how are you celebrating Father’s Day this weekend? Will you be marking it with a big lunch or dinner or something simple? Will you do separate celebrations with the other Dads in the family? No matter what you choose, just remember how important a Dad’s duty is. Dads do a lot for their families in so many ways, and today’s Dads are amazing in how they support their partners, particularly Exceptional Dads, who need to be that much stronger for their Exceptional Families. So here’s a shout out and wishing all of you out there a Happy Father’s Day! Until next time.