Category: Uncategorized

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

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Learning From The Pain And Failures-What Exceptional Children Can Teach Us

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I am reading a very good book now called “When Things Fall Apart-Heart Advice For Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron. I have always admired much of Buddhism’s teachings, particularly when they talk about growing from suffering and seeing the beauty in it. I know, I know. This sounds like I am some kind of martyr who is advocating a woman or man sacrificing themselves on the altar of exceptional parenting. I assure you I am NOT doing that. I lived that many years ago, when I was failing to see what being Michael’s Mom was teaching me. Back then I thought I had to be the “perfect” Exceptional Mom who had all the answers. I thought there was no room for failure and by thinking I had to be superwoman I burned myself out, literally and figuratively. Now today, I know better. I still have my moments, of course. Lately with Michael’s myriad of behavior and anxiety challenges (as well as some diabetes’ ones), I have felt particularly sorry for myself and him and upset in general. I have not been viewing the “gift” in what his challenges are teaching him as well as Dad and I. What gift you may say? I know. I have been saying it to myself too even though I have been hating the fact I am saying it. The gift is that we can all transcend these challenges and become stronger. The gift is that we are still alive and surviving through a very rough time. The gift, for me, is to make me face my anger finally after forty years.

As a woman, I like many others was thought to push my anger down deep inside. It may hurt people’s feelings. It may cause ripples. It may cost me friendships, opportunities if I blew. This is all true. But somewhere along the line I forget to speak up for myself, to advocate for what I knew to be true and right. Somewhere along the line I forgot to let out pent up feelings of frustration, stress, anxiety and aggression in a productive way.  Well, I can say that over the years having a different brained, emotionally challenging child has definitively helped me get past many of my issue with anger. Now, after recovering from a burnout many years ago, I am freely expressing my anger. Sometimes it is productive. Sometimes not so much. Either way I am in touch with my anger and frustration. This was something I was not doing twenty years ago. Consequently, I am also more in touch with my joy and happiness. Michael is the major reason for this. He helps and forces me to live in the moment. In order to help him, I have to take a step back and check in with me to see if I could handle anything unpredictable. If I can’t, I have learned to ask for a break. Sometimes it is later than I needed to ask for one, but as the saying goes, “better late than never.”

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Lately, our family has been kind of stuck in an ‘in between stage’ of handling emotional upheavals and physical highs and lows of diabetes. Against how I normally would proceed, I have been feeling a little sorry for myself and Michael’s situation and not looking  to see the gift in it for us. After some time alone this morning and this evening, I have come to the conclusion that I am doing neither of us any favors unless I embrace the hardship he and I and Dad are going through and see it as teaching us all how to be more resilient and stronger as individuals and as a family. That is not to say it is easy. It is hard. But longing for days in the past when things were easier, is not an option for any exceptional parent. You need to meet your child where they are right here and now. If you can’t and need a break, get one. You will come back recharged and ready to re-engage with your Exceptional Child in a whole new way. At the very least, you will have your sense of humor back to help them learn to discover theirs!

Exceptional Parents,  what have you learned from the pain and failures when parenting your Exceptional Children?  Have you become stronger as a result? I can tell you from personal experience and in my work, most parents and caregivers become stronger from pain and suffering. It does not mean we seek out pain because we are masochists, but rather we learn that our pain is there to teach us something, and help us overcome obstacles. When we do that, we will see that all life for us and our children is a cycle of pain and joy. We will learn to ride it and not only survive, but thrive. We will also teach our children to do the same thing. 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.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back- How To Heal As An Exceptional Family

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The other day after a particularly challenging evening, I took myself to one of my favorite places to go when I want peace, quiet and space- my home office. At that particular moment I was so tired of the anxiety, screaming, and fighting that had ended our day, that I needed physical distance away from Michael and even Dad. I needed to be alone and just breathe. So that is what I did. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out and practiced mindfulness- that is, being present in the moment only without looking for any solutions as to why a day that had gone really well ended so terribly. It was the old “one step forward, two steps back” analogy that has been playing out so much in our family, and so much in my friends’ families, especially at this time of year.

I have to keep reminding myself, I am doing the best I can. I am trying new things, reaching out for support, and will soon be reading two books which I know will give me new insight. Sometimes, it does not feel like enough. Sometimes it feels like it is too much information overload. There are days I am so tired I just want to throw in the towel, and find someone to take my place in this exceptional parenting thing. Other days, I really see that I am seeing what I need to change in me be stronger, what Michael needs to change, and how we are both helping each other. We heal, we break. It is constant. And if we are lucky, we grow. We always grow if we allow ourselves to feel the pain fully and suffer. Am reading a great book now that is talking about this.

