Category: frienships/socializing

Helping Your Exceptional Child Balance Structured and Unstructured Time

Having Michael fill his time schedule with structured and unstructured activities has always been a challenge, though when he was younger at least filling it with structured activities was easier. Why? Well, that was because as his Mom, I set the schedule of naps, meals, parks, play dates etc. As he got older, however, Michael understandably began demanding more activities that he wanted and that sometimes compromised my time more, like long drives or going to certain stores and only to the departments where he liked to go, ie. toy departments, and later to play on the IPADS or phones.

Unstructured time has always been difficult in our house. Michael never wanted to be home. He liked to be on the go all the time. I remember the summer when he was little that his boundless energy had me taking him to 4 parks a day, as with me not working camps were out of the question, and he was a little young anyhow. Well, that was the last summer I did that. It wore me out, he got bored, and when friends were not available, he did not know how to keep himself busy. He was never a kid that could watch movies, and even playing video games is challenging. His attention span for them is about five to ten minutes, though at school with friends he could play for a little longer.

Now fast forward to eight years later and we have the opposite problem almost. Unstructured time he adores! As long as he could spend it on his phone navigating Google Maps, watching his favorite videos or listening to music and stimming¬† to his heart’s content. I get it. This is his downtime, and I love it too as I get time to do things in the house or write. He could do that for hours on end which is not healthy. This is why I have continued to insist we do structured sports or other activities out of the house to make sure he does not become a typical teenager totally absorbed in the audio visual world. He was annoyed, but cooperated. After he got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and puberty hit full steam, he also expressed less interests in playing in parks and going to stores, unless it was a store to look in the computer department. ūüôā I know this is a normal part of being a tween and soon teen, but sports is a great outlet to burn stress, so slowly I am trying to get him back into park outings.

Fortunately, he is willing to go to sports camp for a chunk of the summer, and he is starting to become receptive to doing other types of mother/son activities when he is home with me like long bike rides or walks. For our family vacation we are staying in town again this year as it is economically feasible, and I hope to get him a little more out of his shell with some structured and unstructured activities on our stay cation. In the end, it’s really about knowing your child’s limits and pushing a little more past that, as well as knowing when to let them take the reigns. On that note, what are some good ways to structure and un structure your child’s summer?

1) Give them choice for their unstructured time, when to schedule it in summer or on weekends during the school year.

2) Expose them to different structured extracurricular activities and have them choose 1 of 2 activities to practice.

3) Invite friends over or try a new place with a friend on a play date.

4) Have simple family activities that get them moving-bike rides, long walks, outings to stores or malls.

5) Negotiating- one hour of an outing for an hour of A/V time. Make sure they understand why you are encouraging them to go out in society. It is a great way to practice social skills and appropriate social behavior.

Exceptional Parents, how do you manage to balance your Exceptional Child’s structured and unstructured time? Do you give them some choice, all the choice, or choose it all yourself? As you have probably guessed, the best advice is a balance of following your child’s lead in what they want to do as well as giving them small nudges to participate in different activities. You will most likely get the best balance this way. Until next time.

Exceptional Tween Frienships-What I Thought I’d Never Have To Face

When I found out Michael had autism everything I had thought his life would be became one big question mark. Many other parents have shared this same insight on finding out that their child is different. They mourn the child that he/she will never be, what they will (or may) never do, and they worry about the missed milestones. You know what though? This isn’t always the case. Sometimes your Exceptional Child will surprise you and actually do the milestones then surpass them. Yes, you heard me correctly! Let’s take peer groups. Just like most special needs kids are not supposed to be interested in socializing (Michael SO is), many also do not care about peer groups. Michael SO cares. He is like a neuro typical peer copying for better or worse what his friends do. I feel both blessed by his need to fit in and worried about it, as any parent would be. Though it is great he wants to be accepted by his friends we also want him to learn to think for himself. This is easier said than done for a child who has a limited grasp of social skills and norms of society through his neurologically different way of seeing the world. It also means he will be slower to learn to think for himself, but then I am celebrating the fact that he is able to argue with us about thinking for himself. And argue he does these days. ūüėČ

For sure these are all victories and milestones I was not sure we would be facing with a son who has autism. Now as he is moving into puberty, all the sexual and romantic feelings towards women have started emerging. Again, it is in his way, as only it would be, but these were things I was not sure Michael would ever experience. Sometimes kids on the spectrum have no interest in these things. It has provided us with additional challenges on how to parent Michael, but Dad and I are up for that challenge and know that with the great tools we have found, we will be in a position to help Michael through it.

