Category: different brains

How To Speak Clearly To Your Exceptional Child And Avoid Miscommunications

I have been parenting Michael now for twelve years, and can usually give others great advice about how to speak to kids with autism, ADHD and other different brains. Yet, there are still days and nights where I find myself forgetting about how I sometimes use language in a confusing way for Michael and then I sigh to myself. Some examples are in order. Most kids with ASD are literal in language, so certain English expressions can be confusing. If your child is whining about not getting a privilege and you forget and say, “you’ll survive,”  he or she may, like Michael, think “what do you mean? I’m not sick. I’m not going to die. Of course I’ll survive.” Another example is giving your child options like you could do things in a way like A or in a way like B and not elaborate so they don’t follow clearly. Yep. I’ve been guilty of doing both this week, though I have to say that I am usually extremely clear with Michael about things like following his daily routine, as well as how I speak.  So, on that note, how can parents talk to kids whose brains are wired to be more literal and concrete? Why, you need to phrase things in simple and concrete ways so that there is mutual understanding. Here are some examples:

1) Talk with short clear sentences to your child: “Today we will be going to this place at this time.” Then make sure through a picture sequence or words you remind your child of what they need to do to get ready. Depending on their age, let them decide the time frame on how to get it all done.

2) Stay calm and be patient when they ask questions: This means if their anxiety is going up, yours needs to stay where it is if you are calm or go down if you are not. If you feel yourself inching towards panic, go to your inner calm place. Radiating peace to them is important.

3) Avoid thinking out loud: This was a bad habit of mine, but now since parenting Michael I have gotten a lot better at having dialogues with myself INSIDE my head. You talking about the past or future around your child (especially things you regret doing or are worried about) will only increase their worry.

4) Give them positive language and support when they are agitated: We all like this, exceptional or not, but giving them words for how they are feeling, and showing them you care even if you don’t have all the answers then and there can help them find these words for themselves in the future.

5) Help them see they can find solutions: Encourage them to find ways to calm down, talk through how they feel, and come up with solutions to problems in a direct and logical way that works for them. This will build their self-confidence and it decreases your stress as a parent. After all, we are not supposed to put out all our children’s fires. They need to learn to handle their own emotions in a calm way.

Exceptional Parents, what are some of the positive ways you talk to your Exceptional Child and see success in your family interactions? What have been some of your mistakes? Every child is different, but in the end, as long as your child feels safe, heard and the message of what you are trying to say is clear, you are both on the right path to communicating in a positive and calm way. Until next time .

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

 

 

 

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Learning From And Teaching Your Exceptional Child-Finding The Balance

So this week has been both an exercise in learning from Michael and in teaching him how to handle some of life’s stresses and strains. There have been times, like the other night when Michael handled low blood sugar in the middle of the evening all by himself, that I stood totally in awe of my son, how he is handling a disease that is not always easy to manage, particularly with blood sugars that go up and down and not always with any reason. I often think that I would not be so good at handling diabetes as calmly as Michael does, particularly as I still have a lot of anger that Michael has this problem. I see how Michael is teaching me to stop fearing this and to move forward.

Then there was another night when the opposite happened. Michael escalated to fury and aggression so quickly over something so silly, a future outing that may or may not come to pass, that I became the teacher, once again reminding him after he had calmed down, that the next time he needed to pause and think before jumping the gun. We often interchange in these rules, of teacher and student. And even when at times he has triggered my anger, impatience or anxiety, I ask myself the question, why? What do I have to fear? What need of mine is not being met? What do I need to change? And I thank Michael. Ok, maybe not directly at that time when I am angry or upset, but afterwards. I see that I am meant to learn life lessons from him just as he is from me.

That’s the thing. Our children are our greatest teachers, and exceptional kids’ brains see the world a whole lot differently than ours. This means that if we keep an open mind and heart, we will see the world through their eyes and learn to think like them too, especially when they are on the right track. Of course, there are times that they learn to think like us and get themselves on the right track too. That is also great. We are each other’s guide in a world that does not always make sense, but that is a journey of self-growth if we remember it like that.

