Author: joannegiacomini

Exceptional Social Milestones Among Exceptional Blows Ups-How To Look For The Positive Moments

My little boy is needing me less these days and I couldn’t be happier. What, you may say? Happy? Aren’t most parents sad when their little ones are growing up? It means time is going faster than they want it to. Yet for parents with  Exceptional Kids are so happy when they see their little ones spreading their wings and becoming more independent. It is particularly awesome when they are also struggling with other issues with their child and they feel discouraged. That is what I witnessed with Michael over the weekend. We are having our ups and downs with him testing his limits with us verbally and boundary wise. His aggressive outbursts are getting shorter and fewer, but are still there and are draining for all of us.  Some days are not as good as others. Then, we have an amazing day like yesterday. Michael did great with me other than a few little issues on a long family walk in the am, followed by a great swim lesson with a new instructor and then an afternoon where he surprised his father and I with his blossoming social skills when calling up one of his best friends on the telephone. He had a very age appropriate conversation with his friend, and the laughter was so like ten year old boys. It brought tears of happiness to my eyes, especially given the behavior struggles we are having with him. Here he is improving and growing up in leaps and bounds. It was wonderful to see.

I am learning again to see the roses among the thorns. Michael, like all children, is blossoming and growing up. And interestingly, even with a bad aggressive episode later in the day, I still came out with a feeling that today overall was a good day. Michael has his moments when he not only connects the dots, but aces the test. It’s at those moments that I know he will eventually connect the behavior dots too and learn that just because he does not like what is being said, he still has to listen and follow rules. It is the way of the world for all of us, after all. I also am learning how I can see the roses in my day, and how and what I need to do to rejuvenate my batteries, stay calm and present-minded, so as to show Michael the calm in the storm.

Exceptional Parents, do you see the bright spots and achievements of your Exceptional Children among their challenges? Are you stuck on what is going wrong most of the time? It’s a normal reaction, and remember, unless you are strong and feeling centered yourself, it’s hard to think and be positive. There is always something positive to look at and for. Hold on to that and see your child’s progress in the areas they are progressing in. The rest will come eventually. Until next time.

Last Day Of School-How Exceptional Parents And Their Kids Can Stay Sane

back, bus, education

So today is the last day of school for Michael and it was a challenging send off. When he was younger it was the sadness of it being the last day he would be seeing his friends. Now, he is sad that he has to go in and not start summer vacation early even though it starts the next day and continues for 8 weeks. Sigh. You can’t win with kids sometimes. After much directing, fanfare and standoffs occurred, Michael finally left for school. It is hard for exceptional kids when something old is finishing and something new is beginning. Dad also made the mistake of discussing something that would be happening tomorrow and that caused anxiety. I gently reminded him that with Michael it has to be one things at a time on his schedule so he knows what to expect. I will fine tune tomorrow in a schedule for Michael and Dad as I will be at work, and this way they both know what will be happening. Things usually go well, but the first few days of summer vacation are tricky until we have the summer schedule down pat.

Over the years, we have tried various things to help ease Michael from one change to another. Dry erase boards, calendars, schedules of all types. I will be using them this year too, fine tuned with some new tools. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad and I, (particularly me) are learning to talk less and speak very clearly. This has made a difference in not escalating Michael’s anxiety and sometimes even nipping it in the bud. When I see I am about to lose my patience, I will step away and let Dad take over. Dad will do the same. It is hard not to lose your temper when your child is deliberately pushing your buttons. Yet, I see why. He is testing his limits with us, and trying to get control in a situation he feels very little control in, for example going to school when he would rather stay home, leaving behind a toy he is not allowed to take. He is also seeing if Dad and I will stay consistent with the rules we have put into place. Many of them he does not like as he did not have a say in them, but at the same time, I can see he is craving the structure and the facts we have very specific limits placed on behaving in a certain way and getting a certain result. We have given him choices and options for a long time. It worked for many years, giving him choice. Now, in the last year it just ended up causing more complications and anxiety. Michael is beginning to see that he experiences less anxiety when he knows what the outcome of a given action will be. So do we as his parents.

