Category: Camp experiences

Summer Camp, Independence and How My Exceptional Son Is Coming Into His Own

This has truly been a summer of growth for Michael, both in terms of his physical growth, puberty and his emotional maturity with the outside world, and even with us.  Michael is not only managing his diabetes, he is doing his own injections and getting it done properly for the most part. Michael is not only responsible to be left alone at home for longer periods of time, but he enjoys that we trust him and behaves in a calm way. And finally, Michael is attending summer camp this year without a shadow and doing extremely well. It’s been amazing to witness his growth in these areas, and though he is struggling emotionally in others, I keep reminding myself of his potential and showing him what he is capable of when he believes in himself and in his abilities.

All our kids have their strengths. As parents, it’s important, including when they are struggling in some areas of their life, to look for the areas they are excelling in. It is also important we remind them of their successes in said areas and how proud we are of them. A lot of exceptional kids with anxiety don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves. The lack of confidence does not only come out in crying, panic attacks, but sometimes as rudeness or anger. They feel they have to control everything, and if one thing goes out of whack, their world goes out of whack for a time being. If we as parents show them their strengths and praise them for it acknowledging how far they’ve come, this will help them go a long way towards learning to love themselves.

Michael, being a Jekyl and Hide Kid, is one way at home and one way in society. He does very well in society, managing his emotions well, but at home will unleash in anger and frustration or anxiety. My heart breaks for him, as I know he is still developing the tools to cope with his emotions while handling puberty in a brain that is not mainstream and with Type 1 Diabetes. He does a great job most of the time, and when he messes up, it’s getting him to learn from the experience and move forward. What has impressed me, is that even when he loses himself in anger or frustration momentarily, he is able to circle back and see where he went wrong. He is learning his triggers, both what over excites and over frustrates him, and he is learning how his health affects his overall attitude at home and in society.

I for one am just trying to give him as much control as possible in decision making, and be there if he needs me to steer him in a better direction. But when I see him out in the world, I see a calm, steady young man who is learning who he is and what he wants. This gives me great hope that he will master this quality at home, and see that he can handle the emotional ups and downs of life without pushing things down. Of course, there are still boundaries. That is important for all children in order to grow in a healthy manner.

Exceptional Parents, what moments of pride do you have when you look at your Exceptional Children? Just remember, remind them of their successes. Put it on a sheet of paper if necessary. When it is writing, as they say it is a permanent reminder of where they are and where they are going. Until next time.

Taking A Leap Into The Unknown-My Exceptional Child’s Social Bravery At Day Camp

So yesterday was monumental in so many ways. I was both excited and terrified. Yep. That about sums me up. It was the first day of a new day camp for Michael, and for the first time EVER, we decided to try a camp without Michael having a shadow/companion. Truthfully, I have been seeing him taking steps towards this for a long time, but I was scared. There. I said it. I was scared about people not accepting him for who he was. I was scared he would feel overwhelmed and not have extra support. With him having Type 1 Diabetes I also worried. Could he handle the social anxiety and managing his diabetes alone? Only one way to tell.  Try. I always tell Michael not to use his autism as an excuse that he can’t try new things. He asked me several years ago about autism and what it meant. He’d heard us talking about it and others in his therapy circle. He wanted to know why he felt different than other kids. We told him. As most children who find out who they are, he was relieved. He also began sharing more of what he was feeling inside. He’d always done that, but now I think he felt truly comfortable being who he was.

The next logical step was him interacting with kids who are not all like him and without an adult to facilitate. Yes, he is still working on how to make small talk with other children. Social skills groups have helped a lot. But he is getting there and his confidence is growing. I also worried about kids shunning him. I have to say, all the neuro typical children Michael has met over the years have been kind, inclusive and have asked him questions too, trying to engage him. Now that he is older, I have told Michael that should he feel comfortable, explaining his autism can help other kids understand him more.

But back to day 1 of new a new camp. On Michael’s first day anywhere, he has pretty much always brought the first comfort toy he attached to a two years old- a Barney stuffed animal. Now, this is not the original Barney. He met his demise in the washing machine many moons ago. As per usual yesterday, Michael had Barney in the car with him and checked with me about taking Barney into camp ONLY for the first day. This is what he would do usually. I sensed his calm in spite of the Barney, and told him Barney could come in the car, but he would not need him at camp. His fidget toy would be enough as he uses that to self-regulate when nervous or excited. I was totally shocked when he agreed and Barney stayed in the car on the way home with me! I don’t think it came as too much of a surprise, but when I picked him up at the end of the day he had done fabulously! He was ready. He had been ready for awhile. I have his Educator to thank for telling about how it’s important for him and other kids without autism to interact and get to know each other’s similarities and differences.  I learned that I need to continue to be as brave myself as Michael is, facing his social anxiety with a positive attitude knowing he will learn by doing.

Exceptional Parents, how often have you held your Exceptional Child back due to fear of rejection or hurt? They are capable of so much more than we sometimes think, and even if things don’t go well, trying and getting out there, will help them build the resilience they need to teach the rest of the world about what people with autism are capable of. 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,


Summer Fun For Exceptional Families-Finding The Balance

As usual but in a different way, Michael had a difficult start to the summer and me with him. Every year there seems to be something that carries over. I also know that the break of routine with school is hard for him, as much as he likes to be home. He also likes to be busy. Anyone who knows Michael and our family, knows that we keep him busy. He is a curious, energetic and social kid. Staying home is not for him. Even with the emotional struggles he has been going through, I have noticed that, as always, there is his spirit of resilience. He is so hard on himself. He fears a lot. Yet he is one of the most fearless people I know. I tell him this. I tell him, “you are my hero. I admire your energy, your excitement about learning new things. And now, I’m not sure if it’s maturity, puberty, or something else, but he is more conscious of how he wants to self-regulate and control his emotions. He pretty much likes the same activities he liked as a child, but now has the patience to stay at them longer. It’s great, and especially on those days when your child is stressed, keeping them active can really help with regulation.

Here are my suggestions for fun inexpensive things to do with your exceptional tween over the summer:

  1. Swimming at local pool or splash pads: This is a must with our hotter and hotter summers. Michael now could spend a good two to two and a half hours or more frolicking at these places.
  2. Parks playing sports: Yes, he will still go on swings and slides, but does not like the little parks with no fields anymore. His main interest is playing soccer in the field, and possibly tennis and basketball in the courts with me or a friend.
  3. Library: He loves to read tween literature and fantasy to boot! He reads to me now, and when he stumbles over words, it’s a great time to bond while I explain it to him.
  4. Art: Painting, clay or any other means of self-expression is something a child this age can do to burn off steam
  5. Movies: Yes, once our kids are able to sit still calmly and focus, take them to matinees. It’s a great way to pass the afternoon.
  6. Structured activities: Most communities now have adapted sports activities for kids though some exceptional kids do fine with smaller teams. We always do soccer, and sometimes tennis over the summer. There are lots of options. See what interests your child.
  7. Camp: Even if it’s not for a long time, camp usually gives exceptional kids a different chance to be active, meet new faces, and grow. There are lots of options.

Exceptional Parents, how are you looking to keep your little ones busy? The most important thing to do is balance out unstructured time at home with a camp or structured activity. This usually means that kids get a balance and are happier over the summer when  a lot of their regular structure is gone. Here’s to good times ahead with your child. Until next time.

Art, Creative Expression and The Maturity Journey – My Exceptional Son’s New Found Love in Making Bracelets


Michael has always been artistic. He learned to sing whole songs before he could talk. He loved music and dancing to all kinds of children’s music. After that, he graduated to playing musical instruments like his toy electric piano, his toy accordion and a tamborine. He put on concerts for us where he sang popular pop song lyrics and improvised with the music on his instruments. But drawing and arts and crafts, that kind of art, was always something he struggled with both in school and at home. He’d look at me as if I had two heads if I mentioned making crafts at home or doing anything arts and crafty. Yes, he was artistic, but not in the crafty way, if you know what I mean. That is why this year at school, an now at camp, I am extra impressed and proud that he growing to regard art and any kind of fine motor art work as fun and interesting.

His favorite subjects at school are now music, science and art! The work he brought home this year blew me away! It was especially beautiful for me to see how he is growing in maturity, despite the tough year with challenging behaviors that we had. It made it even nicer to experience as a result. And now he has been at a new camp this year. It is going very well, and he started making bracelets. Yes, you heard me. He started beading bracelets on his own! He made one for himself, and one for me and his Dad (the two pictured above), and now he is working on bracelets for the rest of the family, grandparents and cousins! It has blown me away how into this he is, and I am so proud of his growing confidence and maturity. It is also helping him transition from that strange age, 10, when a child is not a baby, but not a teenager. And though he is developmentally delayed so he is not quite 10 in all areas, in many he is and is struggling with how to entertain himself when he is home.

