Category: milestone moments with your special needs child

Milestones Among The Challenges-How To Look For The Silver Lining

Michael is having  a hard time in puberty. This is nothing new and I have shared many examples of this, but as I tell other parents  it’s important to celebrate the victories our children achieve and let the feeling of success filter out to them too.  Sometimes I forget this, but tonight was one of those victories for me. We met friends at a nearby park where a free movie and hot night was being held. The movie was starting quite late, but we decided to meet up and eat with the friends, catch up, and then leave when the movie started. By the time we got there the lineups for the food were crazy long. Given that the park was close by, I told Michael we were going to go home and eat and then head back to meet the friends. He was not happy, but cooperated in the end. He had made some silly comments when we arrived, so I warned him, when we go back to meet our friends your behavior has to be appropriate. It was not only appropriate, but he talked with his friend, and we waited with them in line for their food without any mishaps.

Michael also gave himself his own insulin injection perfectly at dinner AND when we got home right before his bedtime. He was calm, mature and poised. After a week of some challenges at home with words and actions, I got a chance to see the Michael that the rest of the world sees. This Michael was in control of himself. This Michael was listening and expressing himself appropriately. Though he was disappointed he couldn’t afford to wait the long line anymore due to danger of his sugar dropping,  but he took it so maturely. He got a high ten and a major compliment from Dad and I when we got home. And I reminded him that he is capable of doing this great behavior and that this is what we want to see more of. He smiled.

For me, it really helped shine the light on what Michael does right. Lately, I haven’t liked my kid too much. He has been pushing limits at home and being a teen. Still, that combined with his other challenges and complex way of seeing the world, has made me feel overwhelmed. Then, like a glass of water on a hot day, an evening like tonight occurs. I see a major maturity milestone and I see that he is making progress and moving forward. It’s not all struggle. There are victories too, for him and for Dad and I as we watch him take on things that would challenge any kid. I was a proud Mom tonight watching him with his friend, watching how well he handled hearing no, and seeing how well he did when we arrived back at home. I’m still basking in that moment and reminding myself that it is important to keep the milestones close to our heart. When those tough days happen, we will remember that there are easier and exciting days ahead.

Exceptional Parents, do you remember to celebrate the milestone successes with your Exceptional Child? It gets hard when there are more challenging days, but as long as you look for the silver lining in your child’s progress, and all children have them, you will help encourage them and keep yourself positive and strong for the storms ahead. Until next time .

Needing To Be Seen-How To Recognize Your Exceptional Child’s Desire To Be Loved

Today while cleaning up some of Michael’s school paperwork, I came across two things that struck me deep to the core. One of them was a piece of school work where Michael described his fear of a situation, and how once he conquered it with my help, he felt better about it and himself. The second one was a letter I had made him write to the coordinator of a swim program he was in a while ago after he had had a meltdown and we’d had to leave without him having his swim lesson that one time.  It had been an embarrassing afternoon for him and I, and though I wished I’d handled it better when in the locker room, I was proud that I’d at least made him write an apology letter. He had misplaced the letter, and had instead apologized in person at the next lesson, but seeing the evidence over three years later brought tears to my eyes. Michael had come so far since then in understanding himself, and in understanding others. And even back then, he tried so hard. He is a child that never gives up on himself, and this reminds me to never give up on him.

It was great for me to see his growth both in school and with me, through coming across these documents. Sometimes, time seems to stand still and I wonder if Michael is understanding the world better around him. Sometimes I wonder if I too am learning from my mistakes. Both these sheets of paper also helped me see that while my child is learning about the world around him, I too am seeing the mother and person I used to be and the fears I had, and changing those fears into being more proactive and using gentle self-talk where I learn from my mistakes. Yes, I still have moments when I slip up as a Mom. Don’t we all, Moms? Michael has moments when he slips up too, as do all children. Sometimes he will endearingly say, “oops, that was wrong.” Other times it takes time before he learns. He’ll ask for help. Then, there are the times he takes control of the wheel of his life, and boom he’s off learning to be more independent, resilient and positive.

