Category: schedules and routine

Summer Balance for Exceptional Kids-Finding Your Way As A Parent

Summer is about half over. How are you faring with your Exceptional Child? I can tell you that even after structuring and planning out summers for 11 years and 8 years since I knew Michael was exceptional, I still learn new things about what he needs and I need every summer. I have the basics down pat. I have a child who needs A LOT of structure so either I am doing the Mom camp trekking from place to place or he goes to camp for a good chunk of the summer. This is costly in financial terms, but in emotional terms, his and mine, camp is a godsend. Of course he has to like it. What I learned is that he needs a camp where he moves a lot. So this summer, it is Sports Camp all around. I tried an arts camp as he loves painting and sculpture, but he got bored with the type of art offered and the limited physical activities were for a younger boy than him. If we structure 5 to 6 weeks with camp, the remaining 3 weeks at home with me is enjoyable. That’s because I am lucky to be home in the summer and do most of the big things around the house I need to do when he is at camp all day. In the last 3 weeks we do family vacation and another round of Mom camp for a week and usually we are all set to go back to school and work.

What will work for you and your child? I have some friends who go to country places. Some friends join a community pool. Some split up 2 weeks here and there with camp, then grandma and grandpa help. It really depends on your child and what they need. Some kids with exceptional brains need more structure than others. Some like to be home. Some like to be out. Every year may be a little different as you and your child are growing. They are growing up, and you are growing older so your energy may change. It’s important, whatever you do over the summer, that you plan out what you think would work best for your child and yourself and family. There’s nothing worse than having a stressful summer, and although kids with autism often have a more difficult time in the summer, there are lots of ways to try and plan out what you can to eliminate stress. Don’t forget as well, to allow for spontaneous times too. This is trickier with kids who often thrive with routine, but introducing a little bit of uncertainty here and there slowly into their lives will help them cope with uncertainty one day as an adult.

Exceptional Parents, how has your summer been so far? If it’s been a rough one due to medical conditions, different expectations or other reasons, don’t beat yourself. Learn what you can from the experience, and you’ll have that much more information to have an easier summer next year. Also, take it one day at a time. There’s still time to make some good memories with your child whatever you decide to do. Until next time.

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

Summer Fun For Exceptional Families-Finding The Balance

As usual but in a different way, Michael had a difficult start to the summer and me with him. Every year there seems to be something that carries over. I also know that the break of routine with school is hard for him, as much as he likes to be home. He also likes to be busy. Anyone who knows Michael and our family, knows that we keep him busy. He is a curious, energetic and social kid. Staying home is not for him. Even with the emotional struggles he has been going through, I have noticed that, as always, there is his spirit of resilience. He is so hard on himself. He fears a lot. Yet he is one of the most fearless people I know. I tell him this. I tell him, “you are my hero. I admire your energy, your excitement about learning new things. And now, I’m not sure if it’s maturity, puberty, or something else, but he is more conscious of how he wants to self-regulate and control his emotions. He pretty much likes the same activities he liked as a child, but now has the patience to stay at them longer. It’s great, and especially on those days when your child is stressed, keeping them active can really help with regulation.

Here are my suggestions for fun inexpensive things to do with your exceptional tween over the summer:

  1. Swimming at local pool or splash pads: This is a must with our hotter and hotter summers. Michael now could spend a good two to two and a half hours or more frolicking at these places.
  2. Parks playing sports: Yes, he will still go on swings and slides, but does not like the little parks with no fields anymore. His main interest is playing soccer in the field, and possibly tennis and basketball in the courts with me or a friend.
  3. Library: He loves to read tween literature and fantasy to boot! He reads to me now, and when he stumbles over words, it’s a great time to bond while I explain it to him.
  4. Art: Painting, clay or any other means of self-expression is something a child this age can do to burn off steam
  5. Movies: Yes, once our kids are able to sit still calmly and focus, take them to matinees. It’s a great way to pass the afternoon.
  6. Structured activities: Most communities now have adapted sports activities for kids though some exceptional kids do fine with smaller teams. We always do soccer, and sometimes tennis over the summer. There are lots of options. See what interests your child.
  7. Camp: Even if it’s not for a long time, camp usually gives exceptional kids a different chance to be active, meet new faces, and grow. There are lots of options.

Exceptional Parents, how are you looking to keep your little ones busy? The most important thing to do is balance out unstructured time at home with a camp or structured activity. This usually means that kids get a balance and are happier over the summer when  a lot of their regular structure is gone. Here’s to good times ahead with your child. Until next time.

