Category: swinging/exercising

How Sensory Regulation Helps With Challenging Behaviors

 

I began to see a big shift in Michael the day he began to notice he had sensory issues and how he could handle or regulate these. The first time was about four years ago. He was having issues when he first came in from school, a usual difficult time of the day for all kids, but particularly kids with neuro developmental issues or autism. We began working with a great Psycho Educator who suggested, based on his activity preference, what she called a “calm box or corner.” In this box would be objects like squeeze toys he could use and beans to play with, all these to handle with his hands which helped calm him down. The “calm corner” was similar for his central nervous system. It had toys like this as well as stuffed animals to squeeze, a ball, a boxing punching bag if he was angry etc. There were also pillow that he could put on top of him or around him like a fort. As well, it could include his swing and trampoline and a play tunnel to run through. And guess what happened? After talking with him about his feelings of anxiety and overload and how he couldn’t come home and yell and throw things, one glorious day Michael connected the pieces. He came through the door, looked at me and I could tell he was wiped out. He said:

“I need to go downstairs to my calm corner and run through my tunnel.”

He was six years old! I was so glad he was beginning to make that connection of body and mind and learn to start regulating. Michael’s sensory issues even now interfere with his functioning sometimes. We are now back to using gum which helps him focus, stay calm in situations where he is nervous or tired. We have also ordered him some vibrating toys as he likes to clink toys against his chin and if no toy is available use his hand. He was starting to leave a red mark which was worrying us so we have now implemented that. The exciting this though is when Michael started connecting the dots and was able to communicate his needs to Dad and I. From there, we have all been able to come up with tools together where Michael gets the final say as to what works.

Exceptional Parents, are you struggling to help your Exceptional Child regulate their sensory issues? Are they exhibiting a lot of bad behaviors due to this? You are not alone. It happens to all of us at one time or another. Just remember to try and communicate with your child. Ask them how they are feeling and help them learn to be their own little detective in figuring out how they can meet their sensory needs. If you play detective as well, you will be able to see what sets them off and what helps them. It will be the gift of a lifetime when they have tools to handle the difficult times in their life. And you as a parent will be calmer and happier seeing your child manage their stress so well.  Until next time.

Are you looking to make changes in your special needs parenting life? Do you need support on your journey?  I am a writer and parent coach who is passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

SPECIAL OFFER: February is the month of love. We show love to our children, partners and friends But what about to ourselves as parents? Do you know how to practice self-care and truly love the amazing parent and person you are? If you need support in this area of your life,  until Feb. 28th I am offering a FREE ONE HOUR one on one coaching session, as well as a second one hour one on one coaching session at 50% off regular price. Give yourself the gift of self-love, and learn some great tools to begin to put your needs first so you can parent in balance. Contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com or 514-827-7175 to book your Skype sessions. 

Weight Issues, Food Cravings and Anxiety-How My Exceptional Son Is Handling Stress

 

To start with I am so happy that Michael loves food. I have watched so many of his friends struggle with eating, allergies and other food issues, that it is great that he can pretty much eat anything he wants to. Unfortunately, due to his Dad and I having been a little too relaxed at birthday parties and other social occasions and focusing more on behavior issues which were the priority (and still are quite important), Michael formed some bad food habits and has put on some excess belly weight. What worries me most is why he is eating. I realize it has become a habit, but I also think it has become his way of dealing with stress and anxiety. He has told me that when he eats he feels better. Don’t we all! The problem is that his food choices are the processed ones versus fresh fruit and vegetables. Even though I make fresh fruit an option and he will when pressed have some, he prefers the granola bars and dried fruit and of course cookies to fresh options. Dad and I are modeling eating good fresh food ourselves, but the habit has been formed so now it will be more difficult to change. But change it we must. His pants don’t fit around the stomach, and though he is not considered obese, he is dangerously veering on that line according to his pediatrician.

 

We have been talking to him about making healthy food choices and being more active. He is active, but we need to increase the activity now which will be a lot easier than decreasing caloric intake. I am especially worried as we don’t want him facing obesity struggles later in life. But with food he is obsessed, wants more of something, and seems out of control. When we push for control, he becomes even more rigid and now we are dealing with some of those issues. Our next step will be consulting with a professional who deals in nutrition about starting over with good health habits. Michael’s issue and his eating choices have given me much food for thought, no pun intended. If children can draw the emotional reasons behind why they overeat, then adults need to be able to do the same thing. Particularly adult parents of Exceptional Kids who are very controlling and rigid in their behavior due to anxiety and sensory issues. They really need parents who can find a way to demonstrate the balance of healthy eating and exercise versus overindulging. This is not always easy as parents, and I speak for myself and Michael’s Dad, are constantly worrying about our children’s sleep, academic progress, life skills, social skills, that nutrition will get left aside sometimes. In our family now, however, we are making it a priority as it is as important to healthy functioning of our child than anything else.

