Category: neuro diversity

This Exceptional Mom’s Step Closer To Living Neuro Diversity

This afternoon something really special happened. Michael and I had a chance to speak with an amazing young man on the autism spectrum in our community. This has been something I have wanted to happen for a very long time, but with busy work and school schedules it did not happen. This young man and Michael had hung out together at an extra curricular activity years ago and the friendly bond had been mutual. Michael used to ask about him, and over the years I had meant to try and arrange a meeting, but life got in the way. Fast forward to June when I contacted this individual to ask him questions about his tween and teen years and how autism affected him while maturing given the challenges Michael is experiencing. He was a wealth of information and asked if Michael would like to talk with him in person. It would also mark the first time I would meet him face to face. We have corresponded by email, Facebook and spoken on the phone only previously. I was excited and so we set up a day and time to meet. This afternoon late in the day was the meeting.

What an experience! For me watching someone so like Michael, but yet not him, (you know the saying, once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, ) I was loving listening to how they talked, what they talked about, and how they shared thoughts, feelings and laughter together. I was included in the conversation too, for which I felt privileged. There was one moment when Michael heard about all this young man is doing and has accomplished so far in his twenty something years, and said, “Wow, you did all that with autism!” The comment made me laugh and then feel sad, as Dad and I have always told Michael his autistic brain is something to be proud of, and that the only difference between him and someone non-autistic is how they see the world a little differently and need to find what their strengths are and what they can contribute.

Different means we can learn from each other. So my comment back to Michael was, “Yes, he did all that with autism like you do all the amazing things you do with autism. Your brain is beautiful and I wish I could do some of the things you guys are talking about as easily.”  The young man agreed wholeheartedly, and I saw Michael’s happy surprise. It’s the same thing with Michael’s ADHD. I have pointed out over the years how many celebrities and singers have this kind of brain, then added; “look at what they have accomplished. You can make your dreams come true. Just believe in yourself like Daddy and I believe in you.”

For me watching two people with autism talk so openly about victories, struggles and their unique brains,  helped remind me how normalizing who are kids are is what counts the most. It is hard for them when they are around people  who even though well meaning,  may misunderstand what autism is and isn’t. Even Dad and I sometimes forget what Michael needs to hear. He could be looking away and still listening. We need to relax with the look at me. He needs time to finish his thoughts, stay on track, and have gentle reminders to use strategies to stay calm and focused. He also needs to be reminded that autism is a part of who he is and it will not limit him as long as he takes advantages of the strengths he has with the kind of brain he has- hyper focus on interests that could form a career, energy to carry him forward, and an ability to see the world in a different way and get others to follow suit. His explanation for loving traffic jams? It helps me to slow down. I never will look at traffic the same way again! Ironically, Michael and all children and adults I talk to or read about, have taught me to slow down in my life, to look at things from a different perspective, and to see how learning to embrace differences makes us all better human beings in the end.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you celebrated your Exceptional Child’s uniqueness within the autism spectrum? If it’s been awhile since you told them everything about them is awesome, now is the time. Even the things about a different brain that you don’t get, take the time to learn and speak to an individual who is autistic.  They will no doubt open up your mind to what is possible with acceptance, respect and compassion. Until next time.

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How To Diminish Your Exceptional Child’s Anxiety- Diminish Your Own Parental One

What is that saying that we hear so often? If an airplane is going down, should the mother put the oxygen mask on herself or her child first? The answer as we all know is, herself. Why? Because she can’t save her child if she dies. It is the same idea when a child is overwhelmed by anger and anxiety. It is hard for a parent. We feel like we are going down in that plane with our child. We are scared. We panic because we are not the impartial therapists who can afford not to get emotional with the child and do stay calm. This is OUR child. It’s all about emotions. The thing is, and I’ve learned this through personal experience and occasionally still have to, we need to get control of our parental anxiety first before we can help our child get control of their child anxiety.

What does that mean? Well, first it means we have to remain calm when our inner and outer world is falling apart. There is nothing worse than watching your child suffer and not knowing how to help at first.  The second thing is we have to put in on our parental strategies for handling our anxiety and not lose our cool yelling at our kids or worrying too much. This is the hardest thing to do parents, but the payoff is huge. You are able to show your child that you are holding it together and they will be able to also. Thirdly, when you and they are both in relaxed moods, offer strategies that you think might work. If you’re not sure, ask them what they think you could do for them when they are anxious or panicking. Ask them what they need from you and what they could use to help themselves.

Our Exceptional Kids have different brains from us. The wiring is hooked up in a way that is not like a neuro typical adults. Neuro diverse kids need neuro diverse solutions, so what would work for a neuro typical child may not work for them. Elements of a strategy may work, but adjustments will most likely need to be made. Fine tuning. As a parent, you know your child best. You know their mind. If there are things you haven’t figured out due to the fact that they process things in life differently, you may want to consider asking an adult with a neuro diverse brain how they handle anxiety. There are great blogs and books written by people with Autism and ADHD that educate the rest of us on what our exceptional kids need. Read and learn. As a parent and professional, I am always reading something about autism and ADHD as well as anxiety. I try and see how best to understand my Michael’s uniqueness, with some of the way he thinks due to different brain connections.

I also remind myself not to panic. He is still my little big boy as I now call him, though there are days I worry that with puberty and growing up he is growing far away from me understanding him. In reality, I know that is not the case. It is simply that he is having to learn new ways to regulate, self-soothe, and handle his emotions. Even on the toughest days I vow to be there oxygen mask on me and one on him, breathing together and coming out unscathed on the other side.

Exceptional Parents, how calm are you in the eye of the storm of your child’s anxiety or anger? Yes, there will be days you lose your temper and mess up. You are human, after all. Just pick yourself up, learn from the experience, and remember that the calmer you stay as a ship’s captain does, the smoother the ride will be for your child and yourself. Until next time.

Understanding Your Child’s Stim As Necessary Healthy Self-Regulation

It has taken me a long time to make peace with Michael’s stimming. I finally did about three years ago. Like many parents who were told their child was autistic, after being told what we had to do to “fix” it, the next thing was how to normalize their outside behavior, ie. stimming in order to fit in better in society.  As I came to understand that autism is not something to be fixed, my child is not broken but beautiful in another way,  I also began to see that though stimming made me nervous and maybe some other neuro typical people nervous around us due to not understanding it, this was something necessary for autistic people like Michael to do and they each had their own unique way to do it. Neuro typical people stim too, by the way. We just don’t think of it as stimming as it is no ingrained in our popular culture. Playing with hair, bouncing a leg up and down under the table, flicking a pen open and closed are just some examples. Autistic people’s stims though involve things that are unusual for many neuro typical people to understand; rocking, clapping repeatedly, vocalizing with certain words, spinning. The thing is though, that for them it is a way to regulate in a way that calms their body and mind. A lot of stimming is usually done when they are excited or overwhelmed in a busy environment. It’s necessary for their mental health to do this and we all need to understand this.

Some children with autism are sensory seeking like Michael. He LOVES to do long walks in traffic then sit down and watch the cars going by while rocking. Sometimes he will stand and do it. He also loves to rock and clap to his favorite music. I have learned over the years to let him stim whenever he needed to as I see how this has helped him de-compress. Sometimes he tunes me out as I would tune people out during a walk or drive, but usually he can focus just fine on what I am saying. I’ve had to overcome my fear over the years that Michael’s stimming would get him noticed as being different, and then my next questions was, “why is that a bad thing?” The answer back was because I did not want him laughed at or thought of as weird. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what is beautiful about Michael IS his difference, his difference in how he relates to the world, how he takes information in and talks about it. His autism is part of who he is, and I don’t want him fitting himself into a box he is not meant to be in. I want him being proud to be autistic, proud of how his brain works. The world also needs to start recognizing that difference is not to be feared. It is to be celebrated.

I realized that the issues around stimming were my issues. As I got over them, I now embrace Michael’s stimming and all autistic stimming as something I may not always understand, but should I be privileged enough, maybe one day it will be explained to me by an autistic person why they stim in a particular way. I’ve already had some conversations with Michael about this. I loved his answers. And the first time I heard about adult autistic stim parties and told Michael about it, I remember how his face lit up and he said, “Wow. A party where people with autism get together to stim. Cool.” I wanted him to know that when the world gets too much for him, there are people who think like him and have fun by stimming for as long as they need to.

Exceptional Parents, where are you on your journey towards understanding your autistic child’s stimming? It’s not an easy road, and the fact that they are different than you will always be a challenge on some level of communication. Remember however, it is important that they are comfortable in their own skin, physically and mentally as it is for any child. Encourage them to be themselves. If they do not have special needs friends, reach out to others who also have autism so your child sees that there are others like them.  It’s great to have neuro typical friends too, but your child needs to know they are not alone. On your journey as a neuro typical parent, also don’t forget to look for adult autistic mentors for your child who will know your child in ways you will not. I am at that stage now, and it is a privilege to listen to these individuals talk about their childhoods, adolescence and adulthood and say, wow they get my kid because in some ways they are him! They will be your child’s guide and yours to the world of autism and all its wonder. Until next time.

Seeing The Other Side-How To Talk So Your Exceptional Child Understands You

Being the parent of an exceptional child changes you. Heck, being a parent changes you, as you have to remember to talk to your child in a way that reaches them and helps them know you get them. When you have a child whose brain works differently than yours though, the challenge is even greater. Michael’s brain is affected by everything that makes him who he is-autism, ADHD, anxiety, and Type 1 Diabetes. All of these physical and mental things make up how he sees the world, how his brain organizes his reality, and as I’ve seen many times, how this reality is not always the same reality it is for me.

We have had many misunderstandings with one another when I would think he was not listening to me, he was purposely being defiant, and he was not listening. As he grew older and I learned more about neuro diversity and different brains, I began to see how much of what I thought was deliberate was not. He would often not understand where I was coming from, and even with a pretty perfect vocabulary and very good conversation skills, receptive language would still be a challenge. I began seeing how I could make myself more clear and see things from his perspective. I also began talking to him about seeing things from my side, and reminding him that we don’t all think alike, so compromise needs to be something to strive for. Discussing a stressful upcoming event is something I’ve had to learn to do with extreme patience. He will often ask the same question over and over. I used to blow up, as my patience would wear think, and then I would feel terrible. I would see that his anxiety is just too high and his ability to self-regulate is still developing so moving forward was high.

Once I learned how to use my own STOP analogy, that is stop and think before speaking, I eliminated a lot more escalation of fear and anxiety on Michael’s and my end. With autism there needs to be a lot of repetition for Michael to remember things sometimes and put his mind at ease. I devised ways such as schedules on paper or the computer to explain things to him. I also would write social stories or ask our team to help me right good social stories that would explain things more simply. Michael has always been a child so eager to learn and move forward, that this has not been too difficult a process.

As parents it is hard. We need to keep in mind that executive function and any kind of organization skills take extra time for our kids to master. That means we’ve got to extra patient when waiting for an answer from them, waiting for them to move to the next activity, and when frustration builds up more easily than with other kids, remember that it is not their fault or ours. It is two different brains viewing the same problem. As the adult and the one who can set the example, it is up to us to pause, take a deep breath, and redirect our child’s frustration and try and see why they are upset and how the two of you can put your heads together and fix it calmly. That has been the hallmark of success with Michael. When I have stayed calm, or at least as calm as possible, I have come up with great solutions to help Michael is even better, he has found the solutions to the problem. It is a humbling affair raising a little person, but there is so much our exceptional kids teach us. Don’t shy away from the lesson. You won’t be sorry you did.

Exceptional Parents, how often have you been able to put yourself in your Exceptional Child’s shoes? It’s not always easy, but as long as you take the time to see them as trying their very best even when they are failing in that moment, show compassion as you would for yourself, you will start to build a whole new rapport with your exceptional child. They will sense you trying to bridge the gap and meet them halfway. Until next time.

Exceptional Child Without Exceptional Excuses- How To Teach Your Child Not To Use Their Challenges As Excuses

Michael is at the age now where he understands he is neuro diverse and that his brain works differently. Heck, he’s been at that age, for better or worse, for the past three years. I say for better or worse as being the smart kid he is, he has tried to use his different brain as an excuse when he has messed up. I got angry because I have autism and ADHD and it’s harder to control my emotions. My blood sugar was high too. And my medication upsets my stomach and I can’t have my vegetables.

Well, the answer is yes and no. While this is some truth in all of the above, I know that Michael is more than his diagnoses, all of our kids are. The tough thing has been explaining this to him, while also reminding him that he is different and if people don’t know what to make of his stimming or interests, it is up to him to explain himself in a calm and positive way. Different is not inferior or superior. It is just different. Our kids are amazing, but we want them to take responsibility for all their emotions, good and bad.

Too many people have a hard time with kids who don’t fit into the cardboard box so-called norm, but that is fortunately changing as more and more information is becoming available through other neuro diverse individuals about what it is like to live in a neuro typical world and have another outlook on life. Parents can connect with other parents and exchange information and help to get their children to thrive. I think in the end though, the challenge is reminding your child that they are responsible for all their actions, good and bad, and that no matter how hard it is for them to regulate, they need to find their own ways to self-soothe and advocate for change for themselves and all neuro diverse people. Of course, when they are little, we parents and other authority figures must do it. There does need to be some help in place to support kids who have challenges. The only thing is that it is important not to use said challenges as excuses that they can’t control anxiety, anger, fear, learning issues or anything else.

Yes, it will be hard. Yes, there will need to be support and understanding. This is where parents and other adults come in. It is up to us to advocate for exceptional children when they are young. However, as they get older we need to pass the reins of self-advocacy over to them. We need to teach them to advocate for themselves, but in a responsible way where they take control of their challenges and are able to be independent, happy and healthy in the world. This is a step by step process and takes time. The first step, is a no excuses mantra they must be taught. Then, help them find solutions.

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children make excuses for themselves at home or in school? Do they not believe in themselves? If so, it’s time to break that cycle that is defeatist so that they can learn what is  under their control and what is not. Once they know that, they will be able to achieve the ultimate balance in the world. That is what we all want after all, a healthy and balanced life for our kids. Until next time.

The Joy and Pain Of Exceptional Parenting And How To Encourage Your Child To Grow From Their Mistakes

This has been a tough few days for Michael and I. Michael’s anxiety and anger have been touch and go, but I have to say, as hard as it has been watching him suffer to learn self-regulation with all his challenges, the joy of seeing him “get it” when he does, is incredible. He will make me laugh when he sometimes purposely tries to use his autism and adhd as excuses when he is acting inappropriate. I call him on it each time, reminding him that yes his brain works differently and he is neuro diverse, but that is not an excuse to be aggressive or rude. I remind him how many neuro diverse people out there follow the rules of safety and respect, and that he is capable of it too. After all, at school he does wonderfully, at least on the outside.

He has confessed to me on more than one occasion how he pushes his anger down and screams and curses on the inside, but not out loud. I tell him it is ok to be angry, but that anger or anxiety out of control is dangerous for him and others around him. He worries so much when he loses his temper and calls us names, makes aggressive comments or throws things. I have learned to remain calm, redirect him to a calm spot. We have several different signals and words we are experimenting with using. And then when he calms down, he is always remorseful and thanks me for giving him a chance. I tell him to keep believing in himself and try to stop and think before acting. He is worried sometimes he will never get control of his emotions until he is an adult. I remind him that  if he can do it in school, he can do it at home.