I have those moments too. I am not that Mom I was three years ago. I have learned from the mistakes she made. I also send her hugs and healing energy for the anger and impatience and times she felt she was not strong enough to handle a spirited, neuro diverse kid who did not see the world like her and never would. That’s a good thing. He has taught her to heal the part of herself that she thought was wrong, weak and different in a bad way. They were not and are not, of course! None of these things were true. This Mom though still has moments when she needs to retreat and regroup, just as her son does. That’s ok. She’s human. She learns. She heals. She grows. What I have learned from my old Mom self is that compassion and forgiveness of myself and others go hand in hand. I have also learned not to take things and people too seriously. We all have moments we wish we could take back. Instead, we need to learn from them and grow.

Exceptional Parents, do you sometimes forget to recognize your Exceptional Child’s accomplishments in the midst of navigating helping them through their weak areas? It is normal to tackle and prioritize the difficult areas first. As long as we eventually return to a balanced look at our child, what they are doing right, and what they are having difficulty with, we are seeing the whole child equally, and can then help them be the best they can be. Until next time.

Long Walks, Long Talks-How Having A Parent/Child Routine Can Help Build Resilience In Your Child

So as Michael has pulled more inwards due to puberty and all that has brought up, I have used two physical activities he and I both enjoy doing as a way to keep the lines of communication open; bike rides and long walks. It is on the long walks, even though he brings his headphones along, that Michael will say and do things, sometimes proper, sometimes improper, and I get a chance to talk to him about his behavior and how to conduct himself in a way that brings out his best side. I have to admit that on some of our walks I hold my own emotions together better. On others, well, I raise my voice, even yell a little, then it is a lesson for me too on patience, learning to be calm, and to set a positive example of how to handle myself when up against a challenging personality. Ironically, Michael has said that it is hard to talk to me sometimes because I nag and tell him what to do. This is, of course, when I am telling him to do things that he does not want to do. I gently try to redirect him by reminding him that he may not like everything I say, but if I am saying for him to do something he may not like, for me to push that point it has to be due to his health and well being . Then I get an, oh, ok.

In spite of the ups and downs, we usually have good conversations and Michael has said he enjoys our walks and likes to talk to me. So far so good in keeping the communication lines open like when he was a young child. I too enjoy our conversations. Even when he frustrates me as he sees the world in a way I sometimes still have trouble understanding, I love the way his brain will look at something in a totally different way than a neuro typical person’s would. Sometimes his reasoning seems black and white. Other times there are so many colors  I am amazed. I always feel better after our walks as I learn things too. I learn what to continue doing and what to stop doing.

So how can a parent reach their exceptional child at any age? How do we form a strong bond? Here are some tips that have helped our family through the years:

  1. Find a common activity you both love: If possible, this is the easiest and best way to go and do this activity regularly; ie. daily walks, bike rides, a trip to the park, an outing to a favorite place, or time at home playing a game you both love.
  2. Take a HUGE interest in what you exceptional child loves: This is not always easy as sometimes our kids’ tastes may strike us parents as strange, but there is only positive things to gain if we immerse ourselves in their interests and their world. In my case Michael loves drives and navigation, and now, for better or worse so do I. 😉
  3. Find a good time of day to talk and bond: For some families mornings work best. For others evenings or weekends. The important thing is consistency.
  4. Ask them what is bothering them and/or look for signs of agitation: For kids who are able to communicate effectively, ask them their favorite and not so favorite parts of the day. For children who have a harder time with communication, be vigilant for signs of distress and have sensory sensitive strategies ready to help them unwind and regroup.
  5. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help: If your child is not acting like themselves and other issues are appearing that were not there, seek outside help from professionals who have a  love and respect for the exceptional community. Make sure they vibe with your child and your family.

