Category: neuro diversity

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! 

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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

How To Accept Your Exceptional Child’s Strengths and Limitations By First Accepting Your Own

It was a busy end of the week and weekend, which is why I did not get a chance to post. That and starting a really bad cold, which thankfully, is now on its way out. Still, even when I am not writing about Michael, I am learning from him  as he is always teaching me about special kids like himself and about the world at large. Somewhere in the middle of all that I learn something about myself as well. What I was reminded of over the course of the last few days was a lesson Michael has shown me many times over the years. I was given a glimpse last week into many of his strengths, but also as in the past, many of his weaknesses. Some of these weaknesses I was aware of, others are new. Navigating OCD and ADHD when we have all pretty much mastered much of ASD and Diabetes has been a challenge. But even these difficulties for Michael and me have not caused the most problems. For me, it is those moments when I see Michael as different, really different, and I have a hard time accepting that there are some things he does not understand or may never understand. The funny thing is other people around him do not seem bothered by it, but I am.

For example, we were in one of his favorite shopping malls over the weekend. He likes to do his rounds as we can them, visiting the assistant manager of one of his favorite stores, and popping into other stores. He has also developed some strange stims with elections coming up in our neck of the woods. He likes to go up to the voting signs and kiss them. He likes certain candidates and is a little disappointed he cannot vote. We told him he will have the option when he is eighteen years old. 🙂 This is cute, of course, but also odd. Then there are the times he will go into the local butchers and pick up the meat to feel it and smell it. It is sensory. He has done this with other foods. People around us smile at him lovingly, but I get worried. This is what makes him stand out and makes him different. I worry that people will not always be so accepting of how different he is in some ways to them. Now, of course he is like other non exceptional kids in many other ways. He likes sports, video games, going to parks, but what could be holding him back from many opportunities I fear are some of these strange mannerisms.  Then once I think this I am ashamed. Ashamed because I truly believe now in my forties that what makes us all unique and special is what makes us different from one another, whether we are neuro typical or not.  So what if we don’t fit into a cardboard box of someone else’s definition of what regular behavior looks like? The world needs to learn to embrace difference, and I need to be ok to embrace my child’s oddities, even the ones related to sensory issues or OCD. As long as they do not hurt anyone, why am I stressed and sad when I see this?

In short, the other night when sitting alone after Michael had gone to bed, I thought that for me standing out and being different was always a challenge until I turned forty years old. And it’s been a battle to continue to push myself past my own insecurities over what will people think, what will people do, will people accept me? As I have watched Michael be who he is from birth with no filter, no restraint, a loving and free spirit who brings such joy and light into everyone’s life that he touches, whether family, friends or strangers, I have had to face that my worries about Michael being more-more quiet, more academic, more focused, more whatever are really about my own worries about me standing out, being me, and being true to the me who is ever changing and surging forward.

I have also realized that I can teach Michael to be more socially appropriate, patient and respectful to the best of his abilities. The rest lies with him and what he will do on his path. As for me, I need to keep questioning why even though I now celebrate my differences and what makes me uniquely myself more and more everyday, my strengths and limitations, there is still a scared part of me holding back. I decided this weekend to  her a hug and tell her she will be alright, more than alright. I have decided to gently take her hand, tell her there is no fear to be herself always and everywhere. I have decided that in order to fully love my child and not worry if I am doing “enough” to help him move forward, I first have to love me enough to see that as long as love, patience, respect and belief in the talents I have is present all the time, I will sometimes falter and worry about Michael’s progress in comparison to other exceptional children. There is no need to worry. He is doing great. I am doing great. We both need to work on strengthening our limitations and celebrating our strengths. I am so proud of Michael and I am so proud of me. We have both come far on our exceptional family journey in all areas of our life, and I truly believe, that as long as we continue to keep learning and growing together, things will only get better.

Exceptional Parents, are you as hard on yourself as an Exceptional Parent as you are on your child? If so, take heart. You can always learn to let go of the idea of perfection. No one is perfect. That would be boring and stressful. Having flaws and beauty are what make life interesting. Celebrate the strengths your child has as you celebrate your own. Work with them on accepting their weaknesses and learning ways to compensate and support those weaknesses. Never compare yourself to anyone else, parent or child. You are your own special unique person and that is reason enough to celebrate. And, as always, thank your child for teaching you this patience and kindness that you now have towards yourself and others as a result of parenting an extraordinary child. Until next time.

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. I have been there before realizing the gift of who my son is.  For more information about me and my journey, check out my website :www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com  as well as my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/ebooks. 

