Month: September 2019

Impulsive Thoughts And Words-Helping You Exceptional Child Learn How To Manage Their Self-Expression

Ah, that moment when Michael realizes what he said and winces. “Oops. Sorry Mom,” is usually his response. Yep. Well, at least we’ve gone from physical aggression towards us, property and himself to verbal expressions of aggression and “oops” when he realizes what he said has crossed the line of appropriate and acceptable. I sometimes am patient like I was tonight. Other days and evenings when I am tired, I unfortunately am triggered and yell and storm off. This just stalls the process of learning to calm, regroup and move on, but we get there as a family. Eventually.

I have to say I have seen a HUGE improvement in how Michael is learning to manage his anxiety and aggression over the last two years. Still, there are days when I see the tools he has now are not working as well as they were. Dad and I are looking to getting new tools, new help, new books and articles to inspire us. We either have the grunting tween who says “leave me alone” or the young child who says, “drop everything now and listen to me.” In between is the real tween Michael, my real son, whose personality, though formed at birth, is going through a puberty metamorphosis that some days has me thinking, “how will I survive until he is 18, especially as I am probably on the brink of perimenopause myself,” but that is another matter altogether.

On a serious note, growing with your exceptional child means growing your exceptional team- that includes therapists, teachers, friends who have kids like your child, and as always, touching base with those like your child, adults who are exceptional and have survived the tween/teen puberty coming of age. It’s not easy. In the end, I’ve learned several things about helping my exceptional ADHD/ASD/ type 1 diabetic tween navigate puberty in his way by practicing the following things:

1) Directing him to a safe space to blow off steam when necessary.

2) Getting myself to same safe space when he does. 🙂

3) Talking about what we both can do differently next time we are in that situation if it happens again.

4) Reading, connecting and asking questions to exceptional people, exceptional therapists and exceptional Mom and Dad friends-all have the answers through trial and error to help you (as you do to help them).

5) Never giving up on your child or yourself. You will both figure it out.

Exceptional Parents, how do you help your Exceptional Child (no matter what challenges they face), handle their impulsivity? How do you handle your own? Yes, we also react impulsively sometimes as adults, worried that we must handle any behaviors that stand out and may make our kids targets of unwanted attention. While it’s good we address impulsive behaviors that get our kids in trouble at home, in school, or in both places, remember that often they need more understanding than reprimands. Controlling the part of the brain that acts out in ways different from the mainstream is challenging for our kids. We need to gently guide them to be true to themselves, while also letting the world at large see their gifts and understanding their uniqueness for what it is . Until next time.

Independence and Dependence-Helping Your Exceptional Child Move Forward As They Grow

“Stop nagging me and telling me what to do. I want to decide.”

“Help me. I can’t calm down. I don’t know what to do.”

Both of the above quotes were said by Michael, as he struggles with coming into his own during puberty with his exceptional brain. My responses to both of those questions also contradict somewhat:

“I’m not trying to nag. I’m your mother and I make rules to keep you safe.”

“You don’t need me to fix it. You can do it. I am here to support you. Remember your strategies.”

While it is true that tweens like Michael need rules and guidance from their parents like when they were younger, they are also understandably looking for more freedom and choice to make their own decisions. Parents too want to be the safety net their child needs until they are adults, but also want to be able to give their child space to make decisions, even if they are challenging decisions. The thing is, that with exceptional or neuro iverse kids, the age of full awareness of one’s action and adulthood is difficult to see. For some kids they mature a lot faster than others developmentally. For others, parents and caregivers have to hang in there a little longer helping them with things. Still, it is hard when your child is growing up and pushing away, but still needs you for things you thought they would have mastered by now.

For me parenting Michael is exhausting on a whole other level as well as being incredibly cool on another level. I no longer have a child who worships the ground I walk on. I will hear repeatedly I like you, I want to live with you, I want to tell you things, but there is no more of wanting to do everything with me. He wants to hang out alone, with friends, and do his own thing. He is independent with getting snacks and some meals. I can leave him alone for longer periods of time and he enjoys the responsibility. He is a teenager almost, so perfectly normal. But then there are the anxieties and challenging behaviors as he wants more control, but has a hard time reigning his emotions in. I joke sometimes that my child is one big walking hormone, but it is true. Puberty hits our guys and girls harder in most cases, which means parents and caregivers have to be EXTRA patient and give them time and space to regroup.