Exceptional Parents, who are the teacher and student in your parent/child relationship? If you chose one or the other, it’s probably not accurate. In all relationships, you learn from each other. We learn from co-workers, family members, strangers, even our pets. If we look deep enough at the lessons life is trying to teach us through adversity, joys, blessings and pain, we will be on our way to parenting our children, and ourselves, in a whole new way. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

Debunking Autism Stereotypes And Remembering Your Exceptional Child’s Individuality

Seven years ago when I knew something was different about Michael, I started reading up on various childhood developmental issues. At the top of the list for the criteria Michael met, was autism. Many of the articles pin pointed a lot of the idiosyncrasies of autism that are so true- difficulty with speech, difficulty with sitting still or not having energy to move, seeming difficulty with hearing. But another point I kept seeing in article after article, not being social or wanting to be around other people, turned out, in my autistic son’s case to be the complete opposite. Yes, you heard me. From birth, Michael was social and wanted to interact. The thing is, he did not know how to interact with other children and adults. Even with Dad and I there were challenges, first because of communication issues and language delays. Then, he was one of the lucky kids who caught up with language and then some, but had to learn (and is still learning) how to have a conversation, such as the give and take, asking the right questions, and finishing the encounter appropriately.

But the thing is, when I was told Michael had autism, I kept remembering all the warnings about the child not wanting to be social. It upset me somehow, more than the other so called defects, which by the way, are not always so. Yes, autism is a challenging condition for people who have it in the world they live in.  The world can be hard on individuals who have sensitive hearing, touch, sight and bodies that feel the environment in a different way. Yes, it is hard to make themselves understood and heard, and for parents and other neuro typical people who want to understand and follow everything this is hard too, but saying that someone does not want to do something is not the same as saying they do, just it is hard or that, hey, they’ll find their own way to do it in time. It struck me tonight as I was preparing dinner, how social my autistic kid is. He calls many of his friends on the phone each night and has, wait for it, real conversations with them. The conversations started out more rudimentary and basic at first, and yes they sometimes watch videos over the phone, but more often than not, Michael and his autistic friends have REAL conversations about REAL feelings, their days, and getting together.  Wait for it. They talk about girls now too that they are in puberty. This was not the picture I’d had of autism, and I’m so glad that Michael is turning that notion upside down. But then, he has always amazed us with surpassing what people thought he would do. My friends have had the same experiences with their children. No autistic child is the same and they will all amaze us if we give them the chance and not box them in.

The good thing is that today experts are admitting that as much as they know about autism, there is so much else they still have to learn. And you know what parents, the best ones to learn it from are our autistic kids and adults. They are all so different and their challenges are different. Talk to them. Read their blogs. Have them come to your schools. It  is so important to keep an open mind always about your child. Tell them as I tell Michael, all about the great things they will do, just like that Dr. Zeus book talks about. If kids believe in themselves, they will go above and beyond. Yes, it may take some kids more years than others to get where they are comfortable, but make no bets that they won’t get there.  It’s one day at a time, loving them for who they are and what they are passionate about, and never never putting your child (exceptional or otherwise) in someone else’s box.  They will do what they were sent here to do.

Exceptional Parents, were you ever told something about your Exceptional Children that would never happen and now has? How did it make you feel? Did you believe it or say HELL NO! I hope it was the latter. If not, don’t despair. It’s never too late to go with your child’s flow keeping in mind their limitations of course. The thing is, never let the limitations define the whole person your child is. You have your limitations but it doesn’t stop you. It is the same with your child. Remember them that their brain is amazing, that the way they see the world is amazing. This is easier on some days than others, of course. But never never stop believing in your child’s magic, and you’ll see them surprise you with the butterfly they are becoming. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

The Difference Between Limits And Streaks of Independence In Your Exceptional Child

So Michael continues to surprise me. He continues to surprise me with his very natural desire to want to fit in with peers and push away from me, from the way he handles stress, anxiety and the physical challenges of diabetes, to the way he maturely will ask for space, love, time and meaning. Sometimes it feels like too much to handle for me. Other times, I am at peace, catching a glimpse of the independent young man I really believe he will grow up to be. He is a puzzle, my boy. But then, he always has been. From the time he came into my life and threw it into a whirlwind being nothing like any other baby I’d ever heard of or taken care of, from the way he danced to the beat of his own drummer from infancy, to the beautiful surprises he showed me along the way, I have been on a journey with Michael that only continues to grow.

