Month: April 2017

Anger Boxes and Learning to Self-Regulate- Another Tool for the Toolbox

 

It is finally here. I was so excited when Michael came home with the “Anger Box,” he made with the school psychologist. I had tried to make one with him last week, to help with his meltdowns and aggressive outbursts, but he told me he’d rather wait to do it with the school psychologist because she and he were the ones who were originally going to do it together. Some days last week felt VERY long with his week at home, so I was disappointed, but I understood. There have been a lot of challenging moments though, so seeing it live and in person yesterday was great. Michael explained to me how it worked. There were sheets of paper where he could write down what was bothering him or had bothered him and he can put them in the box talk with me about it at a later date. I like the idea. He also decorated it with favorite things, and put it in his new and revised “calm corner” in his bedroom. He is learning to go back to that when he starts to get angry, before escalating to hitting and screaming and losing control. We are all relived at this.

Yesterday we were at the park and Michael talked about how he does not know how to stop when his anger gets too much. I agreed and this is where I reminded him to tune into his body. He remembered how his stomach gets sore. We talked about how a lot of us, even adults, need to tune in when we are feeling angry and overwhelmed. This is not always easy to do, but once we learn to see markers we can work on fixing the problem. I reminded Michael we all get angry and scared, but like with following rules, we need to learn to do it. It was cute to watch him yesterday point out how he was using his techniques to handle transitions, stress and anger. He would point them out to me in the park. He also was his usual inquisitive self asking questions and exploring. All in all, a nice afternoon.

Exceptional Parents, how often do you use your “anger box” to clear out emotions and talk through things with yourself or others afterwards? It’s important to do emotional spring cleaning as much as physical ones. If you have a lot of emotional stuff bottled up inside, let it out. Use tools like an anger boxes to complement talking to family, friends, a therapist. Remember, we can’t grow and move forward without removing what is blocking us inside. Until next time.

 

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Story Telling and the Art of Imaginary Friends-My Exceptional Son’s Growth

 

So as Michael is coming down off some behaviors he is turning back to some positive ways to handle all the energy and ideas in his head. My little guy is going back to storytelling! I was so excited to see him writing another story yesterday. The theme was the same as the last one. Our cat, Princess, and his imaginary friend, Meeko, (the raccoon from Poccohontas) go to another shopping mall, pull pet food from the shelves, spill the bags, eat the pet food, and then get in trouble with police as they don’t want to pay for the pet food they eat. They go to jail, but another friend comes to pay the fine to bail them out. Yes, guess who has been asking police questions. 😉 Still I was excited that Michael was starting to make creative connections again, and wants me to read this story out loud at a future writer’s meeting. J I was proud that he was channeling some positive energy in a good direction. I was also glad to see him calm, and talking about how he needs to stop swearing, hitting and using aggression. He is starting to connect the dots about other outlets for his creative and emotional energy.

I, for my part, was so happy to see him doing something constructive with his time. He has so much energy, emotional and physical. I like how he is recognizing it, and making sure to use it wisely and the look on his face when I praised him yesterday said it all. Even though  we are still having our challenging days, (and they can be challenging), I am so proud that Michael is learning to slowly self-regulate, move through difficult moments and come out a stronger little boy. I like how he is going back to his imagination and not just looking to play video games and watch videos in his free time.  A balance of everything is healthy. He also is agreeing to stop the toy purge completely and remember that he can still play with some of his toys. He has not outgrown all of them after all. I like how he is learning to balance school, work, and tolerating being at home, which is something he does not like, but which sometimes needs to happen.

Exceptional Parents, how are your Exceptional Children playing and showing you their emotional growth? Most of our kids do it in small amounts. Sometimes they take two steps forward, and sometimes it is two steps back. Still, we have to look at the momentum and that they are trying and moving forward. As their parents, we can’t wish for anything more than our children learning, growing and trying new things. Until next time.

