Category: Tips for Summer time

How To Plan For Success On Exceptional Vacations

 

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We have been doing family stay cations for years, probably as long as we have been taking Michael places.  I have finally come to the point where I now expect the unexpected from Michael and spin it for a whole new day. Dad has experienced the same thing. And you know what? Sometimes things end up being more fun as a result of this.  We have had some struggles in the past when we first started going away. Michael would need mini breaks for the people and noise which we had not anticipated. He would get overwhelmed and we would have to go. His Dad and I had a hard time at first  dealing with outbursts and things out of his control. We eventually learned to anticipate what set him off and that helped tremendously.

As Michael matured, so did Dad and I. Now we know how to go with flow more where Michael is concerned. As with everything else, Michael is raising us and exposing us to different things and ways of experiencing how to have a good vacation, or at the very least, one that has no dull moments. We are doing our usual series of things, thrown in with some new adventures for good measure. Michael likes his predictable places, and is excited to try new things and drive to new places. We have mapped everything out on our dry erase board, and Michael purchased a notebook where he is writing down all our activities too. Like me with my phone calendar, this way of keeping track, Michael’s calendar if you will, helps keep Michael calm and organized. Whenever he is stressed, I direct him to the dry erase board to see what will be happening. If we need to make an adjustment, that is where we go too together to do it.

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The most important thing I remember every year, is to make the week simple, fun, and memorable for Michael and us. We do a variety of the old and new, and we make sure not to do things that are out of our budget. You don’t need to spend tons of money to have fun. Kids like the simple things and time they have with Mom and Dad. For Michael, going to our local Santa’s Village and having pizza for dinner is a dream come true. For Mom and Dad too. Who wants to come home from a long drive and a fun day on our feet and cook. 🙂 We create memories of fun times together, that I hope one day Michael will enjoy remembering and telling friends and maybe a partner and children of his own. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, what activities do you like to do on family vacations? Do you do stay cations or vacations going away out of town? Do you take a vacation alone or with the kids? For some parents, it is too hard to go with kids out of town due to sensory issues, behavior issues, or medical ones, so they do activities in town and then go off on their own for a night or two. Some stay home with kids and just do a stay cation if that works better with their family and financial situation. The most important thing to remember is to do what is good for your family and child. There are so many fun things you can do if you use your imagination. Whatever you do, just stay true to your family. Always do what works for everyone in your immediate circle. Until next time.

 

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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.

 

 

5 Signs You Have Reached Your Limit As An Exceptional Mom

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It’s summer. Contrary to what most people who don’t have children experience, it is usually a slightly more chaotic time for parents. If you are an Exceptional Parent, add on a little more stress due to routine being off for your kids, and children feeling a little more lost due to not having the school framework. This goes whether they are home schooled or go to an outside school. We are at the halfway mark of summer now, and a lot of parents are running out of steam with keeping kids busy or defusing tensions, theirs and their children’s. But how do you know you have reached your limit? Here are 5 signs:

  1. You lose patience over the little disobedience: When your child tests you, such as refusing to do a chore, put on certain clothes, bring their plate to the sink, or anything else reasonable you have asked them to do, you yell your head off. Take a deep breath, steps back literally and metaphorically, answer in a firm, calm voice, and start again.
  2. You start counting down till school starts: Yes, I have had those days. This week was pretty much a week like that. 🙂  When I catch myself thinking this way, I ask myself: What have I done for ME lately? If I can’t think of anything, I schedule in some me-time whether it is a walk, a massage, a workout, or time with a friend.
  3. You seem to have no energy for the basic things: Time to look at your pace: Are you sleeping well? Are you eating and exercising? Are you asking for a break from family and friends?
  4. You feel sad that you haven’t__________(fill in blank): Sometimes it is as simple as finishing your paperback book, watching a favorite tv show, calling a friend, having a girls/guys night out with your partner. Make sure you schedule it.
  5. You feel stressed all the time even when child is occupied: You need to find ways to calm your mind and soul, have a laugh, and then keep the strategies you used to calm down in mind for the next time.

I had a day yesterday when everything went exactly the opposite of how it was supposed to go. I was SO upset, then I remembered going with the flow. I teach this to Michael. I had to go to the Dollar store to buy something, and two coffee mugs got my attention.(the picture above).  I don’t often make impulse buys, but for a grand total of $5.00, I figured I could break the bank this one time. 🙂  They are one of my favorite colors, red, they are big, and they have two amazing sayings on them that reminded me of what is important. I christened the “Keep Calm One” with my first pm cup of coffee yesterday. And you know what, by end of day I had the first conflict-free afternoon with Michael in awhile AND we had a beautiful experience happen at our public pool. More on that in tomorrow’s post. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, how are you holding up under summer’s strain? How do you “check in” with your inner self? I would love to hear what you use. I think as long as you are being honest and non judgmental of where you are, you will get to the next stage; peace, acceptance, and moving forward. Keep calm and move on, my friends. Until next time.