I am seeing now too, how sometimes in the parenthood journey we need to impose limits for our children’s safety and well being (mental and physical), and at other times how we need to acknowledge that their pushing away from us is actually healthy and move towards that. I am at the phase with Michael. I am sometimes terrified as with all Michael’s knowledge about people, directions, self-help skills and such, he still can have full on meltdowns and freak when his sugar is high, he doesn’t get his way, or life is unpredictable. Where do I draw the line of mothering him and letting him fend for himself? This is a delicate balance, and one I, and other mothers around the world, learn to delicately balance as we get more experience as parents.  I am beginning to see where I need to strike the balance with Michael.

He will also tell me, “I don’t want any more kisses or hugs from you. I’m a big guy now.”

Yet, then when I go to try and start  writing a little earlier in the evening while he is getting ready for bed and head down to my office in the basement, I’ll hear his entreaty, “Mommy, stay upstairs. I like when you are upstairs.”

He will also have moments when he demands my full attention to divulge information to me and share about his day. I soak these moments up like I do the sun on a summer’s day. My little guy still needs me. I still make a difference. He wants to share with me and tell me how he feels. I will be able to show him more about life so he is better equipped when he will hopefully be completely or semi-autonomous. This is both a desire and fear for Exceptional Parents. We want our children independent of course, but we worry, have we taught them everything they will need to survive and thrive? The answer depends on you and your child. I’d like to think I am on the right track with Michael as he is showing great progress in all areas of his life.

Exceptional Parents, where do you draw the line between independence and putting limits for your Exceptional Child? Though of course it depends on the child, it’s important you encourage your child to be as independent and as free thinking as is possible for them. Yet, it is also important that you, as their parent, are not afraid to put limits in for their protection, limits for their safety, physical and mental health, as well as your own. In the end, treat them as the individual they are with all of their strengths and weaknesses. Help build them up and show them how to build on what they know and do best. Show them you are there loving them through it all, always, no matter what.  In doing this, you will strike the right balance for your child on becoming comfortable with who they are. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

Tackling Your Own Exceptional Impatience While Helping Your Child With Theirs

I have a problem with patience. There, I said it. I feel better now. What has been hard for me to admit is that I need to build this skill really well as an Exceptional Mom because Michael’s patience is worse than mine and that’s not saying much. Most days and nights I can reign in my impatience, stress, and anger when Michael pushes limits, but then there are those days. You know the ones I am talking about, parents. They start tough with you feeling frustrated that in spite of all your best efforts your Exceptional Child will not compromise, and they end with two meltdowns-yours and your child’s. That was Michael and I the other night. I realized some common denominators in why we clashed. We were both overtired, not taking the time to hear one another or sympathize with the other one’s viewpoint, and we both were stubbornly holding on to the fact that we had it right. As it turned out, neither of us had the situation completely correct. It was an evening that called for some negotiating, respectful listening, and patience with the other tired person. Neither of us possessed it that night as we had our own agendas. “Do you hear me, do you really hear me?” These were the words both of us were uttering while the other was clueless. Each thought the other one was uncaring when really two tried people who loved each other clashed and clashed badly.

After as I lay in bed totally wiped out by the tough evening not even having the energy to take a calm warm bath as I had planned, I thought to myself,  there were some steps I wish I had followed to stay calm and centered. As a model to Michael, I may have been able to prevent the evening from at least getting worse even if I could not have prevented the fighting we did.  I vowed to follow these steps and recognize what I needed to do the next time there was a conflict and I know that there will be conflicts with an opionated tween in the house!

  1. Evaluate my mood: Before Michael came home, I needed to recognized how tired I was and what would charge my batteries in a positive way. Then it was time to do that before the bus pulled up. Probably doing some yoga or listening to soft music my cup of coffee or tea would have helped.
  2. Review the strategies to use: The strategies would include what I would use to calm down and what I know would work for Michael. If necessary, having them on paper close by to refer to may have been a good option for both of us.
  3. Remember not to take my kid’s anger personally: This is a tough one, but most kids act out due to THEIR issues not their lack of love or respect for you no matter what they say or do. They are on the egocentric side, and so pain is all about them. As the parent and adult in the relationship, I needed to recognize that Michael was in a bad mood due to HIS issues and not MINE.
  4. Validate some of his anger and mine calmly: This is also tough, but as I tell Michael, anger is not bad, but reacting to anger with aggression of any sort in unacceptable. Just because Michael yells I do not yell back. The same goes for physical aggression. I am guilty of yelling only, though I have been known to slam doors, not my proudest moments as a Mom. As the adult, I need to model how to be angry and use tools to get control of myself. Also, it’s important to acknowledge mistakes and anger with an “it’s ok. we move forward,” and no blame game. We all make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. I may say it, but I need to do it too.
  5. Don’t make assumptions about what is being said-communicate clearly from the beginning: What got Michael and I in trouble, was that we both assumed the other one was deliberately trying to hurt and disrespect the other one. This was not the case. We had a BIG communication problem. With a neuro typical brain and an autistic one, it can happen all the time if we are not careful. Once the snowball got rolling, it was hard to stop. I saw now that I assumed falsely as did Michael  what the other one was saying, and that made things worse for both of us. Next we need to be direct right away.

Exceptional Parents, do you feel like you are losing your cool more than you want to with your child? Do you feel like you have it under wraps and then suddenly explode and you can’t see why? It’s time to look at your own parenting tools for YOUR anger and anxiety. Do they need a tune up? Do you need a reminder of what helps to calm you down? It’s ok to use bad nights as a learning curve for you and your child. That is what we do in our family. After all, if your Exceptional Child sees that you lose it sometimes and recover from mistakes, they will eventually learn not to be too hard on themselves. Take heart if you are an impatient person. There are ways to build patience- get enough sleep, meditate, exercise and eat right, and take time for you to recharge your batteries doing things alone that can center you as a person. If you need to, seek outside help. There is never any shame in doing so. You will be a more patient parent and human being because of it, and your relationship with your child will only get better. Until next time.

Are the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

 

Picking Your Battles With Your Exceptional Child-When To Give In, When To Say No

So saying that I’ve had to learn to pick my battles with Michael since he started puberty is the understatement of the year, but there you have it. And you know what, he has had to learn to do the same with me. The thing is, we’re both pretty passionate about what we believe is true, even when we’re wrong. It takes us time to calm down, come to terms with our feelings, and express ourselves in the best way possible to each other. You see, with passion comes volatility and sometimes, well, I’ve been knows to yell and Michael has too. What can I say, it’s the artist’s temperament in me, and probably in Michael too. 🙂 Still, we are learning how to set the pace with each other, respecting one another’s  personal space, and finding the middle ground now that my cute and cuddly little boy is no longer that, but a growing tween with his own opinion and mind who wants things to go his way most of the time.

I’m beginning to see when I need to tell him he needs to cut back his expectations though, as well as learning when I have to cut back mine. As a result, we are having more success relating positively to one another. For example, Michael wants to get up in the mornings and relax first THEN get ready for school. This drives me crazy, being the Type A Control Freak Mom I am who wants it all done BEFORE having fun. That is also the way I was raised. The work was done first, then play. It’s also the way things are done in school. But home is not school. It’s Michael ‘safe space’, and I let him have it. Also, having an exceptional child who has many challenges with sequencing, anxiety and opposition, has showed me that if it works out in the end, you do it. That’s all that matters. Now, if Michael’s system stops working, we’ll revert to a mine, or a pretty close approximation to mine. Otherwise, we  stay with his. We’ll also try a mix of both of ours too. There are always options. That is one example.

Another example is hugging and affection. He is usually all “hands off Mom, I am not a baby. I don’t want hugs.” This is both heartbreaking and liberating to see him breaking away. Again, I make sure to commend his independence while still telling him I love him. He sighs, “I know Mom.” Every day I ask about his day and he tells me details. He gets annoyed if I don’t give him my full attention, which is rare. This is how I know we are still close, but I am happy my little guy is forging his own path. One day when I am no longer around, I know he will be fine.

Finally, with things like aggression, swearing or inappropriate content or friends, this is where I draw the line with picking battles. Here the battle line is my way or there are consequences.  I don’t want bad influences affecting how Michael relates to the world. I would feel this way for any child, but particularly one who wants so much to please others, that he may get carried away on watching something that is not the best thing for him or make dangerous choices to please friends who are confused as well.

Exceptional Parents, where do you pick battles or buckle down and insist on your way with your Exceptional Child? Remember, you know your child best, and that means you know best how to help them develop in a positive way. If you are ever stuck, listen to your parenting gut. It will never steer you wrong. And usually when you listen to it, it will give you and your child the credit your deserve for navigating the difficult domain that is life out there in the world. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

Food Dilemmnas and Rebellion- Navigating Type 1 Diabetes And ASD Rigidities and Surviving It

Ah rebellion. It is just grand, said not ONE Mom, never mind a Mom of an Exceptional Child that already has enough stuff to deal with. Still, it makes me feel good in one way. As Dad commented earlier this evening when Michael was talking pretty much twenty minutes straight without coming up for air and making intense eye contact with us, “remember when we worried he wouldn’t talk?” I almost laughed. Indeed I do. If you told me when he was a toddler and had been diagnosed with autism that  I’d have to deal with regular puberty things like pushing limits, refusing to go to bed early, swearing, and even being silly with friends, I’d have laughed and said, go ahead, PLEASE give me those normal neuro-typical problems. And yet, here we are. My Exceptional Son is not so exceptional when it comes to puberty. In fact, he is so neuro typical here it is DRIVING ME CRAZY. And just to make things interesting and keep Dad and I on our toes, he has particular food restrictions due to his diabetes (hard for him and us and yet MORE more for teenage rebellion) and with his ASD and ADHD those quirks come out in puberty while he is trying to be a grownup. Oh boy. What can I say? Running for the hills is usually a race for Michael and I lately. Which of us will get there first running from the other, he or I? Yet, somehow with all the craziness, we always do run back to each other. I love him too much to not do that, and I think he loves me or tolerates me, pretty much what any tween/teen boy would feel towards his mother at this age of 12, not a baby and not a teen, a tween. It’s not easy, but whenever I catch myself feeling pity for either of us I remind myself it’s all relative. I also remind myself to learn from the challenging times, mine and Michael’s, as I tell Michael to do.

Sometimes when I want to indulge in a pity party I do that too. I allow Michael that luxury as well. I tell him, it’s ok to be angry or sad. Feel it. Own it. Use strategies to move away from it. Then move on. I follow the same theory myself, and do my best to hold myself to this promise. It’s not always easy. That’s when I call in the Mommy brigade, my friends in the same circumstances who share  in my stress over theirs and their children’s challenges, yet also remind me to celebrate the victories. And there are many victories of exceptional families that help us survive.

Today Michael was supposed to have a tennis lesson. It got postponed due to unforseen circumstances. He still remembered to bring home his shoes from school WITHOUT reminders. The other day going to a new place at school he navigated there on Google Maps to know where he was going, a pastime that is pleasurable for him and reduces his anxiety. This again was all on his part, no reminders. And countless times lately I have been witnessing him using strategies instead of giving into his anger,- deep breathing, using fidget toys.  Finally, he has openly talked about his struggles in puberty with me, still shares his day with me, and likes getting the occasional hug or kiss, or tolerates it. For this for now, I am grateful. 🙂 These are things I hold on to when the day or night is tough. These are things I remember when he is asleep at night, however good or bad the day has gone. These are things I see will help him navigate the world and survive and thrive when I am no longer here to advocate for him. Finally, these are things that tell me I need to fine tune my own coping mechanisms and let go over what I cannot control and control what I can. I can show my son I believe in him and want him to learn and do better. I can show my son I will hold him to a great future. And I can show my son that faults and all, I love him as much as I do me, and everyone else in the family. After all, we are have our issues to work on. What’s important is to learn and grow from the tough times so we can get ready for a brighter future all around.