“I don’t want to play with toys Mommy. But I hate board games. What can I do alone?”
This morning in the car on the way to camp, we talked about different games I would show him in August when he is home from camp, and different things he can now do in the evening before bed. I spoke about puzzles, drawing and painting that he likes to do, playing on his instruments and then Michael added beading bracelets. Yes, his ability to entertain himself at home, which is still hard, is on the way to being realized.  I am so proud of his maturity, and I am trying to go with his flow. A few weeks ago we bought face paint at an arts and crafts store as Michael has also become fascinated with face painting at summer outdoor festivals. In his typical ambitious style, he wanted to be able to paint Minions and Yoda tattoos as the artists there did. I had to burst his bubble and inform that it takes years of training to do that. He was a little disappointed, but I’m happy to say that he experimented and made his close approximation of Yoda and Minions that he could. He had a lot of green and yellow paint on different days to remove. 🙂 Still, he enjoyed doing it himself, and even used his chore money to buy the paint. I’m so glad that I can encourage him to explore different interests. It has truly helped him to mature and me to see that mature little boy growing.

Exceptional Parents, do you remember to let your child explore their interests and creativity, no matter how fleeting they are? Within reason of course, all parents can find ways to let their children explore their creativity so that they could hone in on things they love. You never know where it will take them in terms of development, and maybe even future job possibilities. 🙂 Remember, let your child explore, enjoy, and fall in love with different forms of art. It is truly a way for them and you to grow closer together. Until next time.

Summer Camp Adventures And Mom/Son Respite

So yesterday was Michael’s first day at a new camp. He did really well, had fun, and so did I. It was great to have some time for me. I did my meditation and yoga outside, took some quiet time to read, write, and then used the time to catch up on things around the house. After all, that’s important to keep the house running smoothly. Dad was home and did some chores as well before we went to pick Michael up, and we had time to talk without any little interruptions, if you know what I mean. 🙂 What is important is that Michael and us are getting some time away from each other, family respite if you will, so we can each grow, have space, and try new things. Self-care is easier to schedule in for parents when we have a little bit of downtime here and there. It makes you a stronger and more patient parent. This helps your child grow with confidence and you as a parent to be more relaxed.

Many parents do not have the option of doing summer camp for one reason or another. If that is you, it’s still important to try and get some downtime for you whenever possible. See if there are family friends, a respite center that can spend some fun time with your child so you both get a physical break from one another and a chance to do new things. It will refresh your parenting batteries, and your child will have a chance to see you re-energized and happy and rested. It’s also good for them to build relationships with other adults and children. It exposes them to new experiences. When I was growing up, it was a different world. Kids played together in the street during the summer time. Moms or Dads (though it was mostly Moms),  were home full-time which wasn’t always exciting for them, but they would get a kid break when their child would play with peers. Kids would also be out having fun, using their imaginations, and having lots of adventures. Then there would be family time and Moms and Dads would have more patience as a result due to that break. It was far from ideal in other ways, but kids and parents each had their time together and away. Today we have to find creative ways to make this happen for the whole family’s sake.

Exceptional Parents, how do you make separate time for yourself and your child in order to be re-energized? Remember, as long as it works for you and your child, it is the right thing for you and your family. Give your child a parent break and give your self a kid break. You will both be happier and healthier as a result.  And happier people get along better, grow and have  more fun. After all, isn’t that what summer is all about?  Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.

For more information on my coaching services, see my website:, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on

Exceptional Growth and Maturity-Mine

adorable, baby, bear

With Michael away the last two days I have had some time to myself when not working to think about where my life is going and how far I’ve come juggling exceptional parenthood with the rest of my life. It has not always been easy, but I have learned that I not only can do it, but I can help other parents do it too. How? Well, it’s pretty much by showing that sometimes it is ok to have a bad day or week. Sometimes it’s ok to struggle with decisions on what to do for your child. Sometimes it’s also ok to admit that you are happy when you get a parenting breather and they are away at camp. The first time I felt this, I had some guilt. Am I a terrible parent that I don’t miss my child to bits when he goes away for 2 days? Then I began to realize no. He is getting older and more independent. When he goes with his school I know I can trust he is in amazing hands, so I have no worries.

He also has different issues now and it can be difficult to help him manage his stress and anxiety, field lots of questions daily, so getting a mental and physical break from parenting for a few days is nice. Of course, I think if he went for more than a week I would feel differently. Still, I would remember that as he matures, I mature. We both need our space to grow and will come back to each other stronger in the process.

Exceptional Parents, how has your child helped you to mature and find your way? How easy or difficult is it to separate from them when they are away from you? Remember, let yourself feel all the feelings and emotions taht come up. It does not mean you do not love your child. You want them to grow, mature and find their way in the world. If your relationship is strong, they will always find their way back to you. Until next time.

Mother/Son Bonding And How Change Can Bring Exceptional Families Closer

It is the morning that Michael heads out to winter camp with his school for two nights and three days. It is his second year going and he is so excited as am I! Last year we were all “nervous excited”. Dad and I knew he would enjoy the time with friends, activities, but worried about his sleeping regime. At home that was still a major challenge last year. But this year his sleeping is going relatively well, he knows what to expect at camp as do Dad and I, and Dad and I have even scheduled in a little late afternoon spa and dinner getaway this year. It is more relaxing all around already due to the familiarity of everything for all of us. What has also been surprising is Michael’s affectionate attitude towards Dad and I the last few days. He has been listening better. He has been calmer. And he was so happy that I was postponing my writing work until after he went to bed to have quality time with him. He said as much.

I think even when we are there for our children in concrete ways, they sense if we are not present spiritually and mentally with them as we are physically. Many children act out in order to get attention from us as they feel like we are tolerating them, when really it is just the opposite. Parents are overwhelmed by so much these days. They barely have the fuel to keep going and often are exhausted. But their kids need to know they matter at the top of the list. I have started showing Michael this in many ways, by taking care to talk to him, spend time hugging and cuddling, and reminding him that he is the top over everything else. In whatever way it works, most parents need to know their child and how to remind them that they matter above all else, particularly before a big change like sleep away camp, a big event at school, or something else that matters.

Exceptional Parents, how do you show your Exceptional Child that they are top in your books? How do you make “special time” with them? It is important to verbally reinforce it with them, and then physically deliver. Stop looking at your phone every five seconds. Guilty of that one myself as charged. When kids feel you are connected to them on every level, they will not act out and test at all or as much. They will know that you, their parent, are there to help them through the next hurdle. Until next time.

How To Transition Smoothly from Day Camp to Mom Camp

So here we are. Today is the last day Michael has day camp. As of next Monday, he is home with me for one week then we have our family holidays together with Dad. I am nervous/ excited as Michael would say. I am nervous because I know there will inevitably come a time when Michael will be bored, a friend won’t be available for a play date, and we will have to improvise. This will be a little challenging. However, I am also excited because Michael and I know how to communicate so much better. I know what he needs to stay busy, and that is structure to our unstructured time. So, as I blogged yesterday, as much as is possible we plan out the week on paper, with rain plans if we can’t be outdoors, and the last two years it went reasonably well. Last year, I only felt the pinch of stress near the end of our week home alone together, and then Dad was home and BOOM another change which we navigated well, the family vacation. But more on that in another post. 🙂

What also makes me excited is that I have finally figured out something my wonderful previous therapist said, “what do you need to do to be at your best.” What I need to do is meditate, exercise, have time alone and time out with friends and my partner to stay focused, calm, there for Michael, me and everyone else. Now that I am whole, I see things so much more clearly. I see how Michael and I can handle challenges, behavior and anxiety better, and what he needs to feel calm and in control. I have found the following techniques work to help from the transition of day camp to Mommy camp as I call it.

How To Transition from Day Camp to Mommy Camp:

  1. Start talking about the end of structure: I always start talking with Michael about the end of organized camp mid week of his last week. We start brainstorming for activities.
  2. Actually talk concretely then write out the week: This has helped Michael and even me to structure our home time. For example our week next week looks something like this for the first few days: Monday- Mom works 8:00-10:30/ Mom and Michael play tennis 11-12/ Lunch 12-1/ Cleanup 1-1:30/Pool or  park and shopping 2-5 pm/Home to cook supper 5-6.
  3. A week or so before start organizing play dates or formal activities: I called up two friends. One booked a play date with us, and the other one is getting back to me. Michael also reminded me of two friends we could potentially see. I will call the Moms up this weekend and see if they are free to get together.
  4. Involve the child with helping with chores: This is a toughie, but I am trying now that Michael is older to involve him in helping me around the house so things go faster for our mother/son time. We talk in advance about it, and if he really wants to chill out, I tell him it means we’ll have less time to do stuff as I need to finish the housework AND my writing and other business work since I work from home.

Exceptional Parents, how hard are transitions for your Exceptional Children? It’s a challenge for all of our kids, but something necessary they need to learn to navigate. The best way parents can help prepare them, is to structure activities by writing things down, asking the child what he/she would reasonably like to do, and delivering what you reasonably can. You also have to allow them personal downtime, as well as making sure they understand that you need some downtime as well as time for your work. If you are honest, start in advance BEFORE the change occurs,  and you make sure your child is aware of what is coming, your chances of a successful transition from an organized activity to home look much better. Until next time.



Making Friends At Camp And Stretching Boundaries

I’ve mentioned before how I held my breath while Michael started at a new non-adapted camp last week. It went beautifully, and as a result I am not worried about this week, his last week of camp. As a super bonus, I am thrilled about something else. Michael made a friend. We got her Dad’s cell phone number and will try and get the kids together later in the summer or fall. Yes, it is interesting that he clicked with a girl, but then Michael has had some female friends when he was younger. Now, I find that girls tend to have more patience with him when he talks a lot, and though he is active, he is not a rough and tumble little guy like other boys his age. That is why it is sometimes hard to forge friendships with boys off the spectrum.

Michael reminded me the last two weeks how I need to learn to let go of worry a little bit and trust my  intuition. I also need to learn to trust him that he will be able to go with the flow of trying different things, making friends with new people, and even with challenges, he will overcome. He has repeatedly told me he likes camp, he likes his companion/shadow, and he likes the busy structure of the day. They do crafts, play games in the park and swim. This works perfectly with Michael and helps him regulate best. The kids here are also very understanding about autism and various challenges. There have been a few boys who attended who have had autism, so different mannerisms that Michael has are not shocking. The next thing to do is to get a dialogue going in camp about differences and embracing them. That will come in the future, I hope.

Exceptional Parents, do you trust in yourself and your child in new environments? How do you feel about risk? Interestingly, your child probably will take after you or your partner in one way or another, being fearless or fearful, or a mix of the two. Michael is pretty much a mix of his Dad and I. The important thing for you to do is to teach your child resilience in the form of risk taking combined with some calculated caution. Teach them that everything, good and bad, is an experience that they can learn and grow from. They don’t need to regret anything, but do their best and learn from their mistakes to become stronger in the future. Until next time.

Camp and Mom Connections

So the first day of camp yesterday was a great success. I knew it would be, both due to the camp’s reputation, and Michael’s maturity and love of organized activities where he can interact with peers. Today they are going swimming to the local pool and he is very excited. There is a calmness about him this year going to  camp, an assurance that I can do this. I am noticing this more in all facets of his life, even in his interactions with his father and I. He is making connections, talking, negotiating, oh yes, always negotiating, and asking for what he needs and wants very clearly. He is also better able to go with the flow of changes than he ever was before, though there are some challenges still. He will tell me he is swearing at me in his head when he doesn’t like something I say or do.  It is funny in one way, yet still concerns me when I see how invested he is in having things unfold a certain way. The good thing is though, I can gently redirect him to his strategies to calm down, and slowly he is starting to do them. He sometimes even does them on his own right away.

For all the times he will tell me that he is bored at home and that he wants to be alone, he will also approach me to play with him, to be in the same room as him, and will ask where I am in the house. He is self-sufficient, insists on making his own breakfast and making his own lunch (most nights) :), but wants to know I am still there in the background to help him if he needs it, to catch him if he falls. I get that. I feel that way too as an adult. I want to know my loved ones, my close friends are there for me too in the tough challenging times in life, in the transitions. After all, what is life if we don’t have those connections, if we are not making a difference, or make a difference, in someone’s life?

Exceptional Parents, how are your Exceptional Children’s connections with you and others? How do they differentiate themselves from you and other people? This can be a tough one for our kids who often feel that they are you are the same. They need to be taught to respect boundaries, theirs and yours. The most important thing is that they are out there making connections to others in their own way though, however they can. Don’t push. Let them go at their own pace and, as with many other things, they will surprise you I’m sure. Until next time.