 

Exceptional Rebuilding And Life Lessons Learned

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It struck me yesterday afternoon after a particularly challenging afternoon that Michael and I had both come a long way. He had learned how to bring himself down faster than in the past from his tantrums and meltdowns, and I had learned  not to over-react myself to autism in the summer time. That is what was happening and what happens each year as the summer months are extra challenging for exceptional children and their families. Of course, there are always challenges during the whole year, but there is something about summertime’s lack of structure that makes it that much harder for our kids and hence, us.

The old me would have started to cry, to feel powerless and angry during such an afternoon. The me of yesterday, however, was angry of course for our fight, frustrated at how hard things are sometimes for Michael and I to understand about one another, but there was also this peace inside of me at the same time. It was even there when I texted Dad back after he asked how Michael was doing. I told him about Michael’s rough afternoon, and Dad offered to take over when he got home from work. I thanked him and said he didn’t have to. I could handle it. This realization was huge for me to digest. Michael and I both were using our new strategies to manage our emotions, sometimes with success, sometimes with failure, but we were trying.

Exceptional Parents, what realizations have you come to about you and your Exceptional Children recently? Maybe you have found way to reach them verbally or non verbally as never before. Maybe it is a social breakthrough. Whatever it is, celebrate it. Your child and you have tremendous extra stress in the summer time so pace yourselves and always look for the positives. They are there among the rough times. My child is asserting himself, albeit not appropriately with a tantrum or screaming. My child is discovering his boundaries with people when he tests with challenging comments. My child is not liking certain people, but is at least taking time to socialize. The important thing is to steer them in the right direction and encourage them to rebuild what was torn down, hurt feelings and other issues. Don’t worry. It will be a positive learning experience for both of you. Until next time.

5 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Be On The Same Page To Handle Challenging Behaviors

 

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It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind this summer as Michael learns to use his strategies to handle his anxieties while also trying to play Mom and Dad off each other.  While we are happy he has made some intellectual ground, manipulation towards anyone is not a good thing. We both know we do Michael no favors if we let him think he can manipulate due to fear and anger. Dad and I don’t have a lot of time to talk, as a lot of parents don’t in this day and age, even those of neuro typical children. Exceptional children have the added element that in some areas they are a little behind, so the parent who underestimates them thinks that they do not know what is going on. Truly, I tell you that they are superior in more ways than behind, so never think your child is not manipulative in some way. This will help you help them more.

You love them. And believe it or not they love you too in their own way. But it is hard and frustrating to handle negotiations and other issues. So for those looking for new tricks to be on the same page as their partner for dealing with challenging behaviors in their children, here are my 5 suggestions:

  1. Set a time of day when you can talk uninterrupted: This is easier said than done, I know. We tried the other day EARLY am and had  a little visitor come into our bedroom and start the day.:)  So we are back to the drawing board. Even if it’s a 5 min briefing make sure you how to respond when your child tests you with a firm, loving hand.
  2. Use the SODA formula for interacting with your child: I’ve talked about this before in my blog. (www.healyourlife.com).  I have this up on the cork board in our kitchen .Even Michael practices it now.

S top

O bserve

D etach

A waken

Great ways to see behaviors for what they are. You can only tackle something when you are calm and centered yourself.

3. Text each other strategies: Oh yes, this is Michael’s Dad and I. It is hard to talk around a child that senses, knows and seems to see everything. We are thrilled about this, but it makes it hard to touch base. Texting is our best bet, just be careful when they start to read like mine. He tried to read a text I sent to Dad the other day before I gently told him, “sorry hon, that’s private.”

4. Schedule parent meetings camouflaged as dates: Yes, I know it is hard enough to have date nights, but you may need to schedule a few working lunches/dinners to talk about how to handle issues with your child .The alternative is the child playing the parents off each other and stress in the house. A no win situation for all.

5. Involve a Psycho Educator, Psychologist or someone outside to help you and your partner: Make sure to tell your child (if they are worried and threatened), the truth that this person is part of their team, as I have said to my son. (Team Michael, Team Joanne for me etc. ). This person is helping Mommy/Daddy to understand you and ourselves better so we can all live happier.

Exceptional Parents, what strategies do you and your partners use to discipline and handle challenging issues with your child? I would love to hear what has worked and what has not. The most important thing to realize though as with everything concerning your child and family, you go with how you are all most comfortable living, and make sure everyone is on the same page rule wise in your household. It is the only way to grow together and be a happier Exceptional Family unit. 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.