How Our Exceptional Children Make Us Realize What is Important

 

So today when Michael came home from school, after a little bit of a difficult start, I took a break and told Michael to do the same. He apologized for his behavior, and asked me something which shocked me:

“Do you want to spend time with me Mommy?”

Of course I did! I think in the business of our life I had forgotten to tell Michael how much I did want to spend time with him, how much I missed him, and how much I had been neglecting mother/son time. I also began to realize that probably much of his acting out was due to feeling isolated and like he did not matter as much as my writing which is not true. I love my identity away from being a Mom, but being a Mom is a central part of who I am too. I am proud to be Michael’s mother, and even the moments that I am less proud of myself or him, (usually do to either one of our reactions to negative events), I realized I needed to show to show that he mattered by taking the time to spend with him. I wrote another blog post a while ago on Gordon Neufeld and his work on “collecting your child”. It’s so important when our child strays for us that we find ways to bring them back in our fold, into our arms, and let them know they matter.

I received the most wonderful gift from Michael after a bit of a rocky start home this afternoon. Michael and I talked for thirty minutes on the couch about his day, about life and then over dinner. After dinner he played on his own. What did he choose to do? He chose to make a get well card for his grandmother who is recovering from surgery. Not to leave his godmother and grandfather out, he made them cards too, though their cards express his love and best wishes to them. I was blown away. Is this the same child that I had to fight with to get to bed the last two weeks? Indeed. Afterwards when I joined him, Michael asked if he could write stories with me like he did two years ago. So he proceeded to write two of them which he wants me to share with my writers’ groups next week. I was so proud and so filled with love. We’ve had lots of behavioral stress lately due to changing routines, hormones, and making finding where he fits in it all. This was so beautiful. It reminded me of the beautiful soul my son is, even when he is locked inside an anxious and angry body. It showed me how patient I needed to be to unlock this Michael more often.

Exceptional Parents, how does your Exceptional Child help you unlock their inner peace and their real character? It is so hard sometimes to stay calm and collected when all is breaking loose. Just remember. There is always a reason for behavior, and trying a loving and patient approach in small bits can never hurt. Give your child the chance to reach out to you as you do to them. Until next time.

Love and Space-What I Crave From My Exceptional Son

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There are the days and nights that I say, oh my goodness, I have treasured every moment today with this child. Then there are those days, when things have been more difficult, and though I love my child more than anything, I am happy to have my space from him, away from the arguments, the anxiety, the aggression, the screaming. The last two weeks has been a mix of several of these days and nights, but at the end of it all, I have to look at the amazing kid Michael is. He is inquisitive, funny, alert, detailed, and constantly looking to learn new things. He wants to both teach me and be taught by me. He is not afraid to show his feelings, for better or worse, and I admire him for that. He has gumption, and will continue to tirelessly argue his cause way after he has lost the cause. It is amazing to see, though sometimes tiresome as a parent. I often wish for days of having more patience to handle the rough moments. Then I remember I usually have patience. Some days are easier than others to be patient . Others I am tired, overwhelmed and have my own stress and issues to deal with.

Lately I realize I have been neglecting some self-care which has had me feeling the need for MAJOR escape. I am remedying that by taking weekly relaxation baths, mandatory fiction reading nights, and soon, soon I will find the energy to go out with girlfriends and back to my writers’ groups in the evenings. Working all day, then working with Michael and on my writing is major soul work but as a Mom it is important to focus on my health too. If I am not feeling one hundred percent in tune emotionally, physiclly and spiritually with rest, meditation and exercise, I feel not have the patience I want to have to ride the roller coaster ride of exceptional parenting. And Michael deserves me on that ride with him, strong and focused. Yes, I fill out behavior charts, follow up on further health assessments, summer camps, doctor’s appointments, and write social stories while trying to make play dates and encourage him in all extra curricular activities. But I am wiped and need a break. Michael misses me taking him to the park, having fun, spending time together. With the nice weather coming, I want to start this again, for his sake and mine. But in order to be the Mom he needs with patience again, I need to start by taking care of my needs to teach Michael how to take care of his.