Of course at home he is loved unconditionally. Of course at home the same kind of social embarrassment is not present. And of course after bottling up emotions all day, at home it is safe to explode. Explode I allow. It’s the other more dangerous effects of anger that we are working on as a family. I have to say though, that things are improving as far as Michael seeing the consequences of his actions. He seems more anxious and quick to anger these days, but then recovers from it faster. He also has good awareness of what he is doing wrong, and will say he appreciates his father’s and my help to learn from his mistakes. He enjoys the reward system we have set up, and is back to sharing most of his school day with me. He seems more focused on learning and receptive to schedules and routine.

But when he is upset and asking me to help him calm down, it breaks my heart when I have to admit I can’t. For years, I tried. Then I realized that he needed to learn to self-soothe on his own, with his own strategies. I stay nearby, but understand finally that it is NOT my job to fix everything. That is his. It is also his to learn from his mistakes and grow stronger. Tonight, he felt embarrassed by two fights he had with me. He apologized for ruining the night. I quickly told him he did not ruin the night. It was a tough homecoming for sure, but shortly before dinner he turned things around by calming down and then had a great evening with his father and I. I told him a day or night is not a write-off as long as you turn things around and learn from your mistakes. Then, we celebrate the success and move forward. His whole attitude changed after that. I was proud that he could understand and participate in this kind of conversation. My little boy was indeed a big boy and growing up.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle the pain and joy in watching your Exceptional Child grow up? There are moments that are tough to walk away from, but you must. That is how your child will learn. Stay nearby, but let them find their way to soothing, self-regulation. Then, you will be pleasantly surprised when they get it one day and can start to connect the dots of their behavior to their actions. They are truly little heroes, and deserve our continued love and belief in them. Until next time.

Why Mindful Parenting Rocks And How To Do It

So I have just finished reading this great book on ADHD called “Mindful Parenting for ADHD” by Mark Bertin, MD. It encompasses much of what I already know about ADHD and how it affects executive function and organization. It also talks about another subject that is super close to my haert- how practicing mindfulness can help you be a better and more effective parent of a child with a different brain. I truly believe being mindful and learning to be present, calm and focused, can help a parent with any child, but especially a child whose brain and body don’t work the way ours does, taking a moment to center ourselves can make all the difference in how we handle their stressful moments which eventually become ours.

At the end of each chapter are exercises which compliment the chapter and help parents plan out a home program. I am working my ways through these, because even though I currently have great resources to support Michael, this helps me on the parent and child front. One of my favorite chapters is the one on self-care and the importance of taking care of you first in order to better nurture your child. A lot of us exceptional parents know these things, but putting them into practice is hard. You can find so many good tools here that it is a truly worthwhile looking into.

When I really started understanding Michael better was when I started delving deeper into my own handling of anger and anxiety. Meditation and yoga as I’ve mentioned countless times before, showed me how to center myself when I was falling through space, and helped me see how scary it is when we don’t have access to the right tools to calm ourselves down. If we are a neuro typical adult it is scary. Imagine now if you are an exceptional child with a neuro diverse brain and way of looking at the world. Scary would not even begin to describe how fear, anxiety and anger would be experienced.

Meditation and mindfulness can be taught to a child or adult at any age. You can start with 5 or 10 minute meditation blocks and move on to 20 when ready. For kids you would talk about mindfulness different than for adults obviously, but as long as you teach them to stop, be in the moment no matter what they are feeling, and learn to breathe in and out slowly to calm their mind, they are on the right path. So many of our kids, whether they have autism, ADHD, learning challenges or other neurological or physical challenges feel misunderstood, overwhelmed and incapable of handling their emotions at times. As their parents and advocates, our best way to teach them the skills they need to learn is through learning them ourselves first. How do I handle my anger and anxiety? How do I organize my life? How do I simplify and break down a problem into smaller pieces so that it is easier to understand?

Exceptional Parents, do you parent mindfully? If not, don’t worry. It is never too late and you are never too old to learn. All it takes is learning to be present with yourself first and how you are feeling honestly. Once you learn to identify your emotions and how you deal with them, you can find many wonderful guided meditation practices online that teach you to focus on the present. Trust me this will be an invaluable tool to helping your anxious or angry child. If they see you calm and in control even when there are problems, they will begin to understand that they can do it too and adapt strategies that work for them and their brain. Until next time.