Then there are the moments when Dad and I sit down together after a hectic day where we managed behaviors, Michael’s and our own, and watch a tv show together. Laugh and talk about something other than autism and diabetes. And even talk about Michael and what he said or did that did not revolve around either autism or diabetes. I need to remind myself that whether it is  orward or backward day, Michael too is doing the best he can. He will tell me,

“Mommy, I am trying. Don’t give up on me.”

He said it the other day again. Then more telling. I had been talking to him about how my belief in God is what gives me the strength to get through tough times like we are haiving now as a family. Michael responded;

“Is God helping you right now Mommy?”

“Yes, He is. God is sitting next to you right now. It’s not me Michael. Mommy is tired. God is speaking to you through me to help you get better. To help all of us get better and understand each other.”

The next day was a good one with Michael. Even with behaviors, he used strategies as did Dad and I to move forward in understanding ourselves and each other better. The result was that we all noticed what needed to change. We all needed to work on staying calm, organizing our days in a family schedule, and remembering that as hard as special needs parenting is, nothing is worse than giving up. We will never give up. There is always a new angle, a new thing to try, and that though the journey will be bumpy, our family will make it. Yours will too. I find inspiration in showing families how we are surviving and take comfort in learning how they are surviving then practicing that in our family.

Exceptional Parents, do you find that your parenting often feels like one step forward, two steps back? Do you feel hopeless, angry and frustrated at yourself, your partner or your child? We all have these feelings from time to time. The thing is to take some time alone to reflect on your own thoughts, and when you are calm, to remember to try something new in your way of approaching the problem. You will be surprised at how things will look different when you see things from a different angle. 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

Giving In Does Not Mean Giving Up-How To Pick Your Exceptional Parenting Battles

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A few years ago when I decided to blog and offer parent coaching and speaking services as well, I remember the doubt that filled me. What did I know about some of the more challenging issues that special needs parents face such as extreme anxiety, aggression and struggling with puberty? My son was young, not near puberty, and not being challenged academically yet. I knew the gist of all of these things of course, from books, friends who had experienced it, and professional training, but there is nothing parents, nothing that quite prepares you for helping a severely challenged child and family until you are in the midst of helping that child and family. The last two years with Michael have a been a roller coaster ride of challenging behaviors. Michael has struggled as much as Dad and I. We have used what we knew as parents and caregivers, and learned much along the way from other professionals. In the midst of another frustrating morning the other day, I could not help but think back to when I worried how helpful I could be to parents whose children were aggressive, confrontational and challenged when my son had not gotten quite to that point. Problem solved now. As I have learned (and continue to learn) how to help Michael navigate his fears, anger and challenges it is shaping me as a human being time.

What I try to remember after the storm has passed, is that when our children are challenging us, is when they need us to be the strongest. This is hard even on the best of days, but is true nonetheless. They will push all your buttons as no one knows you better, but it is important that you do your best to hold it together. If you can’t, cry defeat after. I had a night with my son the other day like that and after we’d both calmed down and made up, I came clean and admitted that I had lost my cool and did not use my strategies. It made it easier for him to do the same, and modeled how even adults make mistakes. It also reminded me how our children are there to help us as much as we are there to help them. They are trying to help us become stronger, more compassionate and caring, both towards ourselves and other human beings who are different. This is not an easy thing to learn, but as long as we see our failures as bringing us closer to spiritual growing and admit as much to our children, we will continue to grow as they will.

Shame is what fills me on those moments I have lost it as a parent. Why couldn’t I hold it together better? Why did I let my anger and fear take over? Then, that calm inner voice we all have answered me back: because you are human Joanne. You are human and you make mistakes. It is ok. Tomorrow is a chance to start again. Believe, pray, meditate and do. That is what I teach Michael. There are consequences for negative actions, but he always has a chance to start again. I allow myself that same option, and tell parents that too. Parenting is hard. Parenting an exceptional child is exceptionally hard, for parents and the child. Be patient. Stay strong. Stay positive. Get support and time away on your own to regroup. You’ll be more patient when it comes time to handle those outbursts when they happen.

Exceptional Parents, what battles have you learned not to pick with your Exceptional Children? What do you buckle down on and what do you let go of? Remember, there is no hard and fast rule of what works best for EVERY child. Make sure you go with your child’s flow and adjust your expectations to what you feel they can handle. Be firm and consistent in most things, but remember to allow some flexibility in how you handle stressful situations so your child feels secure and sees that you love them but means business. 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.

The Importance Of Sports For Exceptional Kids

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Sports and movement. This is something that has always come naturally to Michael. He has been on the move since he first learned to walk at eighteen months and has not slowed down since. He has always been a physical child who enjoyed going to parks and for walks. And from a young age, he played on an adapted soccer team as well as participating in swimming lessons. He also took skating lessons, tennis lessons, and tried basketball, though that was a little challenging. Still, I was proud of him. Proud of the fact that he continued to push forward and challenge himself. He also took up bike riding with me and has gotten really good with his training wheels. We have biked all over the neighborhood together!