It has gotten easier over the years as I have learned to read Michael’s cues and see his anxieties and anger for what they are. Now, the thing is just where the problems will arise next. I remember a friend years ago saying, “little kids little problems, big kids, big problems.” To some degree she was right. As our children get older they need the room to make mistakes, but need us to catch them when they do. This is hard as they want to be fully independent and don’t yet have the skills. If anxiety is in there, it makes it harder for them to accept help. Self-esteem is affected. This is Michael’s battle and mine helping him see how amazing he is. We are making headway, but there are some days when I think I can’t keep up with one more turn on the highway. Then, I remember what I told Michael years ago, “we never give up. tomorrow is another day.” Sometimes he even says it to me and not the other way around.

Exceptional Parents, how do you walk the line between giving your child independence and reminding them they are still dependent on you? It is a tricky line and sometimes blurry for all to see. The most important thing to remember is to find a solution which gives your child the power they need to grow strong in mind, body and spirit, while also knowing that you are there to catch them if they fall and help them back up again. Until next time.

Impulsivity And How To Help Your Child With ADHD Navigate It

Michael is impulsive. He has been that way since he was a child. I said ADHD. Others said Autism. It was tricky. You see, he has both, but it was hard to see for some of the professionals. You see, there are so many similarities with autism. We are learning now about the differences. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my mother’s instinct when it comes to Michael. I’ve also learned how to use the great advice I’ve been given from caring professionals, good family and friends, and all of this has helped me become a better parent. Of course, I have days when I mess up. Regularly. But now I can see those days for what they are. Days when I am tired, frustrated, stressed, and not using my strategies to control my own negative emotions. Confession time. I can be impulsive time. I am a little ‘off the wall’ to those who know me well. It’s what makes my creativity work well. It’s what makes me love writing, singing, dancing, and anything artsy. It’s also what could be my downfall if I didn’t have measures in place to balance out my impulsive, fun and creative side with my practical, logical and stay in the moment side.

This is what I realize Michael needs. What all kids who have ADHD need. They need guidelines, strategies and clear concise ways to reign in impulsive thoughts and actions. It is hard. Damm hard. And although I don’t have Michael’s brain, I know he needs to release a lot of that impulsivity in a healthy way. All our kids do. Here are some strategies I am seeing that work to help kids like Michael reign in impulsivity:

1) STOP, THINK, ACT: I have seen this acronym used in many good books and articles written for ADHD kids and adults. This can be taught by family members modeling it whether we need to do all three or not. Even when I am fully in control of myself, I still will try and model this acronym when I am feeling frustrated so Michael learns it is what he needs to do. Stop and think before speaking, then act and talk only after calming down.

2) Use physical activity as a release: Any kind of rough and tumble play, sports, sensory workout or walking, biking, swimming can be great ways to release pent up emotions or stress. Afterwards, kids can more easily center and re-connect to their emotions and share with parents.

3) Keep a journal of thoughts and emotions:  This is a great tool for kids to use (and adults) with and without ADHD. Writing down difficult feelings and emotions in order to be able to talk about and work though them. Sometimes drawing can help too.

4) Having “safe spots” to go to: This means having rooms or areas in a  house, at school to go and regroup when things get too difficult or overwhelming. Often when kids with ADHD can be redirected there early enough, they can avoid all kinds of unpleasant confrontations afterwards.

5) Give choice and schedule important events: Giving your ADHD child choice in what they want to do around their everyday necessary schedule can help a lot with reducing impulsivity and feelings of lack of control. Some things need to be planned, others like choosing a bedtime, a downtime or homework time (that is reasonable) can go a long way in helping curb fights and impulsive outbursts that cause problems.

Exceptional Parents, what are you tips and tricks for helping your Exceptional Child with ADHD or other challenges thrive? In the end, we all know that love makes the world go around. As long as your child knows that you love and care for them, they will work with you. No one wants to struggle. Children want to succeed as much as we want them to. Just remember to tell them you love and believe in them no matter what. Until next time.

 

 

 

Getting And Receiving Love- How To Show Your Exceptional Child To Reciprocate Feelings

“Theory of Mind” as it is called, is something hard for people with autism to understand. It means being able to see things from another point of view of their own, a non autistic point of view. This is hard for neuro typical people as well to do, seeing things from an autistic point of view.  If we make an effort though to understand that our child’s perspective differs from ours, hopefully we could meet them somewhere in the middle. This is something I am finding easier to do with Michael as both of us are understanding about our differences and similarities. Michael is making a big effort to understand me, how I think and what I like, while he sees me doing the same for him.

And the thing is that when we clash in our views, we can talk about it. Oh boy, there is a lot of talking. It is good and sometimes exhausting for me, but I remind myself that this is Michael’s way of navigating a world that is still foreign to him on many levels and needs explaining. I have to remind myself on tiring days of that old story I was told when I first found out Michael had autism. How would I feel being dropped in a country where I didn’t know the language, people or customs and told to follow along? Of course, it would have been stressful and overwhelming. Kids who are exceptional live that reality every day. It is not easy being in their skin. As parents, we have to remember to give them the time they need to acclimate.

This is why teaching them to relate to us is as important as learning to relate to them. We need to know what makes them tick; what they life, dislike and what new interests they have. We need to tell and show them what we enjoy. As they begin to relate more to the world around them, we can share our interests, our limits, and our life with them. This will encourage them to open up.

Lately, I have really begun seeing how much Michael is opening up to us. He always has, but now it is by showing us his fears, his loves, and his interests and wanting us to be as passionate as we can be about them. For example, Michael has been kind of hurt that I do not enjoy taking him on drives as much as Dad does. Dad knows the city better and it is one the activities that is best suited for the two of them due to other reasons as well. Before Michael liked going to parks and stores with me. Now that happens very occasionally only, so he will say I will talk to Dad about traffic as you are not interested. I tell him I am. It is just that Dad knows the city more. I am working on improving my directions knowledge for me as well, but I have also shared with Michael that I love hearing him talk about traffic because I know it is his interest. I have told him it is like my writing. And I know he has made comments, “have you done any writing today?” “have you done your meditation and yoga?” “are you going out with your Mom friends?”. He knows where my interests lie and is paying more attention as well as asking more questions. He also will demand I take him places and then when I remind him we don’t demand he will say please. He misses me and sometimes forgets how to ask me, but when reminded, does a great job.

I always praise when he does this. His empathy is improving, as well when he inquiries about how Dad and I are feeling. We have to work on managing emotions like anger and anxiety, but other than that, things are starting to go more smoothly. I am happy that he is making progress on those fronts.

Exceptional Parents, how do you teach your Exceptional Child to talk with you and see your point of view? How do you see theirs? It is a tough thing to balance for both parent and child. In the end, as long as both of you give in a little and except a little in return; a little bit of understanding, support and compromise, things will go smoothly. Until next time.

Conversation, Maturity and Trust-How To Build A Bond With Your Exceptional Child

I am amazed at how fast Michael is growing up, yet also worried about the areas where he lags behind, particularly the areas of impulse control. I have have had many therapists tell me, he is so cognitively aware, so smart, but the impulse control issues you describe are hard to treat with medication and even therapy. They take time. I know. Boy do I know. I see my little man, now quickly growing into a young  man, demonstrate this firsthand every day. I need you, no I don’t. Comfort me, get away from me. I want space, please protect me. To a certain extent, every parent goes through this at every age with their exceptional child. I can tell you though, that as the child gets closer to the teen years and develops awareness of sexuality, gender and all those adult feelings, it gets WAY more complex.

I am so proud of how much progress Michael has made in communicating, self-regulating, and understanding himself. I am proud of Dad and I and our progress in understanding him, and when in doubt, our ability to reach out to to other sources, especially other exceptional people, but even therapists who are more aware and respectful of different brains and ways of viewing the world. But it is not easy for him or us. We all struggle to understand one another, use strategies (yes, even neuro typical parents have to use them), to control anger, fear and stress, and then move forward with compassion and love for one another, particularly if it is hard to understand where the other person is coming from.

Our exceptional kids are amazing. They just have such a different way from seeing so much of the world and when we don’t see eye to eye,  it can be so frustrating for them and us. This is when we need to remember to just be there for them- support them while they cry, scream, explode, or do whatever it is they need to do to clear the air. We need to make sure to direct them to a private safe place to do this and make sure they are not hurting themselves, others or property while de-escalating. With time, positive strategies and confidence, hopefully they will be able to learn to self-regulate in a healthy, controlled way.

Exceptional Parents, how do you help your Exceptional Children open up to you about their fears and challenges? As long as you show them you love them, are there to listen to them no matter what, and stay calm, they will continue to trust you and be able to come to you with their challenges and look to you to teach you to find the strategies they need to learn to handle their emotions. Until next time.

Old Fears New Solutions-How To Remind Your Exceptional Child That They Can Solve Problems

So the other day Michael was feeling emotionally stuck. I was not only able to tell by his body language, but he also told me, “Mommy, remember that fear I had last year of watching certain videos? It’s coming back. The strategies I used last year to help are not working.”
Once again I was filled with such pride and amazement at how Michael has learned to grasp emotional concepts, and how he is learning, through some great CBT type strategies that we have both learned through therapists both in person and through books and videos, to apply these ways of understanding the world in his own way. with his own brain. It’s not easy to rewire your brain at any age, and kids who start off with different brains right away have another way of viewing things. We have to start with their way of viewing the world and go from there.

I and Michael have been lucky to find therapists who get his “out of the box” thinking, and are not trying to get him to conform to a particular way of seeing the world. That is how it should be for our kids, but isn’t always. And when Michael gets nervous he can’t handle his anxiety and stress, I remind him of the tools that worked in the past, and if they are not working, what else we can try. Most importantly though, is the reminder to him that if he faced one fear he can face others.

“Michael, remember how scared you were last year and how far you’ve come. You know what you tried and what worked. If that no longer works, let’s see what can. What are your ideas?”

We talked about different things he could do. Michael spoke about how he could ask his Educator for tips, his therapy team at school, and asked me what I do when I’m scared. I told him. The thing is, as parents ,we have to empower our kids that they can solve their own problems and find solutions. The difficulty lies when the solution is not clear cut and simple and means troubleshooting various areas. That is why as a parent, you need to be armed with three things:

1) Knowing what makes your child tick

2) Trusting in your child’s ability to do better if they know better

3) Immersing yourself in how THEIR brain works by reading books, articles,  watching videos by neuro diverse people who have the insider view on the autistic brain.

The hard part after this is getting your child to trust in themselves and their ability to use their very unique brain to solve problems. As they get more confident it will come, but remember, they need you in their corner cheering them on. Eventually, they will learn to be their own cheering section.

Exceptional Parents, how have you redirected your Exceptional Children to see old problems in new ways? Remember, as long as you use the 3 points above, they will be true to themselves and find what works for them. Love and being patient with themselves will help see them through. Until next time.

Conquering Your Own Fears To Help Your Exceptional Child Conquer Theirs

Last week as I was driving in Michael’s school supplies taking a new route to his school with the GPS, I was reminded by my nervousness of one of my issues- my fear over my bad sense of direction. Michael had been challenging me all summer to go on drives with him to new places navigating me there correctly the majority of the time. It was nerve wracking, but an incredibly eye opening experience, both in pride seeing how amazing his sense of direction is and how I can conquer things that scare me when I put my mind to it.

You see, I am not someone blessed with a good sense of direction as I’ve alluded to in other blog posts, so this was a challenge to me. Even last Thursday alone in the car with no one judging my turns and directions, I was worried not about getting lost, but about handling the stress of doing something new. Wow. I was scared about breaking out of routine. Just like Michael.  But I did it and it felt great! I had Michael to thank for it.

My stress was about taking a new way to Michael’s school. Michael’s stress this summer stemmed from being around large groups of people and in noisier environments. I did my best to encourage small steps and he accomplished that, but not until Thursday morning did I fully understand how Michael felt. I had an AHA Moment. If this is how Michael feels when I am encouraging him to try something new, it really is a little on the terrifying side. What helped me do it? Well, it was the saying that I kept telling him all these years- you can’t be afraid to try something new. It’s important to use strategies to handle the stress, and then you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Well, I took my own words to heart that morning and was proud of my little risk that ended well of course.

I rode through the anxiety and came out stronger. It got me thinking that if I now approached Michael’s sense of anxiety the same way I approached mine, I’d be a little more sympathetic and hopefully be able to offer more support towards his anxiety. Especially after handling something hard for me I could tell Michael I knew how he felt and commiserate better.

I also realized I could tell Michael, how about I face one of my direction fears if you face one of your people fears? In time, we would both be overjoyed at having faced our difficulties, and not only survived but thrived through the tougher moments. I once again had renewed sympathy and amazement at all the times Michael has pushed through the fear and come out a winner. He learned to walk, communicate, ride a bike, swim, handle diabetes, and all sorts of things in between. He is a hero because he didn’t give up all those times, and I am a hero and a role model for him during the moments I don’t give up and keep moving forward. I realized last week it is important the two of us never give up on each other and keep trying.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle fear and stressful events? I hope you face it head on and set that positive example for your Exceptional Child. If you don’t, that’s ok. You’re human. We all have times we’ve backed off and maybe it was for the best, as we weren’t ready body, mind and spirit. Think about changing that mindset in the future though, because if your child sees you facing your fears head on they will be more apt to face theirs and come out the winner. Until next time.