Fine Tuning Behavior Strategies For Your Exceptional Child-What Works And What Doesn’t

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Self-control is challenging for a lot of people, exceptional and not. But there is something so difficult for exceptional kids to wrap their heads around, and that is the ability to control their emotions- fear, anger, anxiety without having any type of negative outbursts or behaviors. If they do not find healthy ways to control their inner compass, their life will be a constant seesaw of emotions and they will not be happy or balanced individuals. This is why it is so important for parents to help their children learn how to self-regulate and control their emotions. With exceptional kids, the problem is usually compounded by the fact that what worked to help them control their emotions when they were small does not work as they get older. Therapies that helped them may not have the same effect either. This is why it usually falls to parents as the primary advocate for their child as well as their caregiver, to experiment with different behavior strategies to help their child regulate.

Like with everything, there is a lot of trial and error involved. Maybe deep breathing worked and now it’s yoga. Maybe taking a walk helps or jumping on a trampoline. Maybe writing down or art therapy can help them. All of these are great ideas, but what it comes down to in the end is talking to you child and seeing what they like and do not like. This way it becomes a process of elimination. Michael has always been very quick to say yeah or nay to something. If he is unsure, he will try it once and then give me his answer. All our kids have their own way of letting us know when something is working or not. Of course, ideally one should try out different ways to help with behavior and talk to our children about it BEFORE a meltdown happens. This way, they have strategies in place.  However, as long as the discussion is happening once in a while, kids will know they have options when things become crazy.

What not to do is to wing it in the moment. Kids with high emotional needs have even more anxiety if they do not feel they have options. That is why it is important to always be on the lookout for good strategies and talking to your kids about them.

Exceptional Parents, what works for you and your Exceptional Children as tools for calming down? I’d love to hear from you. Remember, this is not a final art, and there will always be tweaking involved. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and teach your child to do the same. This is what will help them be successful in handling their moods and handling life. Until next time.

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

Organizing Surprise Home Days And What Exceptional Kids Teach Us About Stress

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So today was a surprise Snow Day for Michael and me . He was happy, of course, happy and nervous. Happy to be home, and nervous as he did not want to be stuck at home all day. He woke up pretty much structuring all the “places” we would go. Michael is not a home body. Teaching him to limit his outings has been a challenge, and though I am happy he does not want to sit in front of a computer screen all day, I cannot always take him out to 4 places a day as he likes even on Snow Days when school is closed and I have to stay home from work as a result. Of course, he would have understood the concept of staying home all day had the weather been pretty terrible for driving.  As it turned out, it cleared up pretty nicely. And though he eventually accepted staying home in the am, in the pm he was excited when I suggested our first sledding adventure of the winter season as the driving conditions were good.  How did we get to starting off the day horribly with fighting and stalling with his injection to this point? Michael realized after our fight the necessity of creating a visual schedule for himself when he is home with me unexpectedly, and following the ones we already have in place on weekends.

I have to say that I was at my wits’ end being challenged by his retorts to all the simple requests I made of him, only to be so happy when he sighed and admitted he needed to make a schedule to organize our day. And off he went! I can pretty much tell you, other than some minor ups and downs, the day went well after he had his schedule where he checked off all he would be doing. We also talked about expectations of good behavior and how that would be rewarded, and how bad behavior would have a negative consequence he would not like, ie. he lost his afternoon and evening IPAD for rude and disrespectful comments and actions. I know this will have to happen many more times before the lesson is learned, but I was happy Michael was starting to connect the dots of how he needed to act and how he needed to use better strategies to cope with his anger, anxiety and fear. We are working on getting him new ones, and in the new year with a new team, I know we will have new strategies and options as well.

After the schedule was constructed, it was pretty much followed. We had fun sledding, then came home and Michael watched a holiday movie while I prepared dinner. All in all a good way to end the day. I learned how routine still works for us, even with severe behavioral challenges and anxiety. This kept me going through a day with many retorts to my authority. I was able to remember the good moments when Michael shared beautiful stories from school, funny anecdotes, and did some spontaneous snow angels which looked great!

Exceptional Parents, does a daily schedule work well for you in your home? Does it help your child stay on track and make the day go easier? In most cases, this helps tremendously for both child and parental stress. What can also work is reminding your child of what control they do exert over their day, and how they need to balance this with your control for their well-being. In this way, everyone will grow and the whole family will be happier and get along better. Until next time.

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