The thing is, that sometimes it so hard navigating this seesaw of exceptional brains and neuro typical brain thinking that Michael is capable of. It certainly keeps me and Dad on our toes, but can be stressful too. Thank goodness we have a community to share this with, and of course a great kid who, in the end, is just himself and does not fit into any category, nor should he. This goes for any other child really.

Exceptional Parents, how often have your Exceptional Children surprised you by what they have shown you they can do or are capable of? Remember, a textbook definition of autism is just that, a generalization. Always expect the unexpected from your child. It will happen in good and bad ways. Don’t worry about the bad. There you will find the strategies to help them. As far as the good, enjoy it. This will help them grow confidently into who you know they can become. Until next time.

Feeling overwhelmed as an Exceptional Parent? Don’t know where to turn for tips, and ways to survive and thrive during the whole journey? You are not alone. I have walked and continue to walk this path myself. As a writer, speaker, parent coach and Mom to a son with Autism, ADHD, and Type 1 Diabetes,¬† I can help you through all the twists and turns that parenting an exceptional child require, while keeping your sense of humor intact, your sense of self and relationships intact, and helping you see that not only are you raising your exceptional child, but they are raising you to be the best human being you can be. You are each other’s advocates for a better world. For more information on my coaching packages, contact me at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com

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.

The Importance of Support Networks For Your Exceptional Self

happy friends.jpeg

Today it struck me as it does many times how lucky I am. Yes, in spite of feeling stressed, worried and angry at myself I have had one of those days when I saw all the good around me and all the support I truly have. I have always been blessed with a great family who have helped me by listening and offering ways to help Michael. But today it was the friends and strangers around me that showed me that I have a whole other exceptional support network to remind me that I am fortunate and blessed. I received gifts, praise and a kind ear from people who were friends or co-workers, and on a day when things were already going well with Michael, put an even bigger smile on my face. Things have been progressively getting better with Michael’s moods since the weekend. I think the extra time we spent together with a PED DAY and a weekend of sledding and Santa visits cemented the rest. But I digress. In all my stressful encounters with Michael over the last month, my work, and trying to manage taking care of our home, I have forgotten about my exceptional care network of people. These are not just the family I sometimes take for granted, but my wonderful friends, childhood and writer friends, and my co-workers who have all had positive and affirming things to say as well as offering me their ears and support during challenging times.

Too often exceptional parents forget they have a network of people there to help them if only they reach out. Sometimes sadly, they don’t take the time to form this network. Both scenarios equally happen, though many of us have more people who care about us than we think. The thing is that we need to reach out to our network of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and ask for help. Let them know we are struggling and need to chat over a cup of coffee or dinner or over the phone or online. We also need to offer our own ears to hear them out. As stressed and down as I have gotten over the last three or four months, I have tried whenever possible to reach out to my network and ask how they were doing, listen to them, organize a get together. These things were as much about keeping my sanity as helping them keep theirs. Even in my darkest hours, I have seen how not alone I am, how fortunate I and my family are to have the people we do in our life that shower us with time, gifts, praise and support. Dad and I try our best to give back¬† to these souls who have given us back our life and positive outlook. All I could think tonight as I had one kind word and deed after another occur in my life is how important reaching out to people is. This could be virtually, in person, with a surprise gift, with a kind word. And for exceptional parents, this can make all the difference when they are having a bad day, week or month with their child. And if they are not, they will remember,¬† I have these people in corner to remind me I am not alone.