Exceptional Parents, what are your sanity saving busters for coping with that last day of school with your Exceptional Child? How do you and they structure the first few days of summer vacation? Remember, as long as you do what works to decrease yours and your child’s anxiety levels, you are on the right track. Most of our kids LOVE structure so make sure to put as much in as you can. If you have a child that craves less of it, make sure to still have ideas of activities that will appeal to your kids. You will get through calmly to the other side, I promise. 🙂 Until next time.

Control Versus Independence- How To Tell The Difference With Your Exceptional Child

In looking at Michael’s behavior lately, I am slowly starting to learn what are control battles, and what are battles for independence. Sometimes both even intersect for a little bit, as Michael is trying to find himself and establish his identity while seeing where he still needs help and learning how to ask me or Dad for it. I, for my part, and in the process of learning the same thing. What are the little battles I don’t have to turn into battles and can be talked about, and what are the things that, like it or not, Michael has to let me or Dad direct and lead the way with. Every parent has to navigate this on a daily basis, but with exceptional kids, they are pretty much at different developmental age levels all day. They are catching up to milestones, and so sometimes are doing things they didn’t do as a baby, other times as a preschooler, and finally other times closer to their own age, which in Michael’s case is ten years old chronologically.

This is what makes it harder for the parent, but like all children kids with special needs test the limits, even more so sometimes. In Michael’s case his anxiety is so high, that he needs boundaries that are quite fixed and intense. We have been looser with boundaries over the past two years, as we thought it would help to give him some control and lessen the anxiety. Instead, what I have been learning is that here loosening the boundaries caused him more anxiety, hence more behaviors and more control issues. It’s not to say that when he is striving for independence we do not challenge him. On the contrary, Michael now does chores, gets paid for the chores,  and is in charge of how he chooses to spend the money he has. He also has helped out with cooking and keeping his room clean. He is seeing that older kids need to be responsible about their things and we never forget to praise him when he is being responsible.

We are learning to strike that balance in helping support Michael is using his strategies to calm down before his anger takes over, and giving him some more choice and independence in areas where he can have control. It has been humbling for me to seek help on this latest part of our journey in teaching Michael to manage his anger and challenges. I have had to forgive myself for mistakes I have made, things I have said and done which can’t go undone, and remember that deep down inside, no matter what, I love my child and will do anything for him. As I’ve said before, I am learning as he is learning how to be a better version of myself, a stronger version of myself, and in the process, teaching Michael how to be the best version of himself that he can be.

Exceptional Parents, have you forgiven yourselves for the mistakes you have made with your child and started celebrating the victories too? Have you realized that no matter what, you are the only one who will always be the number one advocate and individual fighting for your child and teaching them how to fight for themselves? It is essential that you remember your power as the exceptional parent so you can teach your child about their own power in learning when to listen and when to let go. Trust in the people around you an the tools you have at your disposal to guide you in your parenting journey. Until next time.

5 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Stay in Control During Their Child’s Meltdown


Yesterday was Father’s Day, and by all counts it was a MUCH better day than my Mother’s Day was. We had a beautiful morning with a breakfast out at a favorite restaurant and fun in the park. As Michael himself promised, “I will make it a good day Mommy and Daddy. I have better anger strategies now.” He did. We only had to cancel one activity in the afternoon due to Michael not listening and getting aggressive. We did the whole cool room for me to pull himself together. It did not go well at first, though at least he went willingly. That was a first. It’s draining for him and us to listen to him screaming in there, cursing, yelling and not using it to actually calm down until much much later. But the lesson will get learned we are sure. What is also hard, is for Dad and I to keep our cool while he is raging, banging and breaking things. That is something though that is key to his eventual calming down- us staying calm, or as calm as we can inside and out. This is not easy. We are learning together and supporting each other while we do it. After all, Michael is in his cool down or calm down room because he was aggressive so we want to model us being calm, gentle and loving yet firm so he learns he can be angry, but proceed calmly to handle his emotions. Here are 5 things we have learned to do to start modeling that for Michael:

  1. Speak Less and Quietly: This is hard, but I have been shown how to talk less and point. This shows Michael we mean business and saves energy for riding out the literal storm.
  2. Take Several Deep Breaths and Count: This helps me or Dad when we are monitoring that he stays in his room and have the timer on. He gets the timer ONLY if he does not choose to go on his own to calm down after an episode.
  3. Remember It Will Not Last Forever: It is hard when a parent finds themselves in the middle of YET another meltdown. It is scary too to hear your child losing control. It will not last forever though. Some will be longer than others. They will learn eventually what they need to do. Hang in there.
  4. Don’t Blame  Yourself: If only I had done this. I am guilty of blaming myself in the past for ALL Michael’s problems. Yes, parents sometimes miss cues, but your child’s actions and choices are their own as are yours. Give them the responsibility for their actions and forgive  yourself. You are doing your best.
  5. Remember Their Developmental Age  VS Chronological Age: Michael is 10 years old, but developmentally MUCH younger in many ways. This is hard for me and Dad to say, even now. Hearing professionals say he is cognitively impaired breaks my heart. However, it is imperative I remind myself of this, so when he melts down I see it as a developmental stage he didn’t go through as a baby. It is healthy he is doing it now and catching up. We need to remember as parents they are just children and treat them as such.

Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to keep yourself together when your child is falling apart? Remember, they will appreciate how your calm helped them regain theirs. They will see how you are using strategies to stay in control, and with time and practice, learn to do that themselves. Be patient. Be consistent. And after they are happy and have apologized, really give them a chance to start over with you. Everyone deserves a fresh start to learn and move forward to better times, you and your child. Until next time.

Needing To Be Heard- How Exceptional Parents And Kids Try and Balance This

Portrait of Smiling Boy With Arms Outstretched

The last two days have been about Michael yelling that I do not hear him and answer him. This is sometimes true. As parents, we sometimes don’t hear everything our kids are telling us. We are busy working, cleaning, or just plain distracted. With a child who has lots of anxiety however, this can be really taken to heart. Last night at bedtime Michael had a blowout. He was talking to me from his room while I was on the couch (we have a bungalow so everything is on the main floor). I heard snippets of how he was not tired and would probably fall asleep at eleven o’clock (I knew not as he had been yawning like crazy during his bedtime routine), but I had not heard the other things he was saying. I was finishing up a writing job and the dishwasher was making a lot of noise. I told Michael to come out to the living room and calmly tell me what was wrong, but he still became frustrated yelling why did I have to work, he did not like it, he did not like me etc. Suffice it to say, when he did fall asleep about fifteen minutes later after Dad went into his room and told him to calm down, it was quite a relief for all of us.

It got me thinking about a lot of fights we have been having lately. Michael’s perception is similar to ours. Dad and I too feel that we are not being heard by Michael. Sometimes it is true. He is refusing to listen. Other times, it is our misunderstanding. What makes it extra hard is that exceptional kids’ anxiety is higher than your average child’s. It makes their life more difficult and their parents. It means all parties have to check their temper at the door, have strategies to handle anger, and really work at seeing the other person’s perspective. Michael is getting  better at doing this with us as we are with him. It is not always easy though, and there are times I wish I had done better. Still, Michael’s echo that “you are always working,” “put your phone away,” “listen to me Mommy.” There are some grains of truth in it. Sometimes he is the one interrupting me and not respecting my work space and boundaries. Other times, I am realizing I need to be a lot more clear about when I will give him quality time, and when he is on his own. We are using schedules again and this is helping tremendously. Still, as a parent it is important to remember to really listen to our kids and model how we do that to people we love as we expect from them.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children act when you do not listen to them? How do you feel when they are not listening to you? It’s important to really learn to be patient with our kids and then we can teach them to be patient with us. As long as we are all learning to respect when the other one is talking and what they are saying, we will gradually develop a better way to truly be heard with our children. Until next time.

Chores, Control, and Teaching Your Child Their Value



Michael is learning about how he can earn chore money and buy himself things. He feels so good that he has this power and some control over a life he sometimes feels so little control over. Like a lot of children, neuro typical or not, he does not like following rules that others make sometimes. He is learning though, that it is necessary for all people, children and adults, to follow rules. Without them, things would fall apart. Another good thing I think that Michael doing chores is teaching him, is that he can make a contribution to the world and contribute value. It’s not that just being him is not valuable. Of course it is. We all have value as human being regardless of what money we make or not. However, doing chores is also helping out his parents and that makes us feel good, him feel good, and helps our family run smoothly. Of course for him it is still about the money gets me this toy, but in time we hope that message will sink in too. Helping others helps us too. We give and we get back thank you’s, appreciation and help things move forward in a positive way.