Exceptional Parents, how is your child’s appetite? Are they little, medium or big eaters? Do they eat a balanced diet? It’s important, as I have learned, to monitor this as well as your Exceptional Child’s other relevant issues so that they can be healthy and grow in mind and spirit. New tools may have to be introduced to help with anxiety, control and other factors, but you know your child best and will be able to find your team. Until next time.

 

am a writer and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance.” I am passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and GooglePlus. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation, see my website: http://www.exceptionalparenting.net.

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How Stimming Can Help Kids With Autism

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Ok, I started off with a very controversial title, I know.  I’m sure I will have lots of detractors out there. I used to be one of them. I HATED when Michael did any of his stims, and I tell you, there have been many over the years from spinning, rocking, watching the same tv show or reading the same book over and over again. He now loves to do verbal stims to unwind. These stims range from screeches to other high-pitched noises that grate on my nerves. There. I’ve said it. I don’t feel like a bad Mom anymore though. I’m just being honest that these noises bother me, like Michael has said it bothers him when I talk too much about my blog or writing or meditation and yoga. 🙂 He still loves and accepts me even if he does not agree with everything I say and do, and I feel the same about him. I have learned, as have most parents of kids on the autism spectrum, that stims or self-stimulatory behavior is not done to annoy or upset neuro typicals in the environment. It is a way for the individual with autism to acclimate to the environment mentally, physically and spiritually if they are stressed, nervous or having a hard time.

Of course, if this behavior is all your child is doing it is not healthy, and you have to find ways to engage them in the world around them. When we first leaned Michael had autism, we were so scared and sad that he was not communicating with us in any meaningful way. Our son felt lost to us in his own world. We saw he was happy there, and though at first I wanted him in our world at all costs, I gradually began to see that his world was fun too. I could meet him there, and he could meet me in my world, and we would bond somewhere in the middle. Occasionally though, when social pressures have been hard and he is tired, I know stimming helps him renew himself and helps him be whole. I don’t try and stop it anymore as it is a natural part of who he is.

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That would be like someone telling me don’t get up in the wee hours of the am or stay up late at night to write that poem or finish that novel chapter that is aching to come out. It can wait until morning they would say. No, actually it cannot. I have experienced what feels like real discomfort and tension in my stomach and throat if I am not writing creatively for an extended period of time. People who are not writers have told me that I am crazy. Well, I must be. Because when those words pour out of me the release I feel is like no other. I am at peace with myself, my environment and the world around me. I imagine Michael and Exceptional Kids like him feel that when when stimming. Interestingly, he told me a few weeks ago that he stimmed too long and now was stressed.

“Next time Mommy, I won’t stim so long on the couch. I didn’t need to this time.”

Exceptional Parents, how do you feel about your Exceptional Child’s stims? Do you try and stop them or encourage your kids to have this time? Every kid stims differently with autism, but I can assure you it is normal and healthy for them at certain times. We are always scared in the backs of our minds to “lose” our kids again in their autism world. Butt rest assured, once they see that you accept them for all they are and know you, your children will always come and find you. They are versatile, adaptable and very smart children. As they learn what their body needs, let them do what it takes to adjust to the world. And remember,  be receptive to them when they seek you out. Until next time.

The Healing Art of Mapping and Music

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Over the course of the last few weeks, I have seen a progressive change in Michael. He has become calmer, more focused, and more sensitive. He has his routine after school: snack, homework, then swinging in his basement swing while listening to music. After that, he goes on his Google Maps and navigate the city and then, under mine or his Dad’s watchful eye, he can look at some pop videos, usually just “lyrics only” as some of the content is questionable material for someone his age.

I think this routine works for him and gives me a chance to finish off some late day chores in the house. But mostly, I see that he is becoming more talkative. We talk about the music videos, what the songs mean, and he asks a lot of questions about where things are located, what streets, cross streets etc. This is Michael’s way of making sense of the world, and I am so glad he is finding his way. I and his Dad repeatedly tell him that his strengths lie in music and navigation. I also hear him singing the songs from the radio to himself or sometimes asking me if he forgets a tittle what the song is called. Usually though, is it Michael who tells me the name of the song. I have been wowed more than once when he has informed me which pop star sings which song.