Exceptional Parents, how does your support corner look right now? Do you have your exceptional people around you before the hardest season of the year hits with your child or children? If not, fear not. It is never too late to find your people. Look for a support group online or in person. Reach out to friends and family who have reached out to you. You need each other to remember how precious, fragile and beautiful life is. You need each other to laugh, cry and commiserate with. You need to remember that you are not alone and neither is your child. Reach out, give of yourself and ask others for help at the same time if you need a kind ear. Chances are they are looking to help support you as you have done to them. You are also showing  your child something valuable, that they are not alone and that they have support too. 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 ‚Äú5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY‚ÄĚ see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com

 

 

Between Boyhood and Manhood-How to Handle Questions About Maturity from Your Exceptional Child

Michael is at that interesting age, not quite a young man, but not a baby yet either. He is really not a baby, and will remind me of that daily. It is still complicated further by the fact that developmentally in some ways he is still a little boy. So as his Mom I am constantly bouncing between the three; little boy, tween, and developing young man. His questions about life, his future, and even little tiffs about doing things for himself due to the fact he is “a big boy Mommy,” are all ways I am seeing him truly growing up before my eyes. It is wonderful. And the questions. Oh the questions he asks. I have to be careful sometimes when I answer. We are both talkers. I will often give long answers which will have me talking a lot. Then he will talk a lot, and with Michael it’s tricky. Talking about things can make him more anxious in some ways. It feeds the anxiety. Yet talking is important to get his feelings out. It is also my way to explain how I am feeling.¬† Now thought I am finding a way to talk less and listen more to him. I am also learning to talk in shorter sentences and encourage him to do the same. There is no need anymore to work on building his vocabulary. What he needs to work on now is more understanding people’s facial expressions, emotions, and how he fits into the conversation.

The morning with lots of talking are fun and exhausting at the same time. Still, I remember the days I prayed he would talk to me. They are here now and that is wonderful. I hear from parents who have the opposite problem, a child who cannot speak or communicate verbally, and that is so hard in another way. There is fine balance between verbal and non verbal too, that both camps of Moms want to find. That is the way to have a great relationship with our children. They must know when to speak and when to be quiet. We must teach them to grow up independent while also following parents’ rules which keep them safe. With a child who has special needs there are lots of different things going on at the same time. It is challenging. They have to wear many hats to survive being day to day in our world and fit in with the other people around them, and we, as their parents, also have to wear hats, hats to help our child understand neuro typical people and help neuro typical people understand them.

I used to be all about getting Michael to fit into my world, the neuro typical world. I did not see how weird it must be for him. The whole other county, other language people speak that our exceptional kids don’t always get. What has helped me as an exceptional parent is reading blogs by other exceptional adults who have autism or other neuro developmental challenges. They understand Michael in a way I am only learning to. They show the rest of the world that does not have an autistic¬† brain how people with autism think, feel and what they can contribute. I am humbled when I read their blogs, and consider it my duty to help the world understand people like Michael. He has brought such joy into my life, our family and to people around him. He struggles to understand things in the world, but still he is happy, positive and loves simple pleasures- time with family and friends, navigating Google Maps, cooking and baking. He makes me realize how talking and listening to each other are important for all of us.

Exceptional Parents, how are you handling the age transitions with your Exceptional Children? Do you feel like you walk a tightrope sometimes figuring out how best to explain things or when to stay quiet? All parents have to juggle this to a certain extent. In our case, it just means that we need to surround ourselves with good support systems: other parents who get our struggle, reading about or talking to adults who have autism to get more of a look inside our children’s brains, and making sure to promote neuro diversity, not just because of what our kids have taught us, but because it’s pretty cool how different we all are and that needs to be celebrated, even if sometimes we have crossed communication lines. 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: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK ‚Äú5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY‚ÄĚ click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS

Exceptional Friend Blessings And Simple Happiness-The Importance of Community For You and Your Child

It’s the simple things that make exceptional parenting, and any kind of parenting work. I was reminded of this on Saturday afternoon at one of Michael’s friends’ birthday parties. It was a BBQ and Pool Party. Michael, Dad and I had a wonderful time, and not just for the obvious reasons, but also because it reminded me how wonderful it is to have people in all our life that “get” what raising a special needs child is all about. A few times at the beginning I did need to be reminded not to shadow Michael in the house. I have been doing this since he was a baby and used to touch things or go into people’s bedrooms. Now, his worst offense is eating a bowl of chips, but still old habits die hard, as they say. Once I truly relaxed, ate, talked with the adults while the kids swam, it was great. I thought to myself how important it is in parenting to know you have friends who have your back. We talked about our kids, the joys, the challenges, our experiences of summer camp and future family holidays. We made plans to see one another again soon, and talked wistfully how soon school would be starting. Before we knew it, it would be the beginning of another school year.

A lot of parents do not have their community. Family may not be as accepting of their child, and friends who have neuro typical children may not understand at all, or feel uncomfortable. I am lucky on all fronts that everyone in our immediate circle gets it, but even with that, happy other special families to get together with makes us realize even when we feel most alone as I did several months ago, deep down inside I knew that I had my ladies out there waiting to help, lend an ear, or let me cry on their shoulder. It’s so important for parents to find a community online and in person if they can, so they can handle many of the extra stresses that come with exceptional parenting. Whenever I meet an exceptional parent, I make sure to tell them what was told to me. “You are a great Mom/Dad. I can see how much you love your child. Your child is a great and will do wonderful things.”¬† We all need to be reminded that we are doing the best we can, and that someone has our back. I have also been lucky enough to have friends who, both by their words and example, reminded me to practice better self-care, to go out some evenings, and to laugh at the craziness sometimes. I am eternally grateful for these reminders and also try and tell parents to take care of themselves, first individually, then in their partnerships and friendships, so that they can be strong and advocate in the very best way possible for their children.

Exceptional Parents, do you have people, a community, who has your back? If not, it’s time to find that community. They will help keep you strong when you feel at your weakest. They will encourage you in your progress with yourself and your child, and they will remind you that, in spite of all the uncertainty out there, there are people who care, who get it, and who can laugh along with you at the craziness of it all. 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: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK ‚Äú5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY‚ÄĚ click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.

 

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

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

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

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

Unconventional Activities and How to Bring Your Child with Autism Out of Their Shell

 

So we are trying our best to keep things spontaneous and predictable for Michael, and give him the best mix of the bunch. For the winter, he wanted a break from structured winter activities, so other than swimming lessons during the week, the weekend is unstructured time that we and Michael have structured together. Michael has his favorite shopping mall that he likes to frequent on Saturday and Sunday mornings, then he usually goes sledding with Dad on Saturday afternoon, runs an errand or has recently started watching movies or playing video games. Sunday I am doing my best to convince Michael to come back regularly to church with me, and then in the pm it is skating in the public arena and the library and or impromptu musical concerts. Dad and I try to go with his energy and interests, along with some limits. We have been successful most of the time.

What really impressed me today, was the fact that Michael was excited to call up his classmates to join him and his Dad for a movie date next Saturday. He took the initiative to dial their numbers and have a phone conversation. At first, I thought we could manage it without practice, but it was hard. We then did a few more practice runs then Michael did an amazing job. It was stressful and exciting for me as his Mom to watch him reach another milestone. This means a lot when we see him struggling with anxiety and defiance with us. It is comforting to see the positives and remind ourselves of it.
Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children do with structure and unstructured time? What are their interests and strengths? Play to that. When we speak and pay attention to our children’s strengths, we encourage them to do the same in their own life. Until next time.

I am a writer and parent coach who is 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. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

SPECIAL OFFER: February is the month of love. We show love to our children, partners, and friends. But what about to ourselves as parents? Do you know how to practice self-care and truly love the amazing parent and person you are? If you need support in this area of your life, until Feb. 28th I am offering a FREE ONE HOUR one on one coaching session, as well as a second one hour one on one coaching session at 50% off regular price. Give yourself the gift of self-love, and learn some great tools to begin to put your needs first so you can parent in balance. Contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com or 514-827-7175 to book your Skype session. 

 

 

 

 

 

Peer Relationships and Understanding Real Friendship-How Far My Exceptional Son Has Come

 

Last night at dinnertime Michael started talking about what happened at school during the day. He spoke about a violent altercation one of his classmates had with the teaching assistant. The behavior technician came in and the child went with her and was removed from the class. This is something that does happen from time to time at Michael’s school as the children have emotional challenges. It is well handled, but I was still worried about its effect on Michael. He told me he was smiling when the boy did it, but when I asked him if he thought it was funny he said no. I reminded him to think how he would feel if someone did that to me. “Oh boy. No, that’s terrible Mommy!”