Explaining the worth of chores as well and what translates into a small chore versus a bigger one has also been an interesting experience for me to explain to him. I have written out the value of each chore he is capable of helping with and shown him how many he would have to do to earn a $10.00 toy for example. He has understand the message very clearly, as of course he has seen it on paper. There were some days he asked if he could skip his chores. We told him that then we would have less time to do family things as Daddy and I would be finishing up the chores alone and he would not have money should he see a toy he liked. He is learning the give/take of this exchange and I think it is helping him understand a little more of how the world works.

Exceptional Parents, do you have your child helping with chores for money or as part of their family responsibility? If they are able to understand the basic concept of chores, it is a great idea to teach responsibility and to show them they have some control over helping and over purchasing things they like and want. It also shows them they are a part of the bigger whole of the family and the world. These are all important lessons to take with them in life. Until next time.

Exceptional Emotional Roller Coasters and How NOT To Ride Your Child’s


Roller Coaster Ride

Yesterday afternoon was one I would call a mixed bag. It started out with Michael a little on the hyper side. He was very excited to call a friend before we were destined to run out to buy something for him not urgent, but something that we had discussed may help him. Due I think to his excitement in recounting his day at snack time (took a long time) combined with rushing to make the store, he had difficulty dialing his friend’s number. He did not want to ask for help feeling this would make him seem a baby. As I tried to calmly intervene, I quickly got carried away with his stress and become stressed myself to try and finish the chore I had started while he made his phone call, so we could get out the door and home in time for dinner. In the midst of him actually having what looked like an anxiety attack and him fighting me to help him dial, I realized, I was riding my child’s emotional roller coaster. Right away, I took a deep breath, told Michael I needed a moment to calm down myself, and then we would make the call together. It worked out in the end, but then afterwards it was too late to go to the store. Michael was very distraught and started to cry. He asked me to hug him. He tried using his strategy cards, but they did not do the full job. He eventually calmed down, and I realized what we had both done wrong. Number 1, he had changed the schedule. We have been using a regular schedule to keep anxiety at bay. I needed to make it clear that we keep the schedule as we decided. Number 2, as soon as he started escalating direct him to his calm cards and cool down corner. I waited and it served to make him more stressed. Number 3, see what he was really communicating- tiredness, excitement/nervousness about school ending, and monitor him that much more closely. But above all, be the calm in my child’s storm. Sometimes as parents we forget that.

We had a pretty intense conversation afterwards about planning things out, and then Michael being Michael, wanted to have a heart to heart about God, Heaven, Life and Death and about why people die. I suspect he was grateful that I had hugged and reassured him he was not a baby for needing help and that we all get upset and lose our temper sometimes, including Moms and Dads. It was quite an hour long conversation we had before dinner. The rest of the night went very well. So how do you NOT ride your child’s emotional roller coaster. These are the things I’ll remember the next time my child starts to get stressed:

  1. Stay  Calm: I know, obvious right? But it is hard at first to see how we are building with them, particularly if you have a close bond with your child. So first be aware of your own breathing, thoughts and body. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to stay calm either with a mantra: “I am peace.” You can also ask for help from God if you are religious, “Lord, give me patience.” You can use humor if you’ve already started getting upset, “Don’t have a Mommy tantrum.” It’s basically whatever works best for you to stay calm
  2. See The Roller Coaster Is Not Your Child: Make sure you are seeing how your child is caught in his/her emotions and it is NOT them. Sometimes as parents we see our kids misbehaving and screaming and don’t see that they have lost control and need our help to find their center. Step back so you can help.
  3. Set Boundaries For Behavior: This is one we all have challenges with. It’s important your child knows you are in charge for their safety and peace of mind. Kids push against loose boundaries as much as tight ones. Be firm and loving but remind your child you make the rules and they need to follow them.
  4. Make Sure You Are In Touch  With Your Triggers: Our children will learn our triggers and use them, each  and every time. It’s almost funny how they know what sets us off. Don’t let yourself be triggered, and if it does happen, step away and go somewhere quiet to collect yourself. You can’t do a good job as a parent until then.
  5. Establish Good  Health Habits for The Whole Family To Communicate: Have a cool down corner for each member of the family where they can go to unwind, de-stress and calm down. Model doing that for your child. Also, talk about feelings in simple terms. Don’t talk too much. Keep the concepts simple. Too much talking causes more anxiety in exceptional kids. I know that personally. 🙂


Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you rode your child’s roller coaster of emotions and what do you use to not escalate yourself? Remember, as long  as your tools include staying calm and present focused you and your child will be fine. We can all learn from our mistakes and grow and become stronger people from our trials. You are a great parent and your child loves you as you love them. Until next time.