 

 

6 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Structure Their Day For Success

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Michael has introduced me to many things. He has helped me see the world in his unique way: an orderly, occupied and curious way of questioning things I take for granted, such as what a person really meant when they said something, why do we focus so much on money and the news, which kids with a different brain like him pick up on. He has helped his father and I see how some of how our world works is a little strange, and not necessarily easily understood.

Summer is a rough time for Michael and kids on the spectrum, as it is a lot less concrete than what happens the rest of the year. Michael is learning what we accept and don’t accept, and we remind him of how he can make good choices versus bad choices. Using structured ways to calm down is important for everyone, and Dad and I have our own ways just as Michael does to handle exceptional parenting duties, as well as manage our own personal stresses. Below are the ways we structure our days to manage this.

6 Ways Exceptional Parents Can Structure Their Day:

  1. Use your own version of the dry erase board or pictogram schedule : Now, I know all parents have an agenda they use on their phone or in a book. We write down kids’ appointments, work commitments, but how many of us put in things like meditation time, exercise 1 hour, evening with the girls or guys?  This is very important for your balance, and putting them in will make them easier to keep.
  2. Give yourself a pep talk about any events that may be stress inducing: This is my adult version of a social story. You remind yourself of the structure of the event, what’s going to happen, prepare yourself as you need to (if work related with your presentation and slides etc.), and look over pictures of the place, the rooms, the people you will meet (if you know in advance). Remember, this is to help you relax like when your child does it.
  3. Make sure you have movement breaks (exercise), snacks and drink lots of water: How often are we telling our kids to move when they feel stressed, to eat better and to drink lots of water? Imagine how good we would feel if we took this advice.
  4.  Mix up work and fun: Our kids have work times and fun times in school. As adults, we rarely take time to have fun. I caught myself telling Michael the other day, I have lots of work to do,blah, blah, blah. It’s true, but once in awhile go for a drive, go to the park and read a book, go to a movie, You will come back recharged.
  5. Look at the glass half full instead of half empty:  Remember think positive, do your best, and laugh about the silly moments. It will all work out anyway.

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Exceptional Parents, how often have you looked at your children and thought despite their challenges, how well they work when they have a written or visual plan of action? Why not develop one for yourself then. After all, as their parent you have to be at the same calm place as they are when they are organized. From what I have seen and learned first hand, is when the parents are organized, calm, and centered, this can only help their child more. So don’t be afraid to do your own version of the dry erase board. You won’t regret the feeling of organization you have in your life. Until next time.

How Gardening Has Helped Me Grow As An Exceptional Parent

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It is summer, my favorite time of the year. I have loved this season since I was a little girl, though there were a few years after Michael’s autism diagnosis that I started to dislike and even hate summer. I used to watch him unravel with the loss of structure, predictability and the heat. It broke my heart over and over again to see him suffer and not know how to help him.  Oh how the heat used to affect him. In my more bitter times before I saw what God and the Universe were showing me, I believed I was being punished and mocked by ironically dreading my favorite time of year each time it happened. That’s when I started seeing a pattern. I started seeing what I could do to get strong, be positive and be ready for this difficult time of year for Michael. He even has given me fair warning about the difficulties in the last few years by talking about his fears and worries of summer camp, the upcoming school year and other things.

As he has gotten older though, the challenging behaviors have changed. His reactions, his ability to self-regulate is getting better. This is both because I am showing him strategies to manage his emotions, and I have learned to manage my own too. Summer time does not equal Mommy time one hundred percent when camp is not in session. He is slowly learning to find ways to amuse himself, and when I do take him places, I make sure to tell him, I need his help or cooperation in waiting for me to get other things done or get him to help me.

One of the things I do to unwind besides my usual list is gardening. Gardening for me is pruning the massive unruly forest that is my yard and that I love to pieces. It truly represents me, lovingly cluttered, a kind ear to others (so I’ve been told),  and the possibilities of all the beauty that will  unfold with the right care. I am slowly tending to my own inner garden as I am to my yard. It is a slow process, kind of like therapy was for me several years ago, the opening up of my wounds, the work to be done which was hard but gratifying, and the result which is me seeing where I can still grow and get better, and where I was fine all around.

 

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Plants come back to life, a diagnosis is just a label. It does not predict what or who that person will be, and clearing up clutter is cathartic and can help you move forward. It doesn’t surprise me that I became a gardener when I was pregnant with Michael. I felt life growing inside me and I wanted to tend to life. And then tending and helping Michael to grow while he helped me to grow, made me tackle my crazy yard with a gusto that each year fills me with excitement. Outside I find peace, God, release, joy, birth, death and rebirth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Exceptional Parents, what activities bring you back to yourself and help you find peace and rebirth? Whichever ones they are, make sure you do them regularly. Your child will be better when they see you caring for yourself. They will also learn to find their own activities that complete them as an individual. Until next time.