Category: art

Seeing Your Exceptional Child Soar-How Your Belief In Them Causes A Ripple Effect

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It was the morning of Michael’s first non adapted art class on Saturday. He had wanted to take this class since last year, but I had been afraid. His aggression had peaked last year at home to new scarier levels. I also had spoken to the coordinator of the program who had gently suggested that it may be a good idea for me to either shadow him or wait in the room to see if I was needed the first class as she was not sure if she would have an assistant. If not, I could wait outside the class. I was so tired, physically and emotionally as a Mom, that I did not see myself as having energy to shadow. I also thought that what if Michael tried the class on his own, and due to his high anxiety and difficulty controlling his stress, was not able to do the class and became frustrated? For both our sakes, I told Michael we would talk about him taking this class when he started listening better at home. I wanted him to have success and felt in my gut that he was ready to try new things.

This spring, exactly one year later, thanks to a combination of good strategies, medication and maturity, Michael is in a better place emotionally at home and even at school. He is learning how to talk about his feelings and not “push down” his anger.  However, he was still incredibly scared to take this class alone, that is, without a shadow or me in the room. This year though, I knew he could do it and I could do it. That is, I could let go and trust him to handle it. I also realized I could remind him he had support at school. Michael spoke to his teacher and the school psychologist. Both encouraged him that he could face his fears on doing this class and succeeding, just like he had faced his fears in the past and succeeded. With lots of encouragement from them and additional from Dad and I, Michael tried his first “creating with clay” sculpture class last Saturday. The result? Success! I had told administration about his autism, and that I would be outside waiting for him should there be a need for assistance or any other problems. They had not informed the teacher or her assistant, but both had figured out that Michael was a little different. Both had embraced that difference, having had experience teaching children with autism and ADHD. Both had told me how calm, smart and polite he was. Yes, he needed a little extra assistance, but was very good at creating and loved art. They saw his promise and joy. They helped him soar!

During a bathroom break, the teacher came out to speak to me and tell me how well he was doing. You see, I had also been worried as the class was ninety minutes. Michael usually had a hard time with a sixty minute class, unless it was swimming as he was very active and had a difficult time sitting still in the past. His worries that it would be too long for him were unfounded for both of us though. The first words he spoke to me when I stepped inside to pick him up at the end of the class?

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“Mommy, I had such a good time! I could not believe how fast ninety minutes went!”

Tears threatened to pour down my cheeks as he proudly showed me his first work of clay which he would get to bring home in three weeks, then promptly hugged both the teacher and assistant telling them and me how he could not wait to go back to class next Saturday morning!

Timing. Timing sometimes is everything for our children and for us. I was not in the right frame of Mommy mind last year to believe in Michael. Frankly, I was having a hard time believing in myself as a Mommy to Michael too, though I knew I loved him and was not giving up on finding the right help for him. I asked other parents what worked and didn’t work for them. I read articles. I spoke to his school team, and finally made the call to get more help in our community for Michael, encouraged by supportive family members. All of this was happening as I was succeeding on the work front to help families. It was hard to live through, but I made it. Michael made it. And now life is not perfect, but we are finding the balance together. I always remember to tell Michael I believe he can do anything. This way my voice becomes his voice. Parents are their child’s best advocate until the child learns to become their own advocate.

Exceptional Parents, how do you help your Exceptional Children soar? I’m sure it’s by telling them that no matter what, you believe in their ability to do anything they set their mind to. Yes, sometimes the timing is off to try something. That is ok. That’s life. It’s important you remind them that when the time is right, you believe they can do it and then follow through. Remember, as their advocate, they believe what you do even more than what you say. Actions speak louder than words. 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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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.

DJ Michael Identifying Songs and Finding His Own Dooki Style

 

I have always been impressed with Michael’s musical talent. His singing voice as well as his memory for song lyrics have been in evidence since he was a baby. Lately though, he has been amazing me with more abilities. He has been listening intently to all kinds of music on the radio, and learning the names of all different artists and their musical style. His favorite music is pretty much hip hop, though he also likes dance music and anything R&B.  My Mom used to be amazed as a child when I knew all the names of different artists and genres, as well as song lyrics. Now it looks like Michael has inherited that particular skill from Mom. 🙂 I like how he is using music to regulate, calm and relate to the world. I also like how he is expanding in the way he is beginning to see the world, and people in it.