Connecting With Your Exceptional Child By Accepting ALL Of Their Quirks

Tonight after Michael finished having his hair cut at the children’s hairdresser I still take him to, he turned to me and told me, “I need to stim Mommy. I can’t stim properly in the car with it moving and on the bus the kids tell me to stop.”

He was clapping his hands quite loudly with his hands fidget, and as always I worried that it might disturb people in the hair salon though there was just two other families there. I very gently gave him a deadline of another minute and told him we could continue when he got home.
“That’s not enough time. The salon is open till nine o’clock tonight. We can stay till nine, right?”

I knew it would not take till nine, but I also did not want to leave the time open ended.

“No, Michael. We can’t stay till nine. I have things to do at home. A minute more and that’s it. You can finish stimming when we get home.”
Michael started swearing and posturing. I saw an escalation happening in the hairdresser, so calmly responded in a low voice.
“I don’t like that language. It is inapropriate. I don’t mind going back to the car and waiting with the motor off for you to finish your stimming, but we need to leave now and you need to calm down.”

I waited to see how he would react. He calmed down, and immediately responded.

Really? Ok, sure Mommy.” And off we went. Michael happily walked to the car and once in the car did his stimming for about five minutes until he announced he was finished. Then, interestingly he asked me a question:

“Mommy, do you get upset when I stim?”

I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I’d had with a Mom friend the night before, about our sons with autism and stimming, and how much we had hated it at the beginning as it reminded us that they were different, and of course , we wanted to change our kids, make them something they weren’t for we feared society accepting them for who they were.  Those were the days when I thought autism was a bad thing. I later learned it was not the case. Autism is who my son is and is beautiful. I wouldn’t change him for anything in the world. I e’d come a long way since then.  So had she. We laughed about it.

However, I still did worry when Michael stimmed in public. I worried about people underestimating him for what he could do if they judged the stimming. I worried about mean comments being made towards him. Though this has not happened as more and more people GET autism now, I still worry, so public stimming is still something I am working on understanding and as much as possible, letting Michael do what he needs to do to regulate everywhere. I am starting to watch other adult autistic videos where they are teaching me how to understand Michael better. I so appreciate their guidance. I answered him;

“No, Michael. It doesn’t bother me when you stim. You need to do it for your health and I know it helps you feel happy and healthy. You do need to find places where it is easier to do it though, as sometimes it can be noisy to other people. But, I will always understand if you need to do it.”
Michael smiled and said he was ready to go. Later at the house while he was getting ready for bed, he again surprised me by saying;

“Why do you talk firmly to me? You can’t do that because I have autism. It’s hard for me to get ready for bed on time.”
I looked at him and smiled; “Nice try. But I was speaking firmly as you were stalling to get ready for bed and me being firm reminding you of your bedtime schedule is because I love you and want you to get rest. Plus, don’t blame your autism on you stalling. That would be an insult to you and all autistic people who are smart creative individuals.”

Michael  admitted he had been stalling, then said;

” I know Mommy. You understand my autism and ADHD quite well. Daddy too.”
“And I am doing my best to keep learning Michael.”

After that the rest of the routine went well, and Michael turned in on time for bed.

What did this show me? This showed me that in spite of rough moments (Michael testing with language and aggressive talk), I could still show Michael my love of him in all moments, while being firm and setting some boundaries in how he needs to respect those around him too. Yes, autistic brains are different, but it does not mean that rules don’t apply. Michael asked me as well tonight, do I love him even when he is angry? He worries when we have tough challenging moments like this morning when he got angry at what I packed him for lunch and tonight when he was upset that I was redirecting him where to stim. I answered yes, of course. I love him no matter what and I will always help him. It’s important when our kids struggle emotionally and behaviorally that they know there is acceptance from parents no matter what. Of course there needs to be boundaries too and rules made to protect them. But if you show your child love with rules they cannot break, you will strike the right balance.

Exceptional Parents, do you show and tell your Exceptional Child you love them even when they mess up? Do you accept the whole package of your child, even what is hard for you to process? If not, it’s ok. Most of us are neuro typical, and it takes time to understand a different brain that is autism adhd or other different ways of seeing the world. Above all, show your child support for who they are, remind them you love them, and learn all you can about how they think and why. The interest you will show will make a massive improvement in your child’s outlook, and help them feel better about being who they are in the world teaching them strategies to help them get along and advocate for themselves one day. Until next time.

Why ADHD is Cool And Why It’s Important Exceptional Parents Remember That

Tonight I had one of those afternoon and evenings with Michael when he was a little, shall we say, high strung and at times challenging. He was having a hard time focusing on what he needed to do, (in this case get ready for and the playing tennis at his weekly lesson). He was argumentative with me about leaving on time, and then was silly and hyperactive at the lesson. When the teacher got him to focus, and that she did, he performed well so the lesson was a success. But he kept coming back to me and asking me about calling up a friend later. I could truly see the ADHD which was making it challenging for him to focus, sequence and move forward in a logical way. This was both frustrating for me, but then on the car ride home when we talked about how the evening would unfold, I also spoke to him about his ADHD. He admitted that he has a  hard time organizing himself due to the ADHD and he needs help and reminders. I agreed with him, and told him I and his teachers would support him with reminders, but he needed to do the work too to stay focused. I came up with a new mantra-Stop, Breathe, Think, Speak Or Do.  It has met with reasonable success, but still needs work. I also am trying to get him back to doing mediation and yoga to learn to stay in the moment and breathe.

In talking to Michael however, I also found myself saying out loud how cool ADHD was. Yes, parents I used those exact words much to my own happy surprise! I said, just like Autism means his brain works differently and he has many interesting ways of seeing the world because of it, the same is true of ADHD. I was surprised, because though I have said it to other adult people I know who have ADHD and I truly believe this kind of brain is incredible when I see it in kids or adults, I was having a hard time seeing my child’s ADHD as cool. I think that’s because helping him focus and reigning in some of that excess energy is far from simple, and at the end of a busy work week, the last thing a parent wants to do is have behavior challenges to deal with.

Still, in saying it out loud, I felt happy, happy for Michael that he has quirky personality traits due to ADHD, and happy for me that I could see the positives in what amounts to a very fast and different brain which zeroes in on things neuro typical brains may not see right away. I told Michael that in order for him to see his ADHD as the gift that it is, he has to make sure not to let the stressful parts of how his brain works get him in trouble. I compared it to loving food so much that we overeat and feel sick. You can love food, but enjoy in moderation. Same with the way you experience life at a faster pace. Talk a lot, get excited, but know when to tone it down.

Later in the evening I also thought it’s like when I write a story and my characters talk to me in my head. Yep. They actually do sometimes. I have also seen what they look like. However, I don’t have full blown conversations with make believe characters, nor think others want to hear about these characters in my daily life in detail, unless of course they ask about a story or book I am writing. Then if it is the appropriate moment, I talk about the story.  That’s what we need to do as parents. Praise the uniqueness, quirks and different ways our child’s brain works due to Autism, ADHD or whatever other challenges they are facing, while helping support them to overcome the difficulties they face in our world due to their different outlook and ways of relating. We also need to teach them there is a time or place for having certain conversations.

Exceptional Parents, how do you talk about your Exceptional Child’s brain and the way they see the world? It’s important to support our children as well as celebrate their differences. We all have our challenges and strengths. It’s by honing in on the strengths while giving support for the weaknesses, that we will help instill a positive attitude in our children as they step into the world more and more on their own. Then, they in turn can educate others out there about differences and celebrate them in a positive way.  Until next time.

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

Debunking Autism Stereotypes And Remembering Your Exceptional Child’s Individuality

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

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

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

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

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