Exceptional Parents, how do you survive your Exceptional Child’s quirks? How do they survive yours? Yes, you have quirks too and sometimes unintentionally make things more stressful for you and them by over reacting or under reacting. You are a human being and you will mess up just like them. Where’s the lesson? It is in learning from your mistakes, showing up the next time to do better as an individual and parent, and making sure you set a positive example for your child to follow at the same time. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

5 Ways To Build A Relationship With Your Exceptional Child

It does not matter how old they are or at what developmental stage they are at. Your exceptional child wants a relationship with you. What usually holds them back is difficulty with expressing themselves clearly and asking for what they need. But they want to be and feel close to you. Even if your child is a chatterbox, it is no guarantee that they will know how to explain what they need from you. So where can  a parent start to build the bridge? Here are 5 ways to build a relationship with your exceptional child:

  1. Build in play time from babyhood: It’s important that you find ways to interact with your child through playing basic interaction games with them to open up their world.
  2. Spend time reading to them: Reading books together (and later discussing said books) is a great way to bond. Talk and read at their level.
  3. Go places in the community together: It’s important that as long as extreme aggression or anxiety is not an issue, that you take your child out in the community both so that they can bond with you doing new things as well as learn about the people around them.
  4. Enjoy their interests as much as they do: Even if hearing about dinosaurs one more time makes you want to scream (been there, done that ;)) immerse yourself in it and enjoy it because your child does. You love your child, so you love what they love.
  5. Help them see that when they are stuck, you will help them: This seems like a no-brainer, but due to expressive and receptive language issues, anxiety, learning issues and a whole slew of other things, exceptional kids have so much on their plate. When problems come up (personal or school ones) they usually feel alone and explode. Make sure that you show them by words and action, that you are there to help them fix the problem and find a solution together.

Exceptional Parents, do you feel you are close to your Exceptional Child? If so, that’s great. If not, don’t be discouraged. You can always build  a relationship. As long as your child knows you love them for who they are and accept them with all their quirks (as they except you) you are off on the right track to build a long lasting relationship of love and trust with them for the rest of their life and yours. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  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

Understanding Autism and Figuring Out How To Handle Emotions- My Son’s Exceptional Puberty Journey

So the last few days have been about Michael coming to terms with handling turbulent puberty while also acknowledging his autism. He told me he asked many of his classmates at his adapted school if they have autism. Some of them answered yes, some of them said no. Michael said they have other challenges or different brains which they have shared with him. Michael also said he thinks some of them may have autism, but are not sure or don’t know and he thinks they may have it as they stim like him or do other things he says people with autism do. Dad and I told him many years ago when he asked what autism was, that he had it, and explained how it meant he sees the world differently than a lot of people who don’t have autism. Recently, I read him a great article our Educator gave him that explains what autism is written by someone with autism for someone with autism. It was eye opening for me too, and I thought that I knew pretty much all there was to know about autism, at least from a neuro typical person’s standpoint.

What I found most interesting was how Michael asked me questions about consent and law abiding behavior, and how a lot of people with autism handled the world around him. He is learning how to deal with anger, frustration and aggression while being aware that he needs to follow the same principles of respect for self, others and property that we all need to follow.  He understands his brain works a little differently, but Dad and I have been telling him that a different set of rules do not apply to him as a result. Yes, his learning materials can be adapted, he has his own IEP, but he still has to follow the same law of safety that governs all people in the world, autistic and non-autistic. I am proud of the questions he is asking me though, about people, about consent, about sex, about feelings towards the opposite and same sex. I am proud that he is thinking about the big questions and wants to make good choices.

Exceptional Parents, does your child know about their different brain or sense that they are not the same as anyone else? Have you held off telling them until you feel they are ready? In the end, you need to listen to your parenting gut. Some kids want and need to know right away. For others, the time to have the conversation is a long way off. Whatever you decide, remember your child’s unique way of viewing the world, whether they are in puberty or not, is part of what makes them special and their contribution to the world something incredible. Remember, we are all here for a reason. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  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.