 

How My Exceptional Child Showed Me How To #TakeTheMaskOff

I am very impressed with the whole neurodiversity movement as a movement to show the world that kids with autism, ADHD, and any other so-called disability just have different brains and lots to offer the world if it gives them a chance. I have also learned how I, as a Mom of a neurodiverse child with a different brain and view of the world, have been guilty of masking. In the early days of Michael’s autism diagnosis, I was worried about his rocking and obvious physical movements. I was worried it would alert negative attention to him and get him labeled in a deviant way. I was wrong. Yes, people asked why he did that. People were curious. And many knew about autism. Some more than others. I am still overwhelmed by the people who “get” Michael in a way that took me time to get him. Sometimes they are people who are neurodiverse, of course. Other times though, they are people with their own challenges who just understand a kid who thinks outside of the box. When I started seeing more of myself in Michael, it both excited and frightened me. Wow. Now I had a responsibility to try and understand his brain which was different from mine, but yet, not all that different. I have anxiety. I sometimes shy away from people and talk too much, or not enough. I also felt different inside growing up. But back to Michael and this whole incredible movement of people who want the world not to regard them as less than, but as capable, in their own way.

Masking, at least from what I understand it to be, is pretending to “pass” and be something you are not, not autistic, not with ADHD, not with anything else. In other words, assimilate with the “normal” or “neuro-typical” people,  by behaving the same as them or not standing out. People who are exceptional can do this, but at a price. I have seen it in my own child, and it pains me. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being different. I proudly tell people Michael has autism and talk about the other ways his brain works differently, and I make sure to say that though it is sometimes challenging for his Dad and I to understand him, we respect him and want him to do what he needs to do to be the person he was created to be and do what he was meant to do here on earth.  I’d like to say I was always so enlightened to have practiced this, but no I was not. I tried to get him to “pass” as a baby, and when he did not as he got older, I did not venture out too far from our immediate family and special needs community.

As Michael has gotten older, he has done the venturing himself and taken me with him. I found myself telling him in hushed tones, “don’t stim too much with your toy. People will think you are being aggressive.” “This is the way to act so you don’t draw attention to yourself.”  “People with autism and people without share the world together and you can’t always expect them to understand you honey.” This was my fear talking. Fear of Michael getting bullied for being different, especially in light now of intense anxiety and other hyperactivity issues. It was also my fear of not being able to protect him and advocate for his uniqueness and amazing brain and abilities. Then, as usual, Michael surprised me with doing what I think I had  originally been prepating him for, and didn’t know it. Michael has started educating others about his autism and diabetes and other challenges. He explains to kids at parks why he stims. Today he shared a story at camp where kids asked him questions about his fidget toy and diabetes supplies. Michael went on to tell them about his autism, diabetes and suspected ADHD. He told them why he stims and why he carries the toy. They were interested. Some kids did make some negative comments, but a boy in the group who has a brother with autism said, “hey guys, leave him alone .People with autism need to stim. It helps them. It’s all good.” Wow. I also need to mention that he does not have a shadow or companion at the camp he is at now. This is the first year we have tried this, and he is doing well. He is literally out there in the world on his own, and I could not be more proud of how he is starting to advocate for himself. This is happening while he is struggling with coming to terms with so many other things.

After some difficult moments tonight, Michael shared this story with me and I felt humbled and in awe of him. He is so strong. I told him that I was so proud of how he is telling the world who he is. Yes, there have been moments he has tried to use his autism to get things his way, ” (and that will be another blog post) :), but tonight he showed me how important it is for people with autism to take that mask off. Yes, not everyone is comfortable to do it right away, but as parents and caregivers of special kids, we need to make the world see them not as disabled or less than, but as the capable individuals they are. The world needs people with autism and people with autism need to be able to be themselves at all times.

Exceptional Parents, do you embrace who your Exceptional Child is? Do you let them take the mask off in public as well as private or worry what people will say? It’s a process as a parent and as someone with an exceptional brain will tell you. It comes with time, patience, and humility. Be open to reading blogs and articles from people who have autism. Try and understand their world as they are working so hard to understand yours. Help society accept all differences as beautiful. Together, we’ll make the world a wonderful place. Until next time.