Exceptional Parents, how do you maintain a good bond with your Exceptional Child? As long as whatever you do involves showing love, respect, positivity and hope in your child and their abilities, you and they are on the right path to continuing to have a close relationship with one another. Until next time.

Communicating Feelings Properly With Your Exceptional Child

It is not easy being an exceptional parent or an exceptional child. Michael and I both have our challenges with figuring out how to express ourselves honestly, asking the other family member for space, and with believing in each other from time to time. Yep, that last one is a tough cookie. You see, Michael is in the middle of major teen rebellion, angst and general confusion.  There could be other things going on too which we are not ruling out, but the thing is, he is super hard to talk to him these days without one or both of us getting frustrated. I feel like he jumps at everything I say, and he feels the same apparently. Just before dinner, I’d finally had enough with the way he answered me and told him this was exhausting for me, to which he answered;

“Mommy, I can’t be like you were when you were young. I’m doing my best. I have a hard time controlling what I say sometimes. I’m sorry.”

My heart hurt and I felt so bad. Yes, he is not neuro typical so of course is more touchy, anxious and angers more easily. I know this and try to understand, but I have my limits some days, and I see that he is also not trying to use new strategies to handle old problems. When I have told him this, he will agree, but say he does not know where to start.

“Then we can brainstorm together. I’ll show you what information we have from your team and we’ll go from there. Daddy and I believe in you, everyone believes in you, but you need to believe in yourself to succeed.”
“You do believe in me? Ok Mommy, I will take time before bed to look at the notes and strategies and try to make those changes. It will take me time though. It’s hard.”
“I know Michael, but each day it will get easier. And I am always here to help.”
“Then how come when I talk to you you are always busy?”
“If you start talking to me when I am cooking, driving or doing another errand, it needs to be something quick as my concentration is on that first task. If it is something important though, tell me. I will put aside what I am doing then if I can, or set a time aside to listen to you very soon.”
“Oh ok. I will.”
Communication is key with exceptional kids. There are many like Michael who can talk about a storm, but misunderstandings ensue because of how they hear what you are saying, if they are anxious, tired, frustrated. As parents, we too sometimes feel exhausted and frustrated as I did today, and don’t hear them out as well as we’d like to. When there are challenging behaviors to boot, it makes it all very complicated. Still, when Michael expressed how he does not feel heard by me, I felt bad as there were times I could have been more clear to him about what was a good or bad time to talk. I also somehow gave him the impression that I don’t want to listen to him or am deliberately misunderstanding him. I quickly corrected that and made a point the rest of the evening to tell him about the good things he did, and how I enjoyed things like our mother/son bike ride early this morning and our mother/son walk up at the park in the evening and a drive we took together mid day. He is so smart and has so much to offer, but when communication lines get crossed it is challenging.

Exceptional Parents, how do you make sure you are communicating effectively with your Exceptional Child? Remember, really listen to them when you can directly, and if it is not a good time to talk, tell them and set aside a time. They will sometimes misunderstand our tiredness for lack of interest or frustration, when really it is bad timing. This is the neuro diverse brain, nothing else. Don’t be afraid to tell your child when they have overstepped your boundaries, but be gentle and direct. Make sure to spend quality positive time with your child doing a favorite activity that leaves good memories, and don’t be afraid to be specific about what you expect in return. Until next time.

Long Drives And Conversations-How I Learn About My Exceptional Tween

Michael has always been a talker and extremely social, with us and the world around him. Then puberty hit. He became social with peers and semi-social with us, but more often than not, I am noticing more retreating and heading to his room for private time alone with his videos or talking to friends. It is great when I have things to catch up on in the house, but I have had to get creative to find ways for us to bond and talk. We do eat meals together, but his appetite is not huge lately due to his medication so it is a quick deal. Other times he is either on the phone or on videos. How do I reach Michael? Well, interestingly, he gave me the opening. It is on long or longer drives around our neighborhood. Yes, as most of you know Michael loves to navigate on Google Maps and loves being in traffic. So you can guess that two of his favorite things to do are to go for drives in the car with ways he has mapped out, or to go for long walks with with me on busy boulevards where he has mapped out what streets he would like to take. Bike rides come in third. 🙂

