Category: play

Trying New Things-My Happy Surprise At Michael’s Challenge To Me

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So Michael has thrown me a few curve balls this year, good ones I’m happy to report. This has been nice as there have been the usual “settling into the school year” ones which are a little stressful this time of year. How has he surprised me? He has opted out of an activity he has been doing since he was three years old, a special gym and swim program, saying he was ready for change, AND he has asked to have one less structured activity so he could “explore shopping centers and playgrounds more.” Wow. The exploring more didn’t surprise me that much due to the fact that he loves navigating, but what did surprise me was his wanting out of an activity that has been a part of his life for so long. He was willing to do another swim program, just at a different pool. Dad and I said we were alright with it.

OK, I have to be honest. It was more of a surprise to me how shocked I was that he didn’t want to do this activity. I actually felt a little anxious and stressed myself  that this activity would be missing from our weekly schedule. What does that say about me? I have become even more of a creature of habits than Michael has. I have become as attached to my schedule as he has. It was interesting as at first I fought it a little. So did Dad. We could not believe that he really was fed up, Michael who craved routine, the same structure. It became so interesting to us to see that we were now the ones who needed a little shove in a new direction. Dad and I were so proud of Michael, and we reiterated to him that we are proud of him and know he will do well. At the same time, we also reminded him that if he misses his old swim program we would call up and see if he could go in the winter session or the spring one. We want him to know nothing is absolute and it’s good he wants to try new things. He is beginning to understand that growth only happens when we do new things. Mom and Dad and slowly learning that too. Michael is ever the patient teacher.

Exceptional Parents, when did your Exceptional Child last surprise you by being spontaneous and making a big change? When did they get you to think outside the box? Lots of kids with autism are capable of doing this and enjoying the journey of learning more about themselves as they do so. It’s important as parents we continue to encourage all their exploration in any direction and stay behind them showing them that risk taking is an important part of growing up. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

Where My Exceptional Child Leads Me I Go

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My life is nothing short of boring. I think I have spoken before in this blog how many years ago, more than I care to imagine now, I was feeling restless and bored in my life. It was way before Michael was born, way before I saw how important writing was to who I am, and I, humble human, asked God to please challenge me and show me the path to a life of meaning, which despite a good marriage, a loving family and friends and health, I did not feel I had. Yep. I said to challenge me. I asked for it. And the next thing I usually say is that God and the Universe has not stopped challenging me since I requested that all those years ago. Sometimes, on particularly “meaningful” days I have been known to scowl and talk upwards, “Ok, enough. Stop laughing.” But I digress. In many ways, I have grown up so much. From doing many jobs and seeing that none satisfied me. From moving out of my hometown and learning what I was made of, for better or worse, and then from spectacularly crashing from two burnouts until I finally remembered, “Oh yeah. I asked for challenges. Now, I need to be strong and ask for help to get through them.”

That’s the thing. God and the Universe never give you something you can’t handle at some point. Even in my darkest moments of despair when I was crying holed up somewhere and I would pray fervently, “God, I can’t do this. I can’t be strong anymore. Get someone else.” I would always hear what I imagined was a sigh, but a patient one. And the answer was always the same, “Yes, you can. You were made to overcome whatever challenges you have.” And dang it, I knew I was, but challenges and unexpected adventures are so scary. What if you fail? What if you upset people? What if you lose stability? Michael has taught me that none of this really matters in the end. Of course we all need to follow rules, have stability of some sort to pay bills and have a routine. But, all the people pleasing, all the time worrying about what others think instead of feeling life, trying new things, going on adventures. I’d been missing out, and Michael has showed me, and continues to show me more and more, how important it is to go on crazy adventures.

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The other day we went to a new park that he had seen driving in the car. On the way back to the car, he discovered another mini park that was too small for him to play in, but my little guy insisted on going on the equipment. He bumped his head, got annoyed, but then said, “it’s ok Mommy. I wanted to try. Let’s go back to the car now.” We ended up going back to the car from a totally different direction. Michael and I together navigated back. He is rubbing off on me. 🙂 I never would have done something like this prior to Michael’s birth. Ask my close friends. I tend to go to the same places, the same restaurants, but now Michael is shaking me out of my comfort zone. I have been reborn, and my new self, my exceptional mom self, is not afraid. I have Michael to guide me as he has me to guide him.

