How Modeling Calm and Using Comforting Routines Helps Exceptional Children Flourish

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In the last few days with Michael’s return to calmer more predictable behavior, I have been reminded about two things I was forgetting about during the more tumultuous months before-staying calm myself and how comfortable routines in place that help Michael use his strategies. Whenever possible, this has been something that has always helped Michael stay calm and see the rhyme and rhythm of his day. Today was a perfect example of a non-typical day and some of the problems that resulted were due to that change. Dad and I had a training at the hospital with the diabetes nurse on Michael’s team. Though Michael did not need to be present at this meeting, we knew we would not make it home for the school bus in time so he stayed at his school’s after school program. He was a little nervous about it, but we’d prepared him well in advance and he knew that it was only for today. He loves coming home and unwinding after his bus ride.

Well, when he came home several things happened. His routine was off as he came home an hour later than normal due to the traffic we had encountered and of course Dad was home too not just me as it is usually is when he gets off the bus.Though dinner was ready and he could have gone right to doing his injection then eating, he saw the surprise we had been trying to hide from him that the diabetes nurse had given him-a stuffed animal and a series of books that helps kids handle type 1 diabetes.  Then he realized how much darker outside it was than it usually is as he was home later, and the crying and undoing began. It took him a good thirty minutes to stop crying, complaining that he hated the dark, he hated what I made for dinner  and he hated the gifts.  It was hard on him and on us watching him suffer due to a predictable routine being turned upside down. I did not think it would be this challenging though I had warned Dad to expect some fussing and stress. In retrospect, I wish we could have planned out a whole visual schedule for the evening, but due to so many unpredictable events we could not have done this. What did we do? The second best thing. I gave him lots of hugs. He sat on my lap and we cuddled. And once he was completely calm, we progressed with the usual evening routine even though it was a little later than usual. And guess what? With that predictable element in, he did great! He loved the toy and books. We read one of them at bedtime before his massage.  I remembered how kids with special needs flock to and love routine. It is recognizable, easier to get a handle on, and helps them feel some measure of control. This is something hard for them to feel in their every day life.

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I also remembered how when Dad and I stayed calm through the storm, we were modeling how even when things are unpredictable, staying calm and finding some recognizable routine or order can go a long way in calming the mind and soul. Dad is better than I at this, but I have learned much from him and other Mom friends who have made calm and patience an art. I now try to emulate it as often as I can, especially at those moments when it is the last thing I am feeling. I realize that is when Michael needs me the most.

Exceptional Parents, how do you model staying calm and sticking to a routine with your Exceptional Child? Is it something easy or hard to do? How does your child  react when their routine is off? Remember, some kids need routine more than others, but all Exceptional Children like the predictability of a routine and like when their parents react consistently in all situations. This is how they will learn how to handle their own emotions as well as the world around them with ease. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

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2 thoughts on “How Modeling Calm and Using Comforting Routines Helps Exceptional Children Flourish

  1. Routines… I have never been good at routines. Having two Exceptional Stars can make it nearly impossible for me to even grasp the idea of having a routine. How do you create and stick with a routine when you have unpredictable ups and downs yourself, even on medication? How do you create and stick with a routine when you live with someone who thrives on having no routine at all and seems to have little respect for the needs of your children? I am trying so hard to figure it all out. Your post shared the need to a routine, and I definitely agree, but how do I even begin?

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    1. It is VERY difficult to establish a routine for your child for sure, especially if this is something that is a struggle for the whole family. There is no easy answer. Every family is different and needs different things to live amicably. This could also change over time as your child or children go through various developmental changes. I would say if you did want to try integrating a little bit of a routine into your family’s schedule start with changing only one thing. What is the most pressing matter you and your family are dealing with at that moment-wake up routine difficulties, bedtime battles or after-school issues? Depending on the age and developmental stages your children are at, either use pictograms to illustrate the way the event will unfold, draw with stick figures what will happen or write it out. There are great pictos you could find on Pinterest. You could also have them do one of the above if they are able to. This could be decided at a “family meeting” where everyone sits down together to make the family schedule for this event. Our family uses this, and though it has had to be tweaked several times, usually works.

      As for dealing with the unpredictable ups and downs yourself, that is a whole other ballgame. I myself am in that situation now where my son is struggling with new mental health issues and I am feeling overwhelmed at what lies ahead. What I am doing to cope is what I have done in the past. I am revising my self-care strategies and seeing if I am doing all of them as I did before to help me stay calm and mindful, or if I need to change anything. Self-care varies from person to person and does not have to be complex. For me, it is taking fifteen to twenty minutes a day to practice meditation and yoga, exercising during the week, and making time for my writing and reaching out to friends by phone, in person or online. I noticed I have been delinquent in a few of these as of late, and am looking to remedy that. Seeking personal therapy or counseling can also be a good way to go as well as taking medication yourself should you need that to be your child’s best advocate. Good luck to you and please keep in touch to let me know how you are doing. Thank you for your comments and for reaching out!

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