 

 

Stepping Back To Help Your Exceptional Child Self-Regulate- 5 Ways To Do It

The thing I used to hate the most when Michael was little was hearing him cry. The long crying spells and tantrums used to make me feel inept, helpless and desperate. What was I doing wrong as a mother that my baby would not stop crying? I used to marvel at other Moms in parks, shopping malls, at church. They seemed to keep their wits about them and not die a thousand deaths every time their child cried. Both my mother and mother-in-law tried to reassure me. That is how he is communicating. They were right of course. The calm Moms I witnessed all around me were right too. But then so was I. You see, Michael did not know how to self-regulate, and I did not know how to teach him to do that until much later when I realized that kids with special needs take longer to achieve these milestones than other children.

I think it all stemmed from my own childhood. I had been an EXTREMELY sensitive child who would cry whenever upset. Self-regulation had been challenging for me at that time, but I learned to shed tears to a supportive mother and later on my own as an adult in the comfort of my own room. I suffered a lot until my thirties though, until I learned how yoga, exercise and meditation could help curb  stress and anxiety. I also learned that it had to be ME who fixed my problems and no one else. After a burnout I realized if I didn’t learn how to be responsible for my own emotions, I would continue to suffer. There was no such thing as superwoman. It was not a healthy place to be in.

Fast forward to motherhood. I knew I had to teach Michael self-regulation and didn’t want him suffering till adulthood before he found his way, but after coming to terms with his diagnoses, I  couldn’t help but worry, could he do this, could I teach him? I was feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to teach a child whose brain was so different than mine. Where would I start?  I was helped by great psycho educators as well as other therapists who gave me good tools. I also picked the brains of my Mom friends and found out what worked for their kids.From all those wonderful individuals (as well as doing some of my own brainstorming) here  is a list of ways to help your child  self-regulate:

  1. Let them cry or feel anger: This is the hardest thing to do, but remember crying and getting angry are not what the problem is. It is not being able to stop the tears or the anger from growing. That is where the destructive parts come in. Having them come up with strategies like stepping away to breathe, going for a short walk, squeezing something can help calm the storm of anger or anxiety.
  2. Talk about when you’ve lost control and how you reacted to fix it: Depending on how much your child understands and can communicate, it is important to share your own experiences with anger and sadness honestly. This does not mean every detail. They should not bear the burden of your emotional issues, but telling them what you did that worked or failed will be helpful for them to find strategies.
  3. Ask them what they think would make them feel better: When your child is calm, ask them what they like to do to be happy. Also, observe what they seem to gravitate to when upset. Do they like hugs, movement, deep pressure? These are indications of things you can suggest as self-regulation tools.
  4. Teach them how to show unconditional love to themselves: Sadly, this is something most adults lack or have difficulty with-self-love and acceptance even when our faults rise to the surface. Before you can teach a child to love him/herself unconditionally though, you must show them how you love yourself unconditionally. This means that even when you mess up as an adult, you take responsibility, calm down, name what you did wrong, and start the healing process. We all make mistakes. It is ok, and is part of life.
  5. Give them choice and remind them it is THEIR job to calm themselves down. Too many exceptional kids are told what to do by the adults around them. Yes, adults need to guide them, but it is important that in guiding them, you do not tell them HOW to calm down. There is not one way. There are many. They have to (with gentle loving guidance), figure out what tools will work for them. Another thing to remember. It is their job to calm themselves down. Not yours. Not their therapists. Not their teachers. This is so hard for a parent, but invaluable to make your child accountable for how they feel and who they are.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you wished you could take back  a stressful event or events from your Exceptional Child’s life? It’s not a good idea. The thing is, resilient kids are made when they are forced to find ways to handle their own individual stress. Our kids need to be given tools to handle their anxiety, anger and depression. But we can’t be constantly rescuing them. If we do this, we will make them feel as if they can’t do it on their own. As hard as it is, parents have to be offer support, tools and their own life experiences as guides and suggestions. Then it’s time to step back, let your child fall and pick themselves back up. Eventually they will learn what they need to do to succeed. Remember, a different brain is not an inferior brain. Your child can and will come in their own if they see you believe in them and love them for all they are. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  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