Yesterday was parent/teacher meetings at Michael’s school. As usual, it was a great success. What I was particularly proud of him for, was how he has matured since the beginning of his school year. I think in a big way listening to music and letting it communicate to him was a big part of this reason for his growing up. Dad and I told him as much about our pride. He is learning how to communicate, move and question different things happening in his life. Music shapes a lot of emotions and I know it is helping him shape his emotions better. And even when we have challenging nights both due to him holding in emotions all day and testing how far he can go with us, I know music and other ways to regulate will bring him back to us and himself.

Exceptional Parents, what helps bring your Exceptional Child to their next level of understanding and learning about themselves and the world around them? What gives them confidence in themselves so that they do their best? For some it is sports. For others it is art. For still others, it is science or another passion. Find your child’s passion and encourage them to go for what they love. They will have everything to gain for striving to do their best and knowing that you are in their corner.

My name is Joanne Giacomini. I am writer, speaker and parent coach  looking to help parents find their strength, love and balance in their own life so they can parent their child with autism with that same amazing energy. I offer one one coaching for individual sessions, six month coaching packages, as well as workshops and speaking engagements. In order to see what best suits each parent and family, I offer a free consultation/exploration session of 30 minutes where parents can see what would best suit their needs. For more information see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. 

School Concerts, Singing and Joy To My World-Exceptional Pauses at Busy Times

 

So today is Michael’s annual holiday concert. He and his class were practicing the song and poem they will be reciting. He was told to practice it at home but he did not want to. He is all practiced out. As is usually the case, he is nervous for the concert, but I know once he gets on stage he will do amazing. He has a great voice that projects, and a wonderful stage presence. He is so relaxed and natural up there. But it is always the anxiety and the what ifs that trip him up.

Change is hard for Michael. Changing from one season to another, school to vacation and back again. And the change of routine before the fall school session ends always has its challenges. This year it is coupled with our doing bathroom renovations and this week, Mom misplacing her keys and fighting a cold. That meant no after school outings which has been difficult for Michael. He did the best he could under the circumstances, but he is desperately trying to organize the next few days. I haven’t been much help as I’ve been preoccupied with work and house things, and trying to figure out when I’m going to wrap presents and do the holiday baking. Tomorrow is a great opportunity for us both to slow down a bit, not worry about work or planning, and enjoy the day together. I look forward to it as I know connecting has been, and always is, challenging for Michael and I at the beginning of the year.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional children do at school concerts or with performing? Is that easier than one on one for them or do they shy away from the spot light? The most important thing that a parent can remember is to make sure they are encouraging their child to always do their best, and to tell your child that you are proud of them for trying, no matter how things turn out. Also, take time like school concerts to really stop in the season and pause. Talk, really talk to your child and put their mind at ease about what will be happening. This is a hard time for kids with autism, as it is for their parents. We must always realized though that if they and we are tense we cannot learn well and grow together. So relax, unwind and sit back and enjoy the show. Until next time.

 

am a writer and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance.” I am passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and GooglePlus. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation, see my website: http://www.exceptionalparenting.net

am a writer and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance.” I am passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and GooglePlus. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation, see my website: http://www.exceptionalparenting.net

Imaginary Friends and My Exceptional Child Building New Worlds

A month ago I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of happiness. My little guy was developing imaginary friends again and better yet, was creating them with craft material like glue, scissors, scotch tape and construction paper. He told me the name of the main character, Dooki, and his various friends, Glegle, Samosa and a few other names I can’t remember at this time. No matter. He is doing crafts. My kid. The kid who hated fine motor. He is writing semi-legibly, the kid who hated doing anything fine motor and hated writing. I am beyond overjoyed. He has reached another milestone in development. Oh, and he is back to writing stories about his characters. I am so proud! It just goes to show how parents can never underestimate what their child will do. They can even learn to enjoy an activity they previously hated doing.

Yes, we have had challenging behaviors, puberty is hitting, and have had to navigate some pretty interesting conversations about hunger, poverty and religion, but I see Michael growing up more each day. He is changing. He even asked me for Legos. Ok, he only wants Star Wars ones, and a police car and ambulance. But what amazed me is he is getting back to playing with toys and things age appropriate more or less. Kids with autism have trouble with make believe and playing. Thinking abstractly is hard for them. They are literal beings. Still, my little guy is changing all that, while he is helping change mine and the world’s perception of autism. His friends are doing it too. Autism is such a vast spectrum. It’s important we never underestimate our child’s potential, wherever they may fall on the spectrum.

Exceptional Parents, what new worlds are your Exceptional Children building for themselves and you? How are they changing your perception of what they are capable of daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? All of our children have abilities and will surprise us if we let them. Encourage your child’s interests, loves and passions, and most importantly, never stop believing in their potential to rise above any challenges in their lives. They are strong individuals, and they will persevere if they know they have their caregivers in their corner. Until next time.

One of the most stressful times of the year for special needs families is fast approaching. Are you and your exceptional family ready? Do you need new strategies to cope with anxiety? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS

 

Video Game Joy And Fine Motor Enjoyment-The Next Milestone To Celebrate

How many parents of kids with and without autism celebrate them playing video games? Let me see a raise of hands! I didn’t think so. And if I didn’t have a son who did not struggle with fine motor stuff, crafts and building, I would not have cared. What made me excited about Michael’s blossoming interest in playing video games with his Dad and doing Dooki and other craft building with construction paper, scissors, scotch tape, and glue, is that it means he has turned a page in his development.

In the last month, I have seen how he is gravitating to doing things that are challenging for him, and better yet, he is liking doing it. He proudly showed me his cutting skills the other day. Today he talked again about the special game he would play with the craft toys he made himself. He saved that special game to play with his father. I am awed and amazed developmentally and social skills wise. Michael will always love movement, sports and going out places. Yet I see a change in him as he is approaching his 10th birthday. Maturity is moving alongside rebellious moments of testing me and telling me he does not want to listen sometimes or does not like what I say.

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How did I manage to help him? I can’t take for credit for this one, other than saying I have always encouraged exploration of different toys, ways of doing things, and learned to be patient when Michael has hit a standstill or is stuck. I will demonstrate or talk about things and let him come into his own. Here though, I credit all the fine motor with his school, therapists, and the wonderful extra-curricular activities where there were fine motor and craft components. As for the video, there I credit his peers who he copies and likes to emulate. His buddy last year loved Star Wars and now Michael does too. It is the same thing with Legos now and other toys. I love it. He has his own mind, but is slowly becoming interested in what those around him like to do. He has emerged from his shell, and is coming into his own little person. There are frustrating moments still, but we handle them together on the same page now.

Exceptional Parents, what new developments do you see your Exceptional Child doing? All our kids are moving forward in one way or another. Sometimes we are so busy we may miss it. Don’t worry. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Look at how far your child has come in learning, and praise them for that. Celebrate every little victory. They deserve it. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS

Pretend Friends, Crafts and Experimentation With Control, Anxiety and Self-Direction

Michael is going through another phase of exploration now, with making pretend friends out of crafts materials. As with anything he does, he does it with an intensity that is hard to sometimes understand for me. This is mixed in with his little mini rebellions of not wanting to listen to things I am saying that he does not like lately. Last evening was a tough evening for both of us. We manage to turn around things around after school, but were not lucky at bedtime. He just couldn’t stop talking about the next phase of his plans for his craft creations, and was asking me about things he wanted me to be doing with him on the upcoming PED DAY. My crime was telling him that we would talk about it the next day as it was bedtime and if he wanted his story and massage we needed to get a move on. The process had already been moving too slowly. Maybe it was that. Maybe he was tired. Regardless, things went from tense to tantrum very quickly. I finally had to leave and have Dad take over.