Exceptional Parents, how many crazy adventures have you gone on with your Exceptional Children?  Our kids naturally draw attention to themselves because they are different, and are not afraid of being so. This is a good thing if channeled properly. Don’t be afraid to go along with them for the ride, wherever it leads. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net

 

 

How Michael And I Challenge Each Other

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I have tried this summer to give Michael more challenges.  This has usually worked out beautifully, but at other times it has backfired on me. Michael has had to remind me that I don’t understand or that he can’t do it. Sometimes he has been right, other times, with gentle encouragement, I have showed him that he is wrong and can do it. But I am beginning to see the advantages of pushing him a little bit and what I expect of him, as long as he has ways of handling his stress.

Emotions continue to be the difficult thing for him to handle, especially when he gets overwhelmed and frustrated. I am constantly talking with and reminding him when he is calm about using his strategies when upset to handle his emotions, but lately due to the time of year and increasing anxiety about school, he will fall back into hitting himself, hitting me, or screaming and swearing or other inappropriate behavior. The good thing is that he is catching himself more quickly after these incidents, calming down and apologizing, but stopping the overreaction is still too difficult for him. It is a process and one I know he will get through as will I using patience and love.  It’s just a matter of him finding something that works for him. Ever since he was a baby, once Michael understood something, he became an expert at it above and beyond.

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Some challenges I have been asking of him are help around the house, waiting to go places or staying home until late morning, a VERY hard thing for my active kid to do, and teaching him how to initiate a conversation and not to interrupt one in progress. This is also hard. He will often interrupt with an “excuse me Mommy.” It’s all coming though, and I see how he is doing his best. The other day Michael gave me a challenge. He wanted to go for a long bike ride. The route sounded far too long for him to bike, but I decided we would do it as he wanted to try it. I left my bike at home in case he would need some help from me in giving him a push or two. I really did not expect to get farther than another five minutes of our usual route of about thirty minutes. He has not been bike riding consistently this summer, so I figured he would be tired. He actually did the equivalent of an hour and a half! And yes, he was flying down the bike path on a busy stretch near our house. I was the crazy happy Mom jogging along side him marveling how, once again, I had been proved wrong. I was so happy about it!

Michael has always surprised me like this, even though I now know that he is full of wonderful abilities and is wiser than me in some ways. He later confessed he didn’t know if he could do it, but “I pushed through Mommy and forced myself.” He was smiling as he said it. I corrected him by saying he did not force himself, but he pushed and tried so hard he succeeded! I was so proud of him. On the way back home, he said he couldn’t do it, but I told him in a firm voice I couldn’t push the bike home he had to. And so he did. Michael reminded me how important it is to never give up on ourselves.

Exceptional Parents, what challenges do you give your Exceptional Children? What challenges are you maybe afraid to try? Remember, our kids will only be brave if we show them that we believe in them. As parents, our job is two fold: reminding them of what they can do, and reminding ourselves of what they can do. Then, we can show others, teachers, therapists and professionals the amazing things our children are capable of doing. Until next time.

 

Annual BBQ’s and Exceptional Traditions

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I love traditions. I love the way they mark time, passages, and growth. I also love the way traditions bring family and friends together. Michael’s Dad and I started a tradition a long time ago with close friends where we all get together once a year at our house for a BBQ lunch or dinner. It has shifted back and forth, but now it is back to a dinner so friends of mine who have smaller children don’t have to worry about their kids missing their nap, and my other friends with older children and activity commitments can still make it. Still, the friends of mine who don’t have children also have the opportunity of squeezing our dinner into their busy schedules. As a result, we’ve pretty much had everybody make it every  year for the past eighteen years that we’ve been doing it. These are friends I grew up with. We knew each other as girls, then women, then husbands and now children are in the mix. It’s absolutely wonderful.

For Michael, he is also learning about how important friendships are, and about the building of traditions to keep friendships going and moving smoothly into changes that occur in life. These friends are his aunties and uncles so to speak, and he gets along well with their kids. It’s always a fun way for us to end our summer with this BBQ. Now that Michael is older, he actively helps us prepare by buying the food, and tidying up a bit. Alright, he cleans his room, but still it is a start. 🙂 I am so proud of how far he has come from being overwhelmed by people, to looking forward to a party, even though there are challenging moments for him.

Exceptional Parents, do you have any summer time traditions that you participate in with your Exceptional Child? How do they respond? How do you respond? Remember, give them time to grow to love these traditions and soon they will begin to change their response to them. It also gives you a chance as a family to grow together, try new things, and form new memories. Until next time.

 

Soccer Connections And Friendships Formed

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Michael’s Dad and I are very excited that he is back to playing soccer again this summer. There is something about the game of playing soccer that is fun and simple. I’ve always loved the idea of parents sitting on the sidelines watching their kids play a simple game with a ball, getting fresh, and learning about team spirit, and really what it takes to make it in the world with a healthy dose of cooperation. What I especially enjoy is that Michael has found a soccer team that for him is a good fit. It is smaller than a team he was playing on previously, and for him that’s important. He tends to get swallowed up in big groups, lots of coaches and lots of kids. As he grows, he may be ready for more competitive teams, but for right now, he is right where he is supposed to be. He also has a crush on his head coach, who also babysat for us once. He has “married her,” and looks forward to seeing and sharing things with her at every practice. We have to remind him she is there to coach all the kids, but of course she and the other coaches understand. It is an adapted team which really helps as all the kids are exceptional, and the coaches know how to handle them.

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Michael’s Dad and I enjoy talking to the other parents as we do at his other activities which are also adapted. They get it and they get how our kids do things a little differently, and are smart in their own right. They get how hard it is for our kids who want to be active, but do not always have the options on non adapted teams or cannot keep up with the pace on these teams. Most importantly, as our exceptional kids realize they are not alone in the way they are, their exceptional parents realize it too, talking to other parents facing the same challenges of raising an amazing child or children who are not textbook.

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children do extracurricular activities? Do you go the adapted or non-adapted way and how do you and your child find them? The important thing to remember is to follow your child’s interest in pursuing activities along with their capabilities. Don’t ever push them too far beyond their comfort zone, but be there to give them a little nudge to get out there and meet other children, learn about playing, and allow yourself the opportunity of meeting parents who are facing the same journey as you. Until next time.

 

 

How To Transition Smoothly from Day Camp to Mom Camp

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So here we are. Today is the last day Michael has day camp. As of next Monday, he is home with me for one week then we have our family holidays together with Dad. I am nervous/ excited as Michael would say. I am nervous because I know there will inevitably come a time when Michael will be bored, a friend won’t be available for a play date, and we will have to improvise. This will be a little challenging. However, I am also excited because Michael and I know how to communicate so much better. I know what he needs to stay busy, and that is structure to our unstructured time. So, as I blogged yesterday, as much as is possible we plan out the week on paper, with rain plans if we can’t be outdoors, and the last two years it went reasonably well. Last year, I only felt the pinch of stress near the end of our week home alone together, and then Dad was home and BOOM another change which we navigated well, the family vacation. But more on that in another post. 🙂

What also makes me excited is that I have finally figured out something my wonderful previous therapist said, “what do you need to do to be at your best.” What I need to do is meditate, exercise, have time alone and time out with friends and my partner to stay focused, calm, there for Michael, me and everyone else. Now that I am whole, I see things so much more clearly. I see how Michael and I can handle challenges, behavior and anxiety better, and what he needs to feel calm and in control. I have found the following techniques work to help from the transition of day camp to Mommy camp as I call it.

How To Transition from Day Camp to Mommy Camp:

  1. Start talking about the end of structure: I always start talking with Michael about the end of organized camp mid week of his last week. We start brainstorming for activities.
  2. Actually talk concretely then write out the week: This has helped Michael and even me to structure our home time. For example our week next week looks something like this for the first few days: Monday- Mom works 8:00-10:30/ Mom and Michael play tennis 11-12/ Lunch 12-1/ Cleanup 1-1:30/Pool or  park and shopping 2-5 pm/Home to cook supper 5-6.
  3. A week or so before start organizing play dates or formal activities: I called up two friends. One booked a play date with us, and the other one is getting back to me. Michael also reminded me of two friends we could potentially see. I will call the Moms up this weekend and see if they are free to get together.
  4. Involve the child with helping with chores: This is a toughie, but I am trying now that Michael is older to involve him in helping me around the house so things go faster for our mother/son time. We talk in advance about it, and if he really wants to chill out, I tell him it means we’ll have less time to do stuff as I need to finish the housework AND my writing and other business work since I work from home.