Exceptional Conversations And How To Be Available To Your Child

boy, children, cute

Well this weekend was our first very good weekend in a long time. Michael is adjusting slowly to the new rules around the house, his home schedule, and the challenging behaviors are slowly going down. He is learning to use his strategies to calm down with us reminding him most of the time, but there were a few times in the last week he used them without prompting. All of this has made me really enjoy the weekend again for the first time in a long time. And I have seen the difference in Michael. He is also more relaxed with the structure we have put in and interestingly more talkative and affectionate. Sunday morning over breakfast he was asking me questions about God, faith, and his grandparents. We had a pleasurable conversation and it was so relaxing. I thought at one time, wow. It’s a regular Sunday morning. Something we have not had in awhile. Later in the day we had the same kind of conversation over dinner outside on the patio. Throughout the day Michael would ask me for my time, would ask to talk or read to him, and would tell me he appreciates me. Though the weekend was a little tougher with Dad, he also had plenty of positive moments with his father too where he called his Dad amazing and said how much he appreciated him.

What were we doing right now that we hadn’t been? That was when I realized it. We had a structure and a schedule at home again, something Michael has always needed. It shows him what is coming next. We also have now implemented very clear guidelines of behavior on what he needs to do, act, and what is expected of him. He likes having this security and seems in general more relaxed. He said over the weekend that he feels good that he is listening and explained that it is hard hearing no. He wants to make more decisions. So I spoke to him about where he has control, and where he still has to relinquish some of it due to his age. I told him funny stories of when his uncle and I were kids and how we didn’t always like listening, but knew we had to. He loves hearing those. They are family stories and show him that he is not alone. I think we all need that. And I was relaxed and calm. Finally. I was trusting my parenting again, something I had not for awhile. I grew in these turbulent times too.

I was even blown away to see him also decide he would make an original craft today to keep busy. He is learning to find things to do and structure his time though this is still the challenge. With lots of summer energy with the heat wave that hit us today, this morning early we went for a walk in our neighborhood. We had more interesting talks, some disagreements and he shared some interesting facts like how walking in noisy places calms his mind. For me it’s the opposite. I love how Michael is slowly emerging from the anger and defiance that was characterizing his behavior over the last six months off and on. My little boy and all his talents are visible to me again, and I can continue to see the beauty behind the struggle, his and mine.

Exceptional Parents, what do your challenging times with your child teach you? Yes, there are the bitter moments when you are angry and may indulge in self-pity and regrets. But looking back, it forces you to be stronger as it does your child. True growth often happens only after great struggles. When you are in the moment it often seems hopeless, but don’t despair. Your rainbow weekend or weekday with your child is coming. Put in the hard work, the consistency and it will pay off for both of you. Then you and your child can grow together. Until next time.

I am a writer and parent coach whose passion it is to help other exceptional parents find joy, peace and love in parenting their exceptional children through the various challenges they face. I believe that a happy child can only develop if their parents are living their lives happy, whole and in balance. For more information on my coaching programs, please see my website: To book a free 30 minute exploration/consultation Skype session with me, please contact me by email at

Feeling stressed, worried and looking for new strategies to handle your family’s anxiety? Request your copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” at


Seeing Your Exceptional Child For Who They Are

carefree, child, childhood

Yesterday afternoon I was happy to have another parent teacher meeting at Michael’s school where I heard, as I usually do, how well Michael is progressing at school academically and socially. This year, especially in the wake of our problems at home, it was especially appreciated as it made me see something that as a parent I have taken for granted with Michael in the past, seeing him as he truly is. This is not to say that sometimes he doesn’t push against boundaries and struggle with his feelings and actions at home. Of course he does. But rather that who he is at home is not the whole picture. Consequently, who he is at school is not the whole picture. He is a little bit of both. He has issues controlling his emotions more in one setting than another, but for better or worse, Michael has his strong and weak points like all of us do.

