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?
“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