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. I have been there and lived these very words before realizing the gift of who my son is and what he has helped me realize. If you want to have more information about me and my journey, check out my website http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com and my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/ebooks.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

 

Who is This Child? How To Cope When Exceptional Children Reach Puberty

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I could not believe the words my eleven year old said. “Mommy, the kids say I smell, and I noticed  hair growing down there.” Of course, I had suspected as much from his behavior, taste in music, and interest in his peer group. But nothing had quite prepared me for my exceptional child hitting puberty this early! Friends have shared with me about their kids’ bodily changes as well as crushes on girls, but I naively thought, I have another year or two. I even joked with another friend, oh please, with challenging behaviors, diabetes, autism, and ADHD my hair will go white and I will completely lose it if puberty strikes now. Well, the joke is on me folks. Puberty is here and is intensifying. The weird thing is, my kid both needs and rejects me. Friends are important in the day, but at bedtime, Mom tuck me in, hug me, talk to me.  Hmm. I remember this from thirty some odd years ago, when I did the same with my parents. I was close to them, but so desperately trying to flee from their conventions. And I was a so-called “good girl.” 🙂

It is both exciting and terrifying to see Michael entering puberty so early. At least it feels early for me. I guess the next thing will be interest in girls, his body, or both. Oh boy. I’ll leave that one to Dad. 🙂 Though I am up for any honest discussion about love, intimacy and spirituality.  I have the benefit of several friends whose sons have entered this phase already sharing their knowledge with me, so I know we can laugh and talk about it. I am also glad that Michael is going through this phase as any child would. I just need to have the tools ready to help him address his questions and feel at ease. Just like a neuro typical child, not every child with autism experiences puberty in the same way. As parents, we need to respect that, be there for them, and give them room to breathe and be who they are. It is challenging for us as parents not to panic. I am glad we have medicinal and behavioral strategies in place to help Michael reach  his potential.

Michael also coaches us daily in what he needs to thrive- parents who are adventure seekers, open to trying new things, and accepting of him, difficulties and all. Dad and I are all those things. We struggle sometimes to understand who is this child? The child  that once listened to us the majority of the time with little incentive or rewards, now requires immense promise of rewards to comply. The child that once wanted us to play with him all the time and BE with him, now wants us there with him, but as an ends to a means. He is scared, help him. He needs to go somewhere, drive him. It is both comforting and disconcerting. He is growing up, but needs to learn strategies to manage, stress, anxiety and anger. Dad and I are working hard with his team to help him learn to handle all the changes happening. Dad and I are also working to handle our own emotions, take care of ourselves individually and as a couple, and help those around us. None of this is easy, but is important and so worth it in the end.

Exceptional Parents, have your Exceptional Children hit puberty yet? If they have, how are you handling it? If they have not, how do you think you will handle it? Remember, if you take care of yourself by staying calm, collected and in control, you will be setting the best example for your child. If they have, pace yourself. As long as you are able to keep your sense of humor and sympathy for the hard road ahead for them, (and you as their guides), you will continue to be their best cheerleader and advocate, teaching them to care for themselves as you care for yourself. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

Your Growing Exceptional Child-How To Juggle Their Unique Developmental Milestones

 

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, a child who is exceptional with a different brain needs an even bigger village. You see, with an exceptional child, as they catch up on milestones, parents are often raising not just their child at their actual age. Most of our kids are not at that age in most things. In some areas, they are at an infant or toddler level, other areas a younger child, and then there are their “gift” areas where they are far advanced than their neuro typical peers and even some adults. It’s enough to give the average parent a headache, and sometimes as I’ve noticed with Michael, I have to pause and take a second to see, who is he now, and what is the best way to approach this question, behavior, etc. I have been told by many professionals to remember that he has significant communication deficits, even when he asks the “BIG” questions. This is true. I have also been told that, regardless of autism, a different brain and way of seeing the world, he is at heart a little boy. Don’t put too much on him or explain too much. I have learned to do this too. But Michael has also shown me, and continues to show me, how to be a versatile parent and jump through the developmental stages as he is doing.

There was a morning a few days ago that I was hugging a much younger frightened child who was worried about an upcoming appointment he felt nervous about. I hesitated, what would help him? I held him as he cried. He hadn’t reacted this way in a long time, and usually now will tell me “Don’t touch me. I’m a big boy.” He let me hold him, and I spoke to him that sometimes we need to do things that scare us and it’s ok to be scared. He nodded slowly. Then I asked Michael if he would feel better if I wrote a social story about the upcoming appointment. He agreed. We read it several times. We agreed to let him bring his Barney stuffed animal to the appointment, and it went very well. Here I was helping a much younger child. Another day, I had to relay a change of news and I was bracing myself for a reaction. Michael instead surprised me and made a more age appropriate choice to give up the activity we would not have time to do with barely a raised eyebrow. Still, another time when I was lost somewhere, Michael calmly directed me out with an alternate route. Here he was older than his age.