But that was not what shocked me. What surprised me was that Michael is pursuing this boy in friendship. I have heard about this child from time to time how he will tell Michael he does not want to play with him, go away. My heart goes out to my little guy, even though when he recounts these stories to me he sounds more surprised that his “friend” would do that to him and puzzled as well. This opened up the floor for me to talk to Michael about what real friends are, and which people are either not your friends or casual friends at best. I asked him if the three really close friends he speaks of and has play dates with would ever have treated him the way this boy did. He said no. I asked him if they enjoyed playing with him and didn’t avoid him as this boy does. He agreed, yes they played with him all or most of the time. It was rare they did not want to play with him. While I was so happy that I was having such a regular conversation with my son about friends, it broke my heart that my little guy was trying to win someone over who clearly didn’t see him for who he was. I repeatedly, and in a gentle way, told Michael how special and good a friend he was, and if this boy didn’t see it, he wasn’t meant to be his friend. I reminded my little guy to cherish the good friends he has and not run after those who are not interested in him.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children do on play dates with friends or at school with peers? Are they chasing after kids that are not really friends? Hopefully they have found two or three really good friends and understand what friendship is. If not, it will come. As a parent, all you can do is encourage them and remind them how special they really are.

I¬†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

One of the hardest and 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 ‚Äú5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY‚ÄĚ http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS

5 Ways To Teach Empathy and Show Love-Exceptional Mom and Son Lessons

So empathy is a hard thing for people with autism to understand, or least, the way we neuro typical people see empathy and feeling for another person. It is not due to insensitivity or cruelty, but rather due to a different way of seeing the world. I have noticed with Michael that as he gets older it is easier in some ways to communicate his frustration, angst and anxiety in himself and towards another person, but harder to feel sympathy for the other person in question. For example, he will laugh at a friend who is struggling or feeling embarrassed if it doesn’t fit in with what the friend is supposed to be doing, yet doesn’t see the many struggles he has socially fitting in or people that may look at him strangely due to social challenges of how to talk and engage with other people.

Michael has also reflected back to me times I have struggled in being more understanding and forgiving, by telling me he is doing the best that he can when I have lost my temper with him. ¬†It has reminded me that I need to be a good mirror to Michael of not only how to do things right, but when I make a mistake, how I can correct myself and show him what NOT to do. ¬†With Michael’s help, I have¬†found ¬†5 ways to show empathy and teach love. I have shown some to Michael and he has shown others to me.

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying: This sounds obvious, but what I really mean is to REALLY listen to the tone they are using when they talk about things, to the words they are not saying that will sometimes slip out unconsciously. You bring up an event your child does not want to go to and they begin to swear or get angry or insult. The child obviously feels scared or threatened, but does not know how to show this. You immediately get angry. Try to take a deep breath, and ask them to explain as best they can.
  2. Watch their body language: Kids and adults when uncomfortable, will carry themselves a certain way, shoulders more tense, hunched, maybe moving a lot, fidgeting. This is a sign of stress. Wait and let them find the space to tell you their thoughts.
  3.  Show them love when they are being difficult: This is easily the hardest of the five to do. When someone is being rude, insensitive or cruel, it is hard to love them. We feel betrayed and angry, but acceptance is essential so they know we are there. Michael and I have hurt each other in anger, but now are both learning to forgive one another so we can move forward and make progress.
  4. Put yourself in the person’s shoes : This is hard for our kids with autism who have a difficult time with abstract thinking. Even for those of us who do not have autism, we are sometimes stuck in a pattern of self-pity and personal stress so we can’t see past that when we are angry at someone or jealous of them. Make an effort to get past your own negative feelings.
  5. Practice caring scenarios with your child and see how you can reach out to others: This is a good exercise that you can do with your child in order to teach them how to reach out to others who are struggling, scared, and alone. Do this yourself as a a parent too. Give to charities, help the needy in your community, and make helping others a major part of your family life.

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Exceptional Parents, how do you teach empathy and love to your Exceptional Children? What has and has not worked? Remember, trial and error is part of life for all of us. Teach your child to learn from their mistakes, and not beat themselves up. Only when they (and you), can let go of past failures in personal relationships, can embrace a happier and healthier future. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK ‚Äú5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY‚ÄĚ http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS