Category: personal growth

Giving Space And Making Boundaries-Finding the Balance With Your Exceptional Child

Finding the balance. That sounds like such a cliché for life in general, especially living in a family, but it is all about balance- having time alone, having time with your child or children, having time as a couple and with friends and extended family. And then of course, there are the strategies you need to put into place to have this happen, this balance. It’s not easy. We need to have a system in place though for ourselves, so then it is easier to show our exceptional kids what is expected of them.

It has taken me a while to fine tune a balance with Michael. What was balance when he was five years old changed when he was eight and now at twelve it is even more different. Balance for me also looks different today and is healthier. So what exactly does this mean? It means giving your child their own personal space while they give you yours. This space means they can create, make mistakes and learn from it. You as the parent have this same option. Boundaries though, are the things our kids can’t cross. Children and adults should both respect boundaries for things like hugs, personal space and time alone.

As Michael has grown up, he has needed less time one on one with Dad and I. This does not mean that he does not still turn to us for advice, sharing news, and to talk. It just means he does not need us to create his whole schedule like when he was younger. He still needs a schedule though, but he now sets the pace. Many exceptional kids need the space to set their own activities, while parents still put down the rules for other activities. Figuring this out with your child means finding what amount of time they can organize, and what they need help with. Emotionally, kids need us at all ages, but as they grow up, it’s important to have them learn how to self-regulate, handle disappointment as well as success and excitement. You are there in the wings to help them, but let them fly.

Exceptional Parents, how do you find the balance with your Exceptional Child? The best way is to start with the basic things that make relationships work-discussing time spent together, discussing time spent apart, and compromising with each other in between. Let your child take the lead in asking for what they need, then you as the parent lovingly guide them to choosing what they are capable of choosing and setting up parental rules and protections on the rest of your relationship. A child will feel safest when they have some control, and parents have rules as safeguards in place for the rest. Until next time.

Advertisements

It Hurts Like Hell-How To Help Your Child Get Through Exceptional Puberty

“I don’t want to go out places Mommy. People look at me weird when I am rocking or stimming. And I don’t want them seeing me check my blood sugar. I don’t want to explain that I’m diabetic.  I’m embarrassed.”
“They’re probably wondering what you are doing. You know you can tell them you are autistic and that rocking or stimming relaxes you.  Your ADHD brain also means you have a lot of energy.  And there is no shame in having Type 1 Diabetes. It’s a medical condition and lots of kids have it.”

“Do I have to tell them?”
“No, of course not. It’s your choice. Just remember, be proud of who you are because you are pretty amazing.”

This was one of our easier conversations now that Michael is a tween in puberty.  Puberty is not easy, but when you have autism, ADHD and Type 1 Diabetes you are riding quite a roller coaster of emotions, as are your family. My heart breaks for Michael at these moments. He does not like going out to stores unless he has no choice, as he has become super self conscious about who he is. Thankfully he still goes on  his solo walks and bike rides. He likes the independence, but being out in public is stressful as he learns to handle how different he is from a lot of people. Dad and I are gently encouraging him to be himself, work though the anxiety with strategies, and I hope that with time, his social fears will go down. We are always looking for new ways to help him tackle his fears.

On the other side, we have moments when he pushes us away and does not want to talk. During those moments, we respect his boundaries reminding him that we are close by when he wants to talk. Sometimes he does this politely, other times he can be rude about it. We have had talks about language, respecting our boundaries, and his responsibilities as he is getting older. We have the hyper days and the angry days. We have the anxious days. All in all, it’s challenging, and when I feel that it’s becoming too much, I take five in my corner, meditate and do some yoga, and then remember how hard these developing years are for all children. It just ends up being more challenging, like so many other things, for our exceptional kids.

I remind myself that I am doing the best that I can to be there emotionally, physically and spiritually for my child. I remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect, just show him and help him feel that is loved always, even when he messes up. I remind myself that this too shall pass. A lot of parents with older exceptional kids have shared that the early teen years are the hardest as our kids find out who they are and where they are going. Finally, I look at the list of positives our Educator suggested we make of all the amazing things Michael has accomplished even with the challenging moments still popping up. She had said it would serve as a positive reminder for Michael as well as Dad and I over how far he has come with independence, skill acquisition, and  show us all that he will get through the challenges of adolescence too. She was right. I look to that list. We all do.

Exceptional Parents, how easy or hard do you find your Exceptional Child’s growing up milestones? Whether they are sailing through these stages or struggling, I think as long as we continue to persevere alongside them with a loving ear, new strategies and tools to use, and lots of compassion for them and ourselves, we’re on our way to growing together. Until next time.

Growing Up and Into Who You Really Are-How Exceptional Children Teach Us Boundaries

I used to not understand the boundary between Michael and I when he was little. Most Moms blur the lines at this age. After all, you are busy doing everything for your child from dusk till dawn. Then they start to meet the typical milestones and gradually grow away from you. With exceptional kids, this does not happen right away. The milestones take longer to come. The needs from you are greater as you guide them. Boundaries suffer, until one day you realized, you forgot where you end and they begin.

Then, a funny thing happens. On the road to exceptional parenting, you start to see your child begin to meet the milestones. You see through the fights and challenges you face together, that you need to make space for you, as much for your personal health as your child’s. When I started telling Michael what I needed and when I needed it, I gave him permission to ask the same of me. He now knows, unless it is an emergency, Mom needs her 30 minutes in the morning for coffee, meditation and yoga. He now knows Mom needs her writer groups, outings with friends, and nature walks as well as other forms of exercise to fell whole.

Michael has also learned how to ask for alone time from me. He has spelled out his boundaries for time in his room, time with his music, talking to friends, bike rides or walks alone. We negotiate and respect each other’s space, and the days when things fall apart and we fight, we have both learned to go back to our respective corners, regroup and try again to talk and move forward. Michael has taught me how to fight for myself in a way I never had to before. He has taught me to value who I am before I can teach him to value himself the same way. Our kids are here to teach us to stop, smell the roses, and find that special sparks that lights us up as much as we are there to teach them the same thing.

Exceptional Parents, how has your Exceptional Child helped you define your personal boundaries with them and others? If you are still trying to be and do all for them, remember, you need to nurture yourself, your passions, and your adult relationships. By doing so, you will be a better guide for your child in how they need to conduct their life in a healthy way. You will also be teaching them how to say no to others who may try to infringe on their personal space. Until next time.

When Similarities Between You and Your Exceptional Child Cause Clashing-5 Ways To Survive And Thrive

cute-family-fun-2306852.jpg

As Michael and I each went to our “calm corners” the other day after a fight, I realized, and not for the first time, how similar our temperaments really are and why I am so easily triggered by his anger and anxiety when I am not taking care of my own stress. It was both comforting and annoying at the same time to see that when I am failing at handling our crises calmly, it is usually when I am overtired, stressed and anxious myself. My anger comes out at that point and I feel the need for controlling his outburts. I can’t. It’s that simple. I cannot control my son’s anger and anxiety. The days I realize this are the days I stay calm and the crisis is resolved faster.

I used to make it a daily task, thinking it was my job to not only teach Michael to control his emotions but if he failed, it meant I had failed, and not failed to show him a technique, but to stop it. Crazy huh. I finally stopped believing I had to control every single one of his emotional outbursts after he officially entered puberty. He was already well on his way to knowing how to express himself. He was stronger and getting taller by the minute, and most of all, though I had known this all along, puberty really brought home the fact that he was and is a separate entity from me. We are not joined at the hip as too many Moms think of themselves and their child. I had to stop taking everything he messed up on as a personal failure and address my own need to super control what I could not.

The next thing I realized was my own anxious and angry temperament when I was not using my newfound strategies to not ‘push down’ feelings. Yes, I was a pusher when younger. I had even fooled myself that I was happy, calm and had it together. I was really quite perfectionist, and thought that I didn’t deserve a heck of a lot. Over the last fifteen years I have worked hard to set up personal boundaries with people, practice self-care and learn about what helps curb my anger and anxiety. This is all thanks to my son who still challenges the hell out of me to make myself a better human being.

So how do you survive (and even allow yourself to occasionally laugh at) the possibility of having similarities with your Exceptional Child? Here’s what works for me:

  1. See the spirited side of you both: Yep. You heard me right. You know how we say hyper or anxious kids are spirited? Well, so are the adults. You bring people a different perspective on things because while over analyzing problems you see all the angles. Your child is like this too, so look at the positives in this. You are detailed, creative and ready to stand by your opinion. Just don’t let it consume you day and night and it is a positive.
  2. Recognize your needs for exercise or movement: What works for an upset me or an upset Michael is moving- rocking, walking, having a good cry or scream. Let it out in a safe place and then regroup and talk it out with each other.
  3. Celebrate the quirky, don’t diminish it: Whatever weird thing your child does you celebrate because it is who they are. If you have one of these traits, do the same.
  4. Don’t try to fix everything for them or you: Don’t be a perfectionist person or parent. It will only make you and your child miserable. If you want to do something special for them and they are not interested, don’t push it because you think you are a bad Mom for not doing it. Listen to what they say, unspoken and spoken. If you are not sure, go with your gut on what makes you and your child happy in the end. It won’t steer you wrong.
  5. Don’t take your child’s attempts to trigger you personally. Oh so hard if you are a sensitive parent yourself, but it really is true. Make sure you are as rested, calm and balanced as possible, and don’t let your child’s attempts to trigger you with words and actions seriously. Two out of control people won’t help. Show them what you’ve learned about self-control and practice it. If you mess up, and you will because you’re human, fess up. Take yourself somewhere to calm down, talk about what you did wrong, and how you will fix it. This will help them see what they could do right next time too.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you been hard on yourself for yelling at your child for some of the same traits you had growing up? We’ll all done it. The important thing to remember is that by you recognizing your similarities with your child personality wise, the good and bad ones, it will bring you both closer as you continue to encourage the positive traits in each other and work on supporting your child while healing yourself of the negative traits. Remember, you are both raising each other in the end. Sometimes it will be beautiful. Sometimes it will be painful. In the end, there will be growth either way. Until next time.

 

Getting And Receiving Love- How To Show Your Exceptional Child To Reciprocate Feelings

“Theory of Mind” as it is called, is something hard for people with autism to understand. It means being able to see things from another point of view of their own, a non autistic point of view. This is hard for neuro typical people as well to do, seeing things from an autistic point of view.  If we make an effort though to understand that our child’s perspective differs from ours, hopefully we could meet them somewhere in the middle. This is something I am finding easier to do with Michael as both of us are understanding about our differences and similarities. Michael is making a big effort to understand me, how I think and what I like, while he sees me doing the same for him.

And the thing is that when we clash in our views, we can talk about it. Oh boy, there is a lot of talking. It is good and sometimes exhausting for me, but I remind myself that this is Michael’s way of navigating a world that is still foreign to him on many levels and needs explaining. I have to remind myself on tiring days of that old story I was told when I first found out Michael had autism. How would I feel being dropped in a country where I didn’t know the language, people or customs and told to follow along? Of course, it would have been stressful and overwhelming. Kids who are exceptional live that reality every day. It is not easy being in their skin. As parents, we have to remember to give them the time they need to acclimate.

This is why teaching them to relate to us is as important as learning to relate to them. We need to know what makes them tick; what they life, dislike and what new interests they have. We need to tell and show them what we enjoy. As they begin to relate more to the world around them, we can share our interests, our limits, and our life with them. This will encourage them to open up.

Lately, I have really begun seeing how much Michael is opening up to us. He always has, but now it is by showing us his fears, his loves, and his interests and wanting us to be as passionate as we can be about them. For example, Michael has been kind of hurt that I do not enjoy taking him on drives as much as Dad does. Dad knows the city better and it is one the activities that is best suited for the two of them due to other reasons as well. Before Michael liked going to parks and stores with me. Now that happens very occasionally only, so he will say I will talk to Dad about traffic as you are not interested. I tell him I am. It is just that Dad knows the city more. I am working on improving my directions knowledge for me as well, but I have also shared with Michael that I love hearing him talk about traffic because I know it is his interest. I have told him it is like my writing. And I know he has made comments, “have you done any writing today?” “have you done your meditation and yoga?” “are you going out with your Mom friends?”. He knows where my interests lie and is paying more attention as well as asking more questions. He also will demand I take him places and then when I remind him we don’t demand he will say please. He misses me and sometimes forgets how to ask me, but when reminded, does a great job.

I always praise when he does this. His empathy is improving, as well when he inquiries about how Dad and I are feeling. We have to work on managing emotions like anger and anxiety, but other than that, things are starting to go more smoothly. I am happy that he is making progress on those fronts.

Exceptional Parents, how do you teach your Exceptional Child to talk with you and see your point of view? How do you see theirs? It is a tough thing to balance for both parent and child. In the end, as long as both of you give in a little and except a little in return; a little bit of understanding, support and compromise, things will go smoothly. Until next time.

Old Fears New Solutions-How To Remind Your Exceptional Child That They Can Solve Problems

So the other day Michael was feeling emotionally stuck. I was not only able to tell by his body language, but he also told me, “Mommy, remember that fear I had last year of watching certain videos? It’s coming back. The strategies I used last year to help are not working.”
Once again I was filled with such pride and amazement at how Michael has learned to grasp emotional concepts, and how he is learning, through some great CBT type strategies that we have both learned through therapists both in person and through books and videos, to apply these ways of understanding the world in his own way. with his own brain. It’s not easy to rewire your brain at any age, and kids who start off with different brains right away have another way of viewing things. We have to start with their way of viewing the world and go from there.

I and Michael have been lucky to find therapists who get his “out of the box” thinking, and are not trying to get him to conform to a particular way of seeing the world. That is how it should be for our kids, but isn’t always. And when Michael gets nervous he can’t handle his anxiety and stress, I remind him of the tools that worked in the past, and if they are not working, what else we can try. Most importantly though, is the reminder to him that if he faced one fear he can face others.

“Michael, remember how scared you were last year and how far you’ve come. You know what you tried and what worked. If that no longer works, let’s see what can. What are your ideas?”

We talked about different things he could do. Michael spoke about how he could ask his Educator for tips, his therapy team at school, and asked me what I do when I’m scared. I told him. The thing is, as parents ,we have to empower our kids that they can solve their own problems and find solutions. The difficulty lies when the solution is not clear cut and simple and means troubleshooting various areas. That is why as a parent, you need to be armed with three things:

1) Knowing what makes your child tick

2) Trusting in your child’s ability to do better if they know better

3) Immersing yourself in how THEIR brain works by reading books, articles,  watching videos by neuro diverse people who have the insider view on the autistic brain.

The hard part after this is getting your child to trust in themselves and their ability to use their very unique brain to solve problems. As they get more confident it will come, but remember, they need you in their corner cheering them on. Eventually, they will learn to be their own cheering section.

Exceptional Parents, how have you redirected your Exceptional Children to see old problems in new ways? Remember, as long as you use the 3 points above, they will be true to themselves and find what works for them. Love and being patient with themselves will help see them through. Until next time.

Remembering Back, Looking Forward-How Our Exceptional Kids Teach Us About Resilience

Two years ago. Two years ago today I was in the emergency room of our local children’s hospital listening to one of the doctors telling me that he was pretty sure Michael had Type 1 Diabetes. They were running blood tests while Michael was hooked up to IV’s which were hydrating him. I stared disbelievingly at the doctor and heard my voice saying out loud;

“That’s good you want to rule that out. I don’t think it’s that. It’s probably something with his appendix.”

Denial is strong when we are frightened and don’t know the symptoms of a illness or disease. Dad and I did not know that with diabetes kids lose weight, drink a lot more, are tired. Michael was all of the above that summer, and I blamed it on a very tough year with intense behaviors at home. I did not know the signs.  Of course not even five minutes later the tests came back positive for Type 1 Diabetes. Dad and I were in shock. How was this possible? No one in our families had it. Would our little boy be ok? How would we handle this and his other challenges? How would Michael handle all of this?

As always, Michael surprised us. I remember thinking this poor kid who hated needles and loved to eat would now have to have four needle injections a day and he would have to learn to carb count all the carbohydrates in all the foods he ate in a day. He not only mastered taking his blood sugar and now giving himself needles, but he has learned how to manage his food intake. I don’t know why I was surprised. He was a fighter from the womb, and once out of the womb he continued amazing me. Still, I thought this would be enough for me to handle, a neuro typical woman who hated the idea of needles too. Michael took to everything with an ease even I didn’t have right away. He was and is my hero.

Two years ago today as Dad and I watched our little boy hooked up to so many wires to rebuild his body which had been shutting down, we both prayed and thanked God we got him to the hospital on time. I read everything I could find on Type 1 Diabetes, the same thing I did with autism and ADHD. We saw so many doctors, nurses, and a social worker who informed us about diabetes. We got articles, training and little breaks where we were told to go get a coffee as Michael healed. I remember thinking, how will we get through this as a family? How will we help Michael move forward? My joy was the day he asked to eat. I knew he was getting better.

We were trained on how to do the injections, and then sent home. That first year was all about trial and error as we all learned to put diabetes around our life, not the other way around, as our endochrinologist told us. I remember Michael taking so naturally to testing his blood sugar. I remember Michael remembering to take his supplies everywhere we went. We took sugar and did injections in parks, malls, restaurants, and at people’s houses. He would look at us and say, “This is not hard. It’s ok.” I was and am constantly amazed by his good-natured calm approach to his diabetes. Yes, there were the times my heart broke, like when he said he wishes he could eat unlimited quantities of things like his friends who don’t have diabetes. He wishes he didn’t have to worry about sugars and carbs. But, he always ended the conversations with, “this is not so bad.”

I don’t know where he got that resilience. Sure, Dad and I have taught him not to give up and to keep trying, but I firmly believe he was a fighter from utero onward. He has always been easy going, friendly and willing to try again. Each day I learn more about strength, resilience and positivity from Michael than I do from anyone else. He is my star and even when he drives me crazy which he frequently does now as a tween, 😉  I love the life lessons he teaches me and makes me realize I still need to learn. A chronic condition is not the end of life. It is a new way to live life, and it is the way we view it that determines how successful we will be in managing our quality of life.

Exceptional Parents, when have your Exceptional Children showed you their resilience and reminded you to never stop believing in yourself? Most of them show us this every day in how they tackles obstacles, stress, and the world around them. When you catch yourself losing patience with your child, remember. They are here to teach you as much as you are here to teach them. Until next time.

Tools To Get On The Same Emotional Page As Your Exceptional Child

So Michael has been having some social fears this summer. He will go to crowded places for brief periods of time, had no trouble at summer camp where he knows people, but is feeling a little overwhelmed going places with me and Dad. I agree with our Educator that I think he is just so much more aware of everyone and everything around him, and due to difficulty with understanding some social cues, I think he would rather stay away from people than make a mistake socializing. I wish I could say that I have been more understanding with this. It’s not that I have not been understanding, but lately his tween anger, rude comments and  adolescent posturing combined with the anxiety, has made me feel a little overwhelmed. Some days are easier than others, and I always try and see the gifts Michael has, but I don’t always shine anymore than Michael does. We do our best to regroup and start again.

Don’t get me wrong. We still have good moments. He has come so far in independence with organizing himself, managing his diabetes and of course, his amazing ability to navigate any street or area in our city. The most fun is having him direct me around town as I have zero sense of direction.  He is starting to try and learn other cities now! Still, it occurred to me today when Michael expressed frustration that I don’t listen to him and that is why he gets mad and I echoed the same sentiments, that we needed to sit down and look at new tools to work collaboratively as a family. Here are the ones I am putting in place:

1) Make lists of things you want to fix together The trick to making these lists is that both you AND your child sit down together and write what improvements each of you could make so that communication gets easier.

2) Praise the good efforts they are making even if there are still mistakes: Michael had been feeling that even when he messes up the times he doesn’t do not get praised. I was actually feeling underappreciated myself in this area as well. After having a few fights this week, we each took time apart and then made a deal to look for the good in each other. We also both told the other one we like spending time together, just need to improve how we communicate.

3) Remember your child is having a harder time than you: Sigh. This has been tough for me. Most summers it is as I have Michael 24/7 a lot more than during the school year and he is not in routine the same way as in school. Still, even during a rough patch earlier today, I reminded myself that as overwhelmed as I am with Michael in puberty, with his unique brain and diabetes, for him this is all way more stressful to handle. Compassion for your child needs to come first. Then for yourself.

4) Tell them you love them even if they don’t say it back: Yep. Mine is too cool to say I love you and does not want hugs. I get “I like you” and high fives, tens or twenties. It’s ok and I know normal for a lot of kids in puberty to do this. The fact that he says he wants to spend time with me, is discouraged when I am upset, and does silly inappropriate things to get my attention, show me I matter to him. I am starting to say I love you more often and not go to bed mad. I also remind him I am always there to talk about things whenever he needs me.

5) Take care of yourself and tell them why you are doing it: Make sure your child sees you doing things that make you happy. When Michael asks me “why are you going outside again?” He is upset that I am not in the same room as him, but I explain that being in the yard is my time to recharge, unwind, be creative and occasionally let out big emotions. When I come back in, I am calmer and able to handle things better with him. Then we have time together.

Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to handle the ups and downs of life with your Exceptional Child? As long as what you use works for the two of you, the formula is correct. Remember, they need to feel as listened to as you do. They need to know you respect them, love them no matter what unconditionally,  and that you will never give up on them.  Until next time.

 

 

Summer Camp, Independence and How My Exceptional Son Is Coming Into His Own

This has truly been a summer of growth for Michael, both in terms of his physical growth, puberty and his emotional maturity with the outside world, and even with us.  Michael is not only managing his diabetes, he is doing his own injections and getting it done properly for the most part. Michael is not only responsible to be left alone at home for longer periods of time, but he enjoys that we trust him and behaves in a calm way. And finally, Michael is attending summer camp this year without a shadow and doing extremely well. It’s been amazing to witness his growth in these areas, and though he is struggling emotionally in others, I keep reminding myself of his potential and showing him what he is capable of when he believes in himself and in his abilities.

All our kids have their strengths. As parents, it’s important, including when they are struggling in some areas of their life, to look for the areas they are excelling in. It is also important we remind them of their successes in said areas and how proud we are of them. A lot of exceptional kids with anxiety don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves. The lack of confidence does not only come out in crying, panic attacks, but sometimes as rudeness or anger. They feel they have to control everything, and if one thing goes out of whack, their world goes out of whack for a time being. If we as parents show them their strengths and praise them for it acknowledging how far they’ve come, this will help them go a long way towards learning to love themselves.

Michael, being a Jekyl and Hide Kid, is one way at home and one way in society. He does very well in society, managing his emotions well, but at home will unleash in anger and frustration or anxiety. My heart breaks for him, as I know he is still developing the tools to cope with his emotions while handling puberty in a brain that is not mainstream and with Type 1 Diabetes. He does a great job most of the time, and when he messes up, it’s getting him to learn from the experience and move forward. What has impressed me, is that even when he loses himself in anger or frustration momentarily, he is able to circle back and see where he went wrong. He is learning his triggers, both what over excites and over frustrates him, and he is learning how his health affects his overall attitude at home and in society.

I for one am just trying to give him as much control as possible in decision making, and be there if he needs me to steer him in a better direction. But when I see him out in the world, I see a calm, steady young man who is learning who he is and what he wants. This gives me great hope that he will master this quality at home, and see that he can handle the emotional ups and downs of life without pushing things down. Of course, there are still boundaries. That is important for all children in order to grow in a healthy manner.

Exceptional Parents, what moments of pride do you have when you look at your Exceptional Children? Just remember, remind them of their successes. Put it on a sheet of paper if necessary. When it is writing, as they say it is a permanent reminder of where they are and where they are going. 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.