When as a parent you are used to seeing challenges pretty much consecutively on one front from your child, even against your own self, you will start to become discouraged and think, this behavior is who my child is. It is important to distinguish who your child is from what they do, even and especially in those moments of challenges when it is hard to love them. You do love them, but you need to draw on every morsel of strength to get through and on to bigger and better things. Yesterday was my challenge to see my amazing little guy for who he was. After a tough morning and some testing last night that could have turned into a meltdown, I had something unexpected happen when I told Michael  to use his tools to cool down and then we would sit and figure things out together.  After he did that, he asked to sit on my lap. I was shocked. This hasn’t happened in a long time. He wanted to sit on my lap and hug. He needed that confirmation that all was ok.  I was not getting angry because I did not love him, but because he needed to follow rules to regulate and show respect to Dad and I. I’ve seen him increasingly applying the tools he is learning more and more. I’m seeing the little boy I always say is trapped under the behavior when we have tough times like we have the last few months. It reminds me what I and every parent is really fighting for; how to see our child for who they really are, not lose hope, and show them that with faith and belief, they can get through anything.

Exceptional Parents, are you going through a particularly rough patch with your Exceptional Child right now? Are you and they experiencing aggression, challenging behavior and anxiety? Remember, that the first thing you can do after taking care of yourself so you are at your best to help your child, is to remind yourself, and them, that the behavivor is not who they really are inside. It is something they are struggling with. Get them, (and yourself) the support you need at home. Get your team mobilized. Work with their school. Work with family and friends for support. It truly takes a village to raise a child. To raise an exceptional child, it takes an exceptional village. Good luck, and remember, know you are never alone in your parenting struggles. Until next time.

I am a writer and parent coach who helps exceptional parents find their own balance in handling the challenges in their exceptional families while living that balance in my own journey. For more information on my coaching packages and to book a free consultation session with me, please see my website: Contact me at


Exceptional End of School Year Battles and What NOT To Do

Girl Sleeping With Her Brown Plush Toy

So this morning it did not go so well at my house. By not going so well I mean, me wanting to tear my hair out piece by piece to get my son to a) actually get out of bed during one of the four times we called him b) to actually move quickly when he is over thirty minutes late and making Dad late too, and c) stop telling him I don’t care how tired he is, because so am I. The problem with all of the above? They feel good for a nanosecond, then you are stressed out as the parent, the fighting stalls things, and no one wins. Now normally things go pretty well in the mornings. We have a great new system that really works and Michael is usually so cooperative. The problem is last night I went. Michael was worried. He fell asleep late and was already tired this week. I kind of saw it coming but hoped he could hold off for one more day. Tomorrow is a PED DAY for him, thank God.  There were good reason for what happened, but it is still not a good thing for either parent or child to go through. So what’s a parent to do to handle things more calmly in these circumstances? Here’s what NOT To Do:

  1. Do Not Yell Your Head Off: This only makes our kids more stressed. Sigh. This is hard for ALL kids, but it sets offf behaviors in our exceptional ones. Mine included. Count down to ten, do some positive visualization. Whatever. Before not after the fight.
  2. Have A Logical Consequence Ready-No Long Term Threats: Threatening the child with no AV or treat after school for the morning stress does no good. It just frustrates them and you more and makes life hard for everyone.
  3.  Telling the Child You Don’t Care That They Are Tired: Guilty as charged. I was so angry, I yelled this out in a moment of anger, but then I regretted it. I later told Michael we are all tired, but need to make better choices.
  4. Visualizing  This As Happening Every Day And Getting Discouraged: Don’t do this. Look at your morning routine, tweak it, and see what can go better and what can be changed.
  5. Forgive Yourself: Some mornings will be rough. Learn from them. You are only human as is your child. Always tell your child that tomorrow is another day to start over and begin again.

Exceptional Parents, what has and has not worked for you in your morning routine? Remember, our kids have a hard time with sequencing. That is why a good morning routine is essential. Even with that though, sometimes things will fail. Don’t worry. Look at what can be learned, laugh at yourself, and be flexible in making some change for the future. Until next time.