Exceptional Parents, how hard are transitions for your Exceptional Children? It’s a challenge for all of our kids, but something necessary they need to learn to navigate. The best way parents can help prepare them, is to structure activities by writing things down, asking the child what he/she would reasonably like to do, and delivering what you reasonably can. You also have to allow them personal downtime, as well as making sure they understand that you need some downtime as well as time for your work. If you are honest, start in advance BEFORE the change occurs,  and you make sure your child is aware of what is coming, your chances of a successful transition from an organized activity to home look much better. Until next time.

 

 

Making Friends At Camp And Stretching Boundaries

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I’ve mentioned before how I held my breath while Michael started at a new non-adapted camp last week. It went beautifully, and as a result I am not worried about this week, his last week of camp. As a super bonus, I am thrilled about something else. Michael made a friend. We got her Dad’s cell phone number and will try and get the kids together later in the summer or fall. Yes, it is interesting that he clicked with a girl, but then Michael has had some female friends when he was younger. Now, I find that girls tend to have more patience with him when he talks a lot, and though he is active, he is not a rough and tumble little guy like other boys his age. That is why it is sometimes hard to forge friendships with boys off the spectrum.

Michael reminded me the last two weeks how I need to learn to let go of worry a little bit and trust my  intuition. I also need to learn to trust him that he will be able to go with the flow of trying different things, making friends with new people, and even with challenges, he will overcome. He has repeatedly told me he likes camp, he likes his companion/shadow, and he likes the busy structure of the day. They do crafts, play games in the park and swim. This works perfectly with Michael and helps him regulate best. The kids here are also very understanding about autism and various challenges. There have been a few boys who attended who have had autism, so different mannerisms that Michael has are not shocking. The next thing to do is to get a dialogue going in camp about differences and embracing them. That will come in the future, I hope.

Exceptional Parents, do you trust in yourself and your child in new environments? How do you feel about risk? Interestingly, your child probably will take after you or your partner in one way or another, being fearless or fearful, or a mix of the two. Michael is pretty much a mix of his Dad and I. The important thing for you to do is to teach your child resilience in the form of risk taking combined with some calculated caution. Teach them that everything, good and bad, is an experience that they can learn and grow from. They don’t need to regret anything, but do their best and learn from their mistakes to become stronger in the future. Until next time.

Writing Out the Day = Success And Day Camp Enjoyment

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This week I have been collectively holding my breath. I finally released it this morning with relief and happiness. It was Michael’s first week at a new non-adapted camp. Last year he did well at another non-adapted camp, but he did not like his companion/shadow, and the experience was less than favorable. At this year’s camp fortunately, it is the complete opposite. He loves the camp, his companion/shadow and looks forward to going each day. We only signed him up for two weeks just in case, but it seems to be successful. I have not seen him this happy at a camp in awhile. He is kept busy, he does crafts, and he has even made a little friend. He is excited to go in the morning. There is no problem with him getting up, getting dressed and out the door. He goes for more hours a day but that works for him. He is a high energy kid. And this works better for me too as I can get more work done. 🙂 And, as a bonus the camp is right up the street from us. It’s great all around. I had forgotten the last time I saw my little guy this happy.

As a Mom I have been humbled once again by Michael this week. He has amazed me with how well he has adapted to a neuro typical environment, how well he can articulate and follow the day with a few reminders only, and how well he is using strategies to calm down with me when he gets anxious. One of these is drawing out the day on paper with words and pictures. Sunday was a stressful start for us, and not surprisingly, he was a little nervous due to a change in routine. We were not going to church, but Dad and he were driving me to a speaking engagement. As soon as he got up and I noticed how anxious he was talking a mile a minute and challenging everything Dad and I said to him, I asked him to draw out the day as we had planned it on the dry erase board previously. It was amazing!

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Just as drawing stick figures or looking at pictograms had helped in the past, seeing him write out the words I felt the energy in the room change. I also saw his physical body relax, his breathing calm. He was a new kid. My little guy is learning how to manage some very difficult emotions and feelings by using his own strategies and techniques that work for him. I, as his Mom, am also learning to trust my gut and what I know works for my kid. I’m also learning to observe him closely and really see what he is feeling and what tips I could give him that empower him to find the solutions. I have had so many moments in the last few days that were WOW moments. He has come so far. He has achieved so much. I felt that he started the summer at a much younger age, and is maturing now into an incredible little man. He is really coming along in sports. He loves soccer, tennis and is starting to take an interest in basketball. He loves asking questions and learning about the world around him. And he is learning about limits even when he doesn’t like them. And oh, his sense of humor is growing more by the day.

