Category: neuro diversity

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.

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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! 

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.