This is not the first time this has happened in the last little while. It is becoming increasingly hard for Michael to listen and I am still trying to find the reasons behind this breakdown in communication. We have done some beautiful bonding in the last month. I am doing my best to be there and present for Michael; in the morning, at snack time, at dinner time, and at night time when he lets me. This new phase is challenging for me too. It is accompanied with hitting and a new one, hair pulling, if he is upset. I reiterate that there is no hitting, pulling or screaming. He needs to calm down and use his words. At school he is wonderful. His skills are increasing and he has lots of friends. Still, he seems strained and going through the motions. We are looking for ways to bring the joy back for him, for us. It is hard.

I have joined him in his craft building, and, as with everything Michael is interested in, am taking an interest myself in it to show him support. He has surprised me by asking for Leggos and wanting to try building  with them. This gives me hope after Dad and I figure out just why listening to something reasonable is so hard for him lately; put on your winter jacket, get ready for bed. etc. I take it one day at a time, and know like with the other phases Michael has gone through, we will figure out new tools to handle this one.

Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to help your child when they are going through another challenging stage? What tools do you use to help yourself? I think it all starts with love, love yourself enough to show respect for you and your boundaries, and then teach your child that they need to have that same respect for themselves and for you as their parent. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things to reach them, and have patience. It will all work out and you will reach them in whatever new phase you are in. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS

 

Exceptional Organizing by Drawing Or Writing Out The Day

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Michael’s Day by Michael 🙂

 

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite two words these days-strategies and tools. Why? Well, it’s because my little guy has taught me the value of having good strategies and tools at your disposal whether you are an exceptional child or parent. We all need to have ways to organize our day, our thoughts and what is going on around us. Why should our exceptional children be different? Actually, they thrive with this and it helps them even more.

Many years ago when my son was in an adapted preschool there was a guest who came to talk to the parents at one of the evening workshops. These featured an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, as well as a nutritionist. Another evening, it was the father of a son with autism. He and his son were artists, and the son, though limited verbally, expressed himself through drawing and literally drew out his day and how he was feeling. It helped lessen his anxiety and communicate better with his Dad, teachers and therapists. There in that workshop I learned something valuable which I shared with Michael. After pictograms no longer worked, I began drawing stick figures of his day on paper so he would know what is happening. I would insert them in social stories. Then last year as Michael’s handwriting skills improved exponentially, he looked at me and told me he would now write out the day. What started as lines has now progressed to the words you see in the pictures in this blog post. Amazing! He will often ask me what is happening, then proceed to write out the day. It has helped him deal with anxiety, frustration and anger. Last week all I had to say to defuse a mini tantrum, was remind him to write out the day as we had talked about it the night before.

Whatever writing or drawing level your child is at, encourage them on paper to “draw or write out” their day. Michael used to do lines. No matter. As that father taught me all those years ago, they had meaning for Michael and I labeled them:

___________- park

_________-lunch

___________-grandmas’s house

etc. If your child cannot draw or write, do it for them and talk to them about it. Or, if they are partly on their way to doing it, help them hand over hand. You will seen the amazing results in time with this technique.

Exceptional Parents, what tools help you and your Exceptional Child best handle the day? For some, it is pictograms, for some drawing, for some writing. Whatever the method, help your child learn to organize their day. Organize yours in a similar way. If they see you are a creature ruled by good habits, good tools and strategies, that will motivate them to find things that work to lessen their anxiety and stress. Until next time.

 

 

Writing Out the Day = Success And Day Camp Enjoyment

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This week I have been collectively holding my breath. I finally released it this morning with relief and happiness. It was Michael’s first week at a new non-adapted camp. Last year he did well at another non-adapted camp, but he did not like his companion/shadow, and the experience was less than favorable. At this year’s camp fortunately, it is the complete opposite. He loves the camp, his companion/shadow and looks forward to going each day. We only signed him up for two weeks just in case, but it seems to be successful. I have not seen him this happy at a camp in awhile. He is kept busy, he does crafts, and he has even made a little friend. He is excited to go in the morning. There is no problem with him getting up, getting dressed and out the door. He goes for more hours a day but that works for him. He is a high energy kid. And this works better for me too as I can get more work done. 🙂 And, as a bonus the camp is right up the street from us. It’s great all around. I had forgotten the last time I saw my little guy this happy.

