If I have to remind him to use his strategies one more time I will go stark raving mad, I thought to myself for the umpteenth time the other afternoon after Michael had lost his cool and I had told him to go to his room and use his strategies. I had also warned him when he came home from school that day that he seemed stressed and might want to use his strategies. Sometimes I feel more like a parrot than a mother going over the same terrain over and over. If it’s not verbal it’s been visual on pictos in the past or schedules in the last two years, but going over the same things is a common theme in our house. Has it worked? Yes and no. I can use the wheels turning in Michael’s head as he processes that he has to make changes and use strategies BEFORE he tantrums or loses control, but the system is far from perfect. Some of the time he is successful which is very encouraging, but there are more times that he only realizes AFTER the fact what he needed to do. That’s ok. Rome wasn’t built in one day, as they say, and if I know one thing about exceptional kids is that they need to do things many times to get it right. Heck though, once they get it right it is right forever.
Routines are the same. Get your exceptional child into a healthy routine and the results are amazing. Get them into an unhealthy routine, and it’s bad. Real bad. They get stuck, have meltdowns due to exhaustion, over stimulation, and even those children that can express themselves have a hard time seeing their triggers at the beginning. Michael is only beginning in the last year to see his own anger triggers. The main one is hearing the word NO. Others are not feeling listened to. Michael’s version is if we are not stopping everything to pay attention to him, this means drinking water, coffee, not just the obvious. I’ve had to explain to him that I can focus on him just fine while having my coffee. 🙂 Finally other triggers have been feeling out of control with food choices, directions and other activities. Whenever I can I have given him choices and the feeling of having control, while at the same time teaching him that sometimes he will not be in control and have to handle following rules and regulations that his parents and teachers have laid out for him. It is getting easier as he is learning to tell apart where he can have control over where he has to follow rules.
Regardless, routines are also all about repetition and making sure things unfold in a certain way. Whenever we’ve had a challenging evening as a family, I realize that most off the time it is due to me or Michael changing the routine. While it is good to throw things up in the air once in awhile so that the child does not become too rigid, a certain amount of predictability is important for the whole family’s mental stability and health. As hard as it is to stay in a routine and repeat yourself, all parents who do this, with or without exceptional kids, report that this helps make their family life more manageable. When I get discouraged and feel I can’t do this anymore, I think about these two things, routine and repetition, and remember how it is mine and Michael’s saving grace in times of great upheaval and change.
Exceptional Parents, what has been the key to success for you and your child in your family? What has helped you and your child move past behaviors and negative moments? If you have not tried a regular routine and repetition with important mood enhancers like using strategies, then now is the time to try it. Yes, therapies work. Medication works. But having a family plan of what to expect as well as how to self-regulate can make all the difference in the world to being able to cope with life’s strains and stresses. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with Autism and Type 1 Diabetes has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of living in the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence on their own exceptional parenting journey.
For more information on my coaching services, for a FREE 30 min consultation, and to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY,” see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.