Exceptional Parents, how is your child’s level of functioning in the summer? Are they happier or more stressed at home or camp? It is not a black and white issue for our kids, and many fall in between with reactions. As you learn more about what makes your child tick, you will be able to fine tune things that make them more comfortable, and what to avoid. Trust yourself as their parent and look to your child for changes that help them feel better. The important thing is to encourage them to grow into themselves at their own pace and in their own time. You will do it as will they. Until next time.

 

Long Walks, Long Talks, Long Thoughts

 

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I had two really good long walks with Michael lately. He loves to ask questions and talk about life on our walks as I’ve mentioned before. It’s also given me a chance to see him de-stressed and open up about his frustrations. It’s hard for him, and it’s hard for me as his Mom to see how much control he needs to exert over everything and everyone. It is exhausting. He has had some good moments this summer and last, but we have yet to find the perfect summer formula for him to have the right mix of friends, stimulation and activity that he craves at camp and outside. I wish so many times for this one area only that he was born in another time, when kids on the street got together, played in parks, made up their own games, and their own structure. He sadly told me last night he wished so too. I told him that didn’t exist. It was camp or he would have to play at home by himself while I worked.

Michael’s big issue, “I don’t want to follow the group. I want to do my own thing. I want to make my own rules.” And I tell him, that is what summer camp is. It is a structured, safe place for kids to play with other kids. And they are all the same. He has to follow the rules and order whether he likes it or not. He doesn’t and then I get the behaviors at home that he can’t show at camp. I told him that he must never keep things in, but he has to use his strategies to cope  with stress. His Dad and I are there to listen to him, but he then needs to take care of his emotions on his own. He has to try and focus on the positive things. After all, life is not all negative.

Exceptional Parents, what works for your Exceptional Child in the summer to keep their balance? Do they like camp or do they prefer being home with a sitter, you, or grandma and grandpa? What have you found to be best for them and you? We are still trying to find the balance in our family, though a formula of six weeks of camp and three weeks home full time has worked for Dad and I. By week five Michael is tired. Remember as a parent that you are doing your best, and always keep an open mind with your child. Until next time.

Keeping Busy and Learning To Be Calm The Exceptional Way

 

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What is busy? For every Mom of every child with special needs it means a different thing. Every kid with autism is different and has various interests. For Michael, keeping busy means constant motion pretty much all day. It means going places, to parks, pools, friend’s houses, and stores. This is AFTER a full day of camp. This is a challenge for his Dad and I, especially as we get older, but we are learning to structure his activity with time when he is home, and has to keep himself occupied. This is tough for him to do, but he is learning. We also have to find the fine balance between busy and overstimulated. The last two days I crossed the line with Michael, and we had two bad meltdowns and some aggression. The heat doesn’t help, and the fact that Michael is learning that he can’t control everything and everyone around him. It is exhausting and frustrating for all of us.

Still, as with all moments with Michael, there are funny and wonderful moments too. One of these was playing games with Michael in our local pool yesterday afternoon. We were sitting side by side with him in a lawn chair drying off in the sun. Michael said;

“This is nice and relaxing Mommy. I like sitting in the sun. As long as I have sunscreen on it is ok, right?”

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He made me smile. I also thought good, he is learning to relax sometimes. He was finally tired after his busy day of camp, playing in the park, then the pool. He watched some videos after he came home and chilled out. That was nice too. I find that as an Exceptional Parent, each summer, each day really, I am going back to the drawing boardhaving to readjust things so that he is in balance. I find new strategies to help him remain calm, remind him of  his old strategies, and  teach him that it is ok to not always be in control. That is a hard one. I have only recently learned that, and at times, like most adults, still have issues with that one. What I do now, is make sure I am surrounded by family and friends who can understand me and Michael and what we live on a daily basis. I make sure Michael and I have respite from each other on occasion, and that we never go to bed angry with one another. I tell Michael that we all learn from our mistakes, me included. Michael and I both talk about how we need to use strategies to stay calm, and if we don’t, we need to remember to use them the next time we get upset.

Exceptional Parents, how do you juggle the busy and quiet side of your Exceptional child? How do you handle the rough moments during and after they occur? Do you remember to cut yourself some slack and learn from them? Retrace your steps, see what you could do differently next time, and teach your child to do the same. Yes, there will be new battles to face, but you and your child will be able to handle it together as long as you show your child you will never give up on him/her. Until next time.