As a Mom I have been humbled once again by Michael this week. He has amazed me with how well he has adapted to a neuro typical environment, how well he can articulate and follow the day with a few reminders only, and how well he is using strategies to calm down with me when he gets anxious. One of these is drawing out the day on paper with words and pictures. Sunday was a stressful start for us, and not surprisingly, he was a little nervous due to a change in routine. We were not going to church, but Dad and he were driving me to a speaking engagement. As soon as he got up and I noticed how anxious he was talking a mile a minute and challenging everything Dad and I said to him, I asked him to draw out the day as we had planned it on the dry erase board previously. It was amazing!

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Just as drawing stick figures or looking at pictograms had helped in the past, seeing him write out the words I felt the energy in the room change. I also saw his physical body relax, his breathing calm. He was a new kid. My little guy is learning how to manage some very difficult emotions and feelings by using his own strategies and techniques that work for him. I, as his Mom, am also learning to trust my gut and what I know works for my kid. I’m also learning to observe him closely and really see what he is feeling and what tips I could give him that empower him to find the solutions. I have had so many moments in the last few days that were WOW moments. He has come so far. He has achieved so much. I felt that he started the summer at a much younger age, and is maturing now into an incredible little man. He is really coming along in sports. He loves soccer, tennis and is starting to take an interest in basketball. He loves asking questions and learning about the world around him. And he is learning about limits even when he doesn’t like them. And oh, his sense of humor is growing more by the day.

Exceptional Parents, how is your child’s level of functioning in the summer? Are they happier or more stressed at home or camp? It is not a black and white issue for our kids, and many fall in between with reactions. As you learn more about what makes your child tick, you will be able to fine tune things that make them more comfortable, and what to avoid. Trust yourself as their parent and look to your child for changes that help them feel better. The important thing is to encourage them to grow into themselves at their own pace and in their own time. You will do it as will they. Until next time.

 

Therapeutic and Fun Benefits of Art for Exceptional Children

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The other day Michael had a new sitter come and play with him while Dad and I went out for a long awaited date. It went phenomenally, and in addition to him liking her, he also got to explore another medium once again, art. This sitter is an art teacher, and asked due to the rainy weather, if she could bring over some art supplies and they could paint, draw, create if the mood struck. I almost told her no, but something told me to say yes. It did indeed rain the other day, so Michael had to stay in the house with her. They couldn’t do the parks and splash pad visit up the street that he had been anticipating.  But the other reason I said yes, was due to the fact that a few summers ago, Michael created some beautiful paintings at home in our backyard. I also saw what he created at school this year, and I was amazed. I asked the sitter if she wouldn’t mind bringing art supplies. He may not be interested, but you could try, I said. I have to say I was utterly amazed with the beautiful art he created as you look at the following. He used shaving cream and various other paints and effects to create what you see. It is creative, and was therapeutic for him to make at the same time.

The most telling thing for me though, was his happy smiling face when we came home and the excitement he had in showing us his creations. Other than one small incident one time with a sitter (whom he has since asked for me to call), he does amazing with everybody. Yet there was something unique about this art experience. He was very excited to show us his work and talk about this sitter. I was so happy that she reached him in another way, and that they connected so well. I was glad Michael has found another outlet to let loose and explore too. Music, drawing, and painting are good for exceptional children to have different experiences about themselves and their roles in this world.

Exceptional Parents, do your children enjoy art in the form of painting, drawing, sketching? It’s such a great medium to help them explore their creativity, as well as a great way to express themselves sensory wise. Start by giving them access to painting supplies, paper, easel (children’s ones are cheaper), and like me, keep it outside or in a room that you don’t mind may get dirty like a corner of the basement or even outside in the backyard as I did one year. 🙂  It’s important for children to explore different ways of expression. This will help them regulate, find other potential talents, and just enjoy the process of creating something uniquely theirs. They will see how beautiful their creations are, just like they are. Until next time.

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