Exceptional Parents, how often do you give yourselves permission to stop pushing and just be with yourself? How often do you do this with your kids? It is mandatory for mental and physical health that you tune out and be on your own for a bit to rebuild your strength. You will parent better, enjoy your child more, and they will sense that from you, that joy of being with them. Until next time.

Looking for new strategies to handle anxiety and stress? Download my FREE EBOOK: “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.

5 Things To Help Exceptionally Anxious Kids Who Try To Push A Parent’s Buttons

 

I knew towards the end of the week that Michael’s anxiety with returning to school would be culminating in higher stress levels for him and us. What I did not know, is how he would push my buttons to get me to take notice. This should not have come as a surprise. We are working with the school psychologist to help Michael learn to self-regulate and manage his emotions. This is so hard for him. It is made harder that part of him is this little tween with major attitude telling me he doesn’t like my rules, he wishes he could live with his Bff, and I’m too strict. Then other days the anxiety affects him by making him more clingy to me. He checks what room I’m in the house. He asks me a million times if I love him. He asks me if he can live with me one day. It is so stressful for me and even him. I know he is scared and does not know what to do. The other day though, it was so difficult when he began pushing my buttons during a fight about bedtime. He wasted so much time getting through the routine, decided to throw water on the floor, and then got angry when I said I would not be lying down with him due to his rudeness. He insulted me, tried to hit me. I was so mad. I didn’t take my own advice about retreating to a calm corner and yelled right back. I even half marched half dragged him back to his room and ordered him to get dressed or I would record the whole ordeal and email it to his school. I’d threatened this once before when super angry and was not proud, but it seemed to work. He started to listen and even apologized.

I realized I’d fallen right into his trap of overreacting to his overreacting. This is the worst thing a parent can do, but when you’ve had a day of constantly putting out behavioral fires from your child, most parents would have their not so compassionate moments. I learned that I needed to find out how to connect more to Michael’s anxious state, and really find ways to help him manage his own anxiety. He thinks Dad and I will always make him feel better, not knowing yet that he really does have the power. I need to show him he is safe and capable. He is a smart kid and will get it with enough repetition. Plus pair this with the hard work he is doing with the psychologist on finding strategies to handle his anger and he will learn. What I realized I could have done but didn’t, are the following:

  • Keep a similar routine going: Michael got up late and that messed it all up
  • Show child you are really there listening: Dad and I have been so busy around the house and with work that Michael may have felt pushed aside. That is when he acts up.
  • When angry, step aside and tell them why: I forgot to go to my calm corner as I did in the daytime. It was not pretty.
  • Don’t take them personally or their comments, but explain calmly that violence, verbal or physical is NEVER right: There were moments when I yelled instead of staying calm. When someone hits you or insults you, it is normal to overreact. Try to remember your child is in distress and don’t take them personally.
  • Show them a safe place they can go to vent: Redirect them to a safe place to vent and don’t talk to them unless they need you to.

 

Exceptional Parents, are you always the calm in your child’s storm? It’s ok if the answer is no. You are human. You make mistakes and forget to pace yourself, and let’s face it, having anyone say hurtful things to you is hard. Just remember, if you stay calm and keep yourself level, you are setting a good future example for your child to regulate their own emotions. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help for your child. They will benefit from many different types of approaches that will teach them how to handle stress and their emotions. Until next time

 

 

Hyper Activity and Other Sensory Issues in Exceptional Children

 

 

Michael has always been an active little boy from the time he came into the world. He hated sleeping, loved seeing and absorbing everything around him, and needed to go all the time. I still suspect he may have ADHD in addition to Autism as having down or quiet time is still challenging for him. He gets up in the morning and is truly UP in every sense of the word. I like to ease into my day, but with Michael he is talking and asking questions as if he’s been up for hours even if it’s only 6 am. This is challenging for me who is not the world’s fastest morning person. I do my best to try and squeeze in my meditation and yoga so I can be that much more alert for him. I also try to remember to remember patient on those mornings when he asks for the itinerary of the day. We once told him we can’t take him more than 4 places a day. In Michael’s mind, this translated to he must go places every day or else. And up goes his anxiety. He is now starting to understand that four is the maximum. He could go one, two, or three and that is ok as well. This is still challenging, but we are making headway.

It’s important to always have tools to redirect kids to who have sensory issues. When he was younger I would direct him to his indoor swing or trampoline. Now he likes to listen to pop music and rock on the couch. Sometimes he will play musical instruments which serve a sensory need and a pleasurable one. Michael loves music. Other times he will find toys to squeeze or fidget with, though this is becoming less common as he gets older. We are reminding him to listen to his body and what it is telling him he needs to do to regulate. It’s becoming so important that he finds ways to handle his anxiety by recognizing signals and putting appropriate measures into place. I think soon we will need to add medication along with behavioral changes to help Michael learn how to control anger, anxiety and his emotions so he can live as happily and calmly as possible.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle your Exceptional Children’s sensory issues and hyper activity? It’s difficult for us as their parents to sometimes understand how their systems work differently from ours, but is essential we do this so we can help them learn their own normal and live comfortably in their own body. We can slowly help them understand us too and how we are all different and special in our own way. Until next time.

Exceptional Ways of Expressing Oneself and Love-What Michael Has Taught Me

 

 

For all of the stresses Michael carries around inside himself and the things he worries about, there are also the times he shares such beautiful things about life and how he sees the world. His brain works in such a cool way. One of his favorite things to do is to give me a hug and smell my neck. He says it relaxes him like being in a spa (wonder where he got that from) 😉 and he has become fascinated with bones in faces, people’s and animals. He was rub up against my face and say that he loves my bony face. God gave me the best Mommy face in the world. Weird, but cute, just the way I know him. And heck, I’m weird. We are all weird in our own way. And if we celebrate our weirdness that is what makes us special, unique able to bring our gifts to the world whatever they may.
Of course we have to learn to conform to societal rules. This is a toughie for Michael as Dad I have to sometimes remind him that he has to follow rules when he does not want to. Again, all of us have been in this situation one time or another. It’s all about learning to balance our weirdness or uniqueness with the rules we have to follow in the world. It’s all about meeting halfway until we find ourselves in the center of it all. People with autism and other exceptional abilities are just like us. Only for them it’s harder to find that middle ground of them in the world. The world is a strange and confusing place a lot of the time and the rules don’t always make sense to them.

 

As a parent, it is our job to help our children bring out their unique gifts to the world and learn to follow the flow of the way the world works. Some days it is easier than others for our children and us. We get up and start again the next day with new tools in our toolbox and new methods that could work. We never give up. Our kids need us and we need them. We need their unique perspective on the world to remind us what we are no and are not. We are hopefully moving toward a world where we accept difference and teach others to do the same. Until next time.

 

 

Go Away Mom/Don’t Leave Me: Exceptional Tween Paradoxes and Surviving Them

I love my son. I will always love him. There are so many moments when I think how much he has enriched my life and my perspective, and then there are the other moments when I think, “man, I don’t get paid enough to do this job. I have no respect, no appreciation, and it is exhausting.”  I’m sure all parents feel this way sometimes. Parents of Exceptional Children, well, let’s just say that an ordinary day is hardly ever in the cards for us.  We get discouraged, overwhelmed, or annoyed. We also get amazed, inspired, and blown away when our exceptional kids surprise us with things they do we never thought they’d learn, or say, or think. They are truly incredible beings. I think they feel the same about us. We don’t always get them, where they are coming from, where they are coming from, what is bothering them. Then there are other times when we are able to get into their world, see things from their perspective or at least come close to it, and they are both surprised and excited. Mom and Dad really get me even though they are nothing like me!

Michael and I both have our wonderfully close moments when we hug,  love one another and I truly feel I am getting him and what he is thinking/feeling and he what I am thinking/feeling. Then there are the other times, when I think, “what the f&^&% just happened?” It takes me a few minutes to get the gist of why a nice afternoon ended in a testing tantrum of ninety minutes for what seemed like nothing.  Of course there was something. There always is. And I missed it. This still happens. I don’t tune in to Michael vibration and then like a firecracker he blows. Like yesterday late afternoon, for instance. After spending a beautiful afternoon at the park and at the local shopping mall with no issues transitioning to heading home  (or at least it seemed), when I told him it was time, we have a nice ten minute drive home and then I pull into the driveway calm and relaxed. Or so I thought. I was calm and relaxed. Michael was going to help me make pasts for our dinner after he played some video games and I had a coffee.  Then as I turn the motor off, Michael leans in from the backseat and as if he is about to kiss me, instead says that I am a really bad driver, unlike his Dad who is amazing. I pulled into the driveway badly. This is obviously rude and disrespectful, something Michael has been doing a lot of lately unfortunately, so I decide to nip this in the bud. I tell him he is allowed his opinion but that was a rude way to deliver it. He has also said in the past I have bad fine motor skills. I once told him I struggled with fine motor as a child to help him feel better. Now he uses it as a weapon when he is mad.

He can be cruel, which is something surprising. I am no longer hurt by it as in the past, just worried for his future with people who don’t love him unconditionally or understand his autism like his Dad and I. We want to make him world ready.  I am already thinking, “what is really going  on that he is reacting like this?” Kids who are exceptional often have poor regulation, and they also don’t see things the same as the rest of us, not due to lack of intelligence or insensitivity that is on purpose, but rather due to not picking up on social cues, as I alluded to yesterday. Well, after pointing this out, Michael began displaying all kinds of negative behavior from imitating me, other family members, his teachers, then progressed to hitting his head and my arm. I told him he would be putting himself to bed tonight and that he needed to go calm down and apologize to me when he was ready. Then I had to get dinner ready. All hell broke loose for the next ninety minutes, until he finally did apologize. I had a moment when I thought, “Why did I take him places, have a good afternoon (or seemingly), only for it to end like this? Nothing seems to be enough.”

But then I saw it through his eyes, or at least attempted to. He was upset we were home. Michael needs to go many places a day. Today we only went to two places. It was enough for me, but not for him. I needed to teach him, four places a day was not realistic every day when he was home for a week’s school break. I had also had to say no to a few things in the mall- no smoothie, no walking on that side as it was late etc. That was hard on him. No and transitions have been doing him in since he was a baby. I could have provided more choices in the mall maybe? He didn’t bring his strategy card to help him even though I told him it would be a good idea, and after when I tried to redirect him he resisted me until he was passed the point of no return. At times like these, I wish there was a magic pill to help him. I figured out what was causing it and when I told him he agreed and said, “yes, I was sad to be home.” We talked about how he could have told me that and not kept in his feelings. Then after apologizing the kid who professed that he hated me and couldn’t wait to see his grandparents the next day as I had to work, went all clingy and was upset when I said Dad was putting him to bed, even though he kept saying an hour before, “I can’t believe I am stuck home with you. When is Daddy coming home? I can’t seem to win. It’s clingy or pushing me away. The tween hormones are in full swing and combine that with autism and ugh, it’s hard on both of us.

Exceptional Parents, how are the tween Exceptional years going for you and your Exceptional Child? How are you and they surviving? This is far from easy for either parent or child, but as you start to really listen to your child and what they need, you will learn how to reach that balance of when to nurture and when to let them figure it out. Good luck. It’s a journey most parents are figuring out every day. Until next time.

How My Son’s Anxiety Has Helped Me Learn To Regulate My Own Anxiety

 

My son Michael is an amazing kid. He is funny, intelligent, has a great memory and is very active and musical. He also has autism and anxiety together. This is common with the vast majority of people who have autism, I believe, but I’m sure they are not mutually exclusive to all people who have autism. Just as neuro typical people are not the same, not all autistic people are the same either. Michael shows me every day how I am wrong about things sometimes, about what he can and can’t do, about what he knows, and also about not trusting him to find a way out. I am getting better with that last one in the last two years. I am no longer rushing to rescue him from discomfort, stressful feelings with hugs and kisses. Ok, he also is starting to push me away there as is developmentally normal at ten. But I still manage to show him love, support and care by reminding him to use the strategies he is learning with his psychologist’s help. Little reminders along the way can do wonders and yesterday after a rough moment, he actually admitted, “I needed to bring my thought cards with me to help me.” I was so proud of him.

 

It was a great day yesterday. He and I were home from school and work, though I am always squeezing in writing here and there, but I unfortunately lost my voice. I have had laryngitis a few times in my life. It is hard for me, not being able to talk. Ask anyone who knows me. Easter Day I’d had to raise my voice a few times with Michael and had already started a cold so it was no surprise. Michael was perplexed by the virus, and a few times was shocked I could barely whisper. He was grateful we still did things, but he questioned me on so many things. I never really heard how many times a day he asked certain questions till the day I could only nod and shake my head. I heard myself and my own anxiety through him. When I was younger and even back some years in adulthood, I would worry like him. I have come far in healing myself and I see that Michael has a ways to go, but he is working hard and getting there slowly. It was cute when he said at dinner time that he hoped I could talk tomorrow as it was “boring to not talk with me.” I was overjoyed at this. It brought me back to a time he did not want to engage, then did but did not know how. It is still challenging for him to read social signals, anxiety is high, but we are bridging the gap and getting there together.

 

Exceptional Parents, have your Exceptional Children shown you ways to handle your own anxiety better if you have it or has your anxiety gotten worse? I think it depends on the day for most of us, as some days we are all wanting to jump out the window. But in general think to yourself, how have I helped my child grow, how have they helped me grow? There really is a lot of back and forth in healthy parent child relationships. Together as you both grow and learn, you will find your own ways to connect and move out of the darkness into the light of understanding each other better. Until next time.

Exceptional Easter Celebrations And Changes Through the Year

 

 

I can still remember one of Michael’s first Easter celebrations, both the religious and secular celebrations. He was in awe of church, the candles, the people and loved the balloons he had gotten at the end of the mass. Our family celebration was a little much for him at one of the cousin’s houses, but I was slowly learning to bring his “toys” with us to help him regulate as well as his sensory brush. We were doing Wilbargher protocol. He was around four years old. Prior to that, the years are a little bit of a blur. We did not know Michael had autism. All we did know was that he struggled during holidays, big events, and it was hard for him and us to have a good time. As he got older, I saw a real understanding of what the holiday meant and he began to grasp how to do an Easter Egg hunt. We started taping them and still do as tradition, though I began taping them so he could watch those tapes if he ever needed a reminder as to what we did on the holidays. Soon enough though, his amazing memory took over and he had no problem keeping in mind the tradition year after year.

 

We’ve had lots of changes over the years. Michael has gone through enjoying church with feeling overwhelmed, believing with not believing, and going through the motions of the holiday with actually enjoying many parts of it. The best advice I can give parents is to go with your child’s flow.  Let them set the course for the way you want to celebrate the holiday with your family-no pressure, no stress. This is what has worked for our family. We have our standard traditions like Easter egg coloring, attending Easter mass and visiting family, but the rest we wing it. The important thing is you listen to your child and signs of what they need and don’t.

 

Exceptional Parents, what are some of your favorite Easter traditions? What are things you love and things you steer clear of? Remember, always listen to your parenting gut, your child and your family. You will know what steps to take. Happy Easter! Until next time.