So Michael is into new interests now. They range from social planning, to figurines purchases, to making crafts and putting on musical concerts with songs from “The Sing” movie. Cute. These are all things we are celebrating, but when Michael makes up his mind to start doing an activity, well, he really does it. He will ask us if we could come and help him cut out shapes for his craft, or come at a certain time for his musical concert. He is flexible and understands if we have to finish our chores, but it can be a little bit of juggling for us to explain to Michael that we need to get stuff around the house done or other chores too. He is starting to help more with chores as well, but only, as he put it, “so I can earn money to buy more toys,” and when we have put a stop to this, he is now asking friends at school to buy him toys. Sigh. There is always lots of explanations to do as Michael does not see the world in the same way a neuro typical child does. We also need to give him rewards to help lately with problem behavior like swearing when he “doesn’t like what we say,” to taking his pants down or imitating inappropriate things from movies. He knows he has gotten reactions in the future (guilty as charged), so now it is all about underplaying some and remaining calm with others to teach him. He is also very sweet at other times and so mature. We are again talking about God, life and death, spirituality, and last night at bedtime he asked me why I am so angry lately. What he really meant is that I’ve been extra strict. I told him he needs to follow the rules and I will be calmer. Oh ok Mommy. He said. As I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from my mistakes in parenting my exceptional child, I wanted to share some things I have done right and that you probably have or can too, parents. Here they are:
- Let your child lead with their interests: This can be difficult if the interests seem one dimensional like a certain television show character etc. But with time , this interest can be expanded.
- Stay calm and redirect gently if they become stressed or agitated: This is tough sometimes, but mandatory. If the parent can’t stay calm, the child will suffer and not learn good strategies. You can use your own failure at calming down to illustrate to your child how much better you felt when you calmed down right away. Show them you are learning together!
- Encourage the interests and broaden them: An interest in Barney the Dinosaur, (Michael’s big love figure when he was little), became an interest in dinosaurs in general. Navigating to his favorite shopping mall, has become him learning other parts of the city with a map and online. Same with one musical instrument. He has now broadened to several!
- When kids repeat, stay with them, don’t discourage: It can be hard for parents who want to move on, but mandatory that they answer the questions and as strange as the interest may seem, it’s important to the child so it becomes important to them. And kids with autism do ask strange questions, or at least, strange to us. To them, with their amazing versatile brains, the are very different.
- Use the opportunity to teach life skills: When Michael likes to do crafts, we use the opportunity to teach fine motor. With navigating, we practice reading. You see the pattern. Always teach in a fun way. And guess what parents, you’ll have fun too. Let the child in you come out!
Exceptional Parents, what hobbies or interests is your Exceptional Child focused on? Where do they need help regulating? Stay present with them and have fun. You will learn to see the teachable moments, and when you stay calm, you will learn to teach them how to handle feeling that can be a little crazier to deal with. Until next time.
I am a writer and parent coach who is passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.
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