 

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 I used to worry so much when I saw how he wasn’t moving on from Barney. Now he is the one educating me on modern music! It’s very exciting to say the least. But most of all, what Michael has shown me, and continues to show me, is that anything is possible with time, with an open mind, and with a routine and order, a mind that was always anxious or stressed or stuck, can become unstuck. Yes, he will always struggle with anxiety and other issues, but he is learning to handle himself through these emotions. Other things will come with time.

Exceptional Parents, what have your Exceptional Children learned to do that have wowed you? What things did you not see coming and are so impressed that they mastered? Remember, our children’s ways of processing the world are different than ours. Their views are filtered through their own unique lens. Give them time to discover their talents, their strengths, and be there in the background to encourage them, as always. When they know they have you as a cheerleader, they will feel they can do anything. We all need that cheerleader in our lives. Until next time.

Exceptional Space and Using Strategies to Cope

 

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Yesterday we all went  back to our normal routines of school and work. That felt good for me, Michael and his Dad, but we did have many good moments on Tuesday after Michael’s appointment was finished. Michael and Dad went to play Frisbee in the park after we had a family lunch of pizza, while I went grocery shopping, and then later in the day when Dad was cooking dinner, Michael and I went for a long walk together. It was just what we both needed after the busy day. As usual, we talked about things that were currently bothering Michael, like getting a line at school for not listening (his second of the year only as he listens VERY well at school), questions about upcoming activities on the weekend, his first drop off, pick up party where Mom and Dad won’t be staying (more on that tomorrow) :), and about the upcoming PED DAYS and who he will be seeing. We also had moments of quiet when we just walked together holding hands. It was peaceful and I could feel the tension melting off of Michael and I. With the nicer weather coming, I can’t wait to have more moments like those!

Michael has also started trying to use his strategies to calm down more often and will openly talk about his feelings of anxiety, recognizing where they are originating and what to do about them. He also immediately recognizes when he is wrong, such as apologizing right away genuinely with an apology for insulting one of us or slapping us. And I could see the shock on his face. Oh no, I did it again. He’s getting there in seeing that he has control over his feelings and he has to pause a moment before responding when he is frustrated. I found a great pictogram from Pinterest which I put up on the fridge which shows that anger is ok, but how NOT to handle your feelings. Do not hit people, things or yourself. Simple and to the point. I have seen him looking at it curiously and I remind him it is there, as well as where his calm box toys are, his calm corners and his places to decompress. Today too he said, “if you send me to my room, you are not punishing me. I can go there to calm down and do my strategies.” It’s so wonderful to see him getting it, that all the hard work he is doing with the school psychologist and what he did with the Psycho Educator is helping. He is grasping it.

Exceptional Parents, what helps you and your child tune out stress and tune into each other? What strategies work to help you both regroup? Sensory Massage is another strategy that I have used with Michael as well as Qigong Massage. I believe his growing affection and cuddling again with me is because with these massages and his own tools, his nervous system is learning to relax. You have to trust that your child knows how to relax too and find their balance. They just need to know they have you in their corner. Until next time.

Sensory Massages And Exceptional Love

Well, Spring Fever arrived with a bang in our house! Michael is energetic and doing his musical stimming/ exercising on his swing downstairs with the radio blaring, and using the rocking chair in his old baby room at other times. I am also performing both Qigong Massage and Wilbargher Protocol massages at bedtime and sometimes Wilbargher Protocol in the daytime even. I can see how it is helping Michael.  I literally feel the tension melting away as I massage him, and like in previous Spring seasons and at times when he has let me do the massage or massages on him, he is so loving towards me afterwards, and even more communicative! 🙂  Who wouldn’t be with a killer massage, never mind two, right? 🙂 But all jokes aside, this is so important for his system, vestibular and for the rest of it. I don’t look at warmer weather, spring temperature changes and full moons the same way anymore!

 

I have also been noticing how being organized with social stories, keeping physically busy, and seeing friends is helping me as well. My maternal grandmother used to quote that famous saying, “idleness is the devil’s work.” Thanks to her and Michael, I am now living it, keeping busy at home, with Michael, with my job, and in general staying active on all fronts. Lord knows there are always things to do in a house as most families would agree.

Michael, as usual, is showing me the pace to take for my spring season. He is helping me get back into long walks, exercising, connecting with friends that we sometimes don’t see in the cold winter months and massages. He is reminding me that I need to book myself one soon and hopefully plan another ladies getaway to a spa later in the spring. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children handle the Spring time? Are they active when the weather warms up, and if so, what kind of activities do they enjoy? Does this help you be more active with and without them? Remember, a healthy mind begins with a healthy body. Take care, get out there and enjoy moving, socializing and living each moment of your life. Until next time.