As most parents will tell you, it is important for your child’s interests to become your own in order to continue to build a good rapport with them. If they see you loving what they love, they will continue to trust you and open up to you, even if you are no longer as cool as their friends. 😉 This has worked for me as Michael in many ways is the typical teenager, except with a dash of ADHD, anxiety, autism and blood sugar issues due to his diabetes that affect his moods one way or another. I have noticed on either walks or drives, he will talk about things that are important to him- friendships, crushes, puberty, anxieties about school or the upcoming summer vacation and we can talk about it together without it sounding like Mom grilling him again. He will also share with me his favorite music. When a song he likes comes on the radio he will tell me. We often have the same taste in music which has been a cool thing to talk about too.

With all the ups and downs he has with learning how to self-regulate, I can honestly say that our drives and walks though sometimes challenging for me when I am tired, have really cemented our mother/son relationship. I feel him opening up to me and sharing thoughts, and it is helping him to learn how to converse and handle emotions that come up. I also get a glimpse of the amazing kid I have, which I sometimes forget is there when he is having behaviors and well, rebelling against his parents as tweens do. Hey, I’m human too, and have my moments when I sigh and say, not another emotional crisis. It is important to truly be there for your child and see them in all their states and abilities. It is important to give them a chance to prove to you and themselves that they can overcome obstacles. And most importantly, it is important to encourage their passions-whatever it is.

Exceptional Parents, how do you continue to stay close to your Exceptional Children? Whatever their interests are, and of course it can be a bit of a challenge, try and immerse yourself in them. Show them you are fascinated by it. Ask questions. Stay close by if they want to talk about it. Eventually they will want to share and let you be a part of the whole experience. That is truly a priceless thing for a parent and child. Until next time.

Those Happy Tears And The Wonders Your Exceptional Child Shows You

This week I had three moments when I experienced tears of joy  as a Mom. One was when I saw the latest book of handwriting and penmanship from school. Seeing how far Michael had progressed in his printing left me speechless. There was a time I thought he would never learn to write. So glad I didn’t let my own fears stand in my way. Michael, as usual, surpassed even my expectations as I’ve seen his progress through the years. The next moment I cried was when he spoke to me about the importance of his stimming. My son is starting to advocate for himself. It was absolutely beautiful to experience. And finally, Michael told me that he may be chosen to be a class reader over the school for literacy month as his reading is so good. I immediately told him, “Wow! I am so proud of you!” Michael’s response was, a little bit of shock and awe, “Really? You’re proud of me Mommy?” And I could hear his pride and happiness that I was proud of him. I know his posturing about not needing Dad or I, not wanting us to hug him etc. is all part of him trying to find himself and make his own identity in growing up, but still I was happy to see he still valued our opinions and was reminded how important it is to tell our kids we love them and are proud of them.
“But I may not get chosen.” He said all earnestly.
“It doesn’t matter. You are being considered. I am proud of your hard work at school. You are a smart and wonderful kid.”
He beamed, I beamed, and I asked his permission to share all of us in the blog tonight. He gave his permission. 🙂 There are still challenging moments, and Michael, like all teenagers, can say some pretty hurtful or insensitive things at times. It’s all relative though, and I don’t REALLY take it personally, but I tell him he needs to be respectful. He is, for the most part. So when we have a week where I can celebrate these positive milestones then, wow, it is great!

Exceptional Parents, what tear jerking moments do you have with your Exceptional Children? Do they come as a surprise or do you anticipate them? The important thing to do is mark them by words of appreciation to your child, and while you are at it, give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done as their parent. It’s not easy riding the highs and lows of exceptional parenting, but you manage and in turn teach your exceptional child to manage their highs and lows too knowing that they are loved, respected and thought of highly in all their personal efforts. Until next time.