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How can a parent navigate through this? It starts by first knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses, or rather their at age abilities and their under and above age activities. It also means reminding  yourself that your child is never as behind or as advanced as you think, and this can shift daily as they grow in their abilities and catching up. Above all, it means having patience, staying calm, and tuning into your own growth or where you still need to grow and stretch to get your child more. This is where talking to other parents, professionals, and reading works by adults who have autism or different-abled brains can give you a glimpse into your child that you may not see. Regardless, trust that you know your child’s unique brain and emotional makeup better than anybody. And remember, as a friend recently told me, our children go through a lot just to survive a day in our super sensory world. Let’s give them a hand fro that, and us a hand for being their guides in our world as they are our guides in theirs.

Exceptional Parents, who are you speaking to today? Remember, your child’s abilities ebb and flow depending on the day, hour, week. Be patient with their growth curve and your own as your parent them. Be gentle with yourself. Also, remember to keep your sense of humor. Your child will do funny, strange and beautiful things that will have your child reeling. Be ready to just be in the moment learning with them. You won’t regret it. 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 “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS

Join Or Fight The Stim – That is The Question

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Stimming or stim- a self-stimulatory behavior that pretty much all people with autism do to regulate their nervous systems, handle stress, anxiety, noise and excitement in their own way. This is something all of their neuro typical parents fear. Why? Well, when they are stimming they are not responding to us most of the time. They are lost in “that world” the world where non autistics don’t go, the one where we as parents do not feel wanted, the one we fear as that was where our children were as babies  when they were unreachable pretty much most of the time. As they got older, whether they became verbal or not, chances are they got more reachable, they joined us in our world and we felt, great our child is here now. Let’s teach them. Let’s have a relationship with them. But did we join them in their world? In short, yes.

With Michael, this was something I fought for years, stopping him stimming. He likes to rock and “clink” his chewy or any other kind of soft toy. He carries it everywhere, and if he is told at school, camp or at an activity to put it down he will. He will also put it down for logistics like eating, showering and toileting, but he will need it the rest of the time. I fought for a while to try and get him at first to stop stimming, not understanding that it is as essential as breathing for him as it is for all autistic people. You see, I was afraid of stims, and as a parent I still have to stop myself when he is stimming from panicking a little that my little boy will be so happy doing that he won’t want a relationship with me. I used to even tell the grandparents when he was younger to interrupt the stim and try and stop it. I’ve known better for years now. The only thing I do tell him, and that is as much for his making his way easier in the world, that he should stim a limited amount of time in public when he is with other people and do more at home. I tell Michael this both so he could be more in the moment with others, and also so he does not get comments and stares from people that do not understand. When he is home he can stim when he likes. This particular weekend he admitted he got carried away stimming and ended up going to bed late. Dad and I gently reminded him even at home, he has control over it, and can decide when to stop.

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As a parent, it took me years to change the mindset of seeing this practice as helping my child. I read and continue to follow many wonderful blogs written by autistic adults, one in particular that talked about stimming parties he had with his autistic friends. Last night at bedtime, I spoke to Michael about this. His response? “Wow, Mommy. That sounds so cool. You mean a party where I could stim with my friends?” It has really opened up my eyes about what Michael and other people with autism need. I also have some wonderful friends who though not autistic, have had mental health issues themselves like me. Their brain also works a little differently than the so-called norm. One of them once said to me, “Have you ever tried joining Michael in the stim? Do the dance Joanne.” How beautifully put. And I thought, yes, yes. She is right. As soon as I stopped fearing the unknown to my brain, that was when my relationship with Michael deepened. I wished I had known this when he was younger, but at least I learned it in his early childhood years. I now see how his stims are a part of him, just like his interests and his physical appearance, just like his smile and the rest of his personality. There is not one thing I would change about Michael. He is perfect in every way. I want to help him be successful at life, handle our world the best way he can. As I’ve said before, it’s a stressful world for those of us without different brains and sensory systems. For our kkids, it’s a daily battle to get through it sometimes. They,  and the adults with neuro developmental differences around us, are the unsung heroes of our times.

Exceptional Parents, do you “do the dance” with your Exceptional Children or do you fight it? It’s scary I know. You don’t want to feel you are losing them again. Here’s a secret. You won’t. You’ve shown them how cool our world can be with you and other loved ones in it. There’s neat things for them, even with all the stress that goes with it. So join them in their world once in a while. Let them take you by the hand and guide you on the adventure of what things look like from their perspective. If they see you trust them, they’ll trust you all the more. Happy trails ahead. 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 “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.