What Michael participating in sports has taught me,  is that each time he is physically active, it helps him work through stress, connect to other people, and build new fine and gross motor skills. It also has helped show him both what he loves and does not love  to do. It has helped him forge connections to other people around him. And it has helped him learn about his own strengths and weaknesses and what he can improve on. I have also witnessed the confidence he has gained from learning to swim well, kick a soccer ball and play a little game with friends, serve a tennis volley, and play a little game etc. As Michael’s behavior issues have been mounting, I have seen how important sports have been to helping him learn to control his anxiety, build confidence, and keep him busy. It has helped him tremendously. He has played on adapted teams with other exceptional or special needs kids, and this has helped too. The leagues were all about having fun and not about being competitive. Exercise was made fun in this way, so there was no pressure. It does not matter how the child gets their exercise. As long as they are having fun, the league can be adapted or not. It all depends on the child and their abilities and comfort level.

Exceptional Parents, how active are your Exceptional Children in sports? If the answer is not so much and they are doing well, then that is fine of course. However, if you notice they are stressed and anxious, why not try and engage them in more physical activity to work though their worry? If you are nervous how they will do, try adapted or Special Olympics activities in your area. Your child will be able to learn at a slower and more individualized pace with no competitive expectations, and they will also learn to socialize meeting other children who are just like them. This will help them develop life skills that will serve them well. 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.

 

 

When Exceptional Parents Blow Their Tops-What NOT To Do When Dealing With An Angry Exceptional Child

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So life at our house is basically one dramatic encounter after the other. I have high aspirations that Michael will make it on Broadway one day, if he can listen long enough to do what he is being told to do. He is either the angry young boy, the anxious young boy, the overly tired young boy, or the ” I don’t have to listen to my boring parents” young boy. Sigh. It’s enough to make me want to go and sell tickets to the production of life in our family these days. Still, as angry, frustrated and exhausted as I feel, I have also been reminding myself that Michael is doing all these things because he is growing up, changing, and under stress. He is also testing his boundaries and seeing how far he can push us. It is clear he needs help and new tools. We are working hard to find them for him, putting down limits, and trying to keep our sense of humor, but it is hard. Yes, so hard that there have been times in the last month that Dad and I have blown our tops too and done the equivalent of Michael. We have yelled back, slammed doors and had to put ourselves in our rooms to calm down. It has been embarrassing, particularly for me. I like to think of myself as a calm and patient person. I am. Most of the time. But there is no one who can trigger me like my son can. And I mean no one.

I am learning what NOT to do as Michael’s Mom. Dad is too. As we learn to get better in touch with our own anger, stress and feelings of worry over how to help Michael, we are learning what we need to change in our parenting styles. As a couple we have come a long way in supporting each other, though we sometimes fall back to bad habits. It’s not easy. I am particularly seeing how hard it is to hold it together for Michael’s sake as he is truly struggling  especially when he is being aggressive, so that we can be good examples to him. So here is what I have learned NOT to do when Michael acts out in any unfortunate manner:

1) Do Not Yell: Yep. Not easy, but so true. As much as you want to yell back, don’t. This shows the child that yelling is acceptable and that they are getting to you. Remember, you want to decrease anger, not increase it.

2) Do Not Stay in Room With Escalating Child: Don’t wait till the child escalates. If you see they are getting upset but can manage it and you are in the same position, take a five minute break in another room. Breathe. Collect your thoughts and focus on the present. If you have no choice, go to another room virtually to calm down.

3) Do Not Think Their Anger is Who They Are: Remember, their anger is bigger than them. Show them how by staying calm, they can learn to shrink it.

4) Do Not Give Up Going Out or Taking Personal Respite From Your Child: As hard as it is and as tired as you are, schedule a day or night away from your child. Have your partner do the same. It will give you both a much  needed break and you will come back refreshed and ready to see the good in your child again.

5) Do Not Blame Your Partner Or Yourself If You Make Mistakes: Hey, you are human. Parenting does not come with a handbook. Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on.

6) Do Not Say The Same Mean Things to Your Child They Say to You: This is hard in the moment, but if you child says, “I don’t love you,” don’t say it back. You could say, “I don’t love what you are saying. I hate that, but I love you.” Always make sure to end things on a positive.

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Exceptional Parents, how many times have you blown up at your kids and felt terrible after? How many times have you seen how stuck they really were, that it wasn’t all bravado and aggression, and yet you couldn’t stop yourself due to your own frustration at failing to reach them? If this has happened a lot, it just means you are human beings dong your best. Parenting exceptional kids is like preparing for a marathon. It requires being in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape that you can be. Take care of yourself. Practice self-care. Remember your child for all their bad behavior needs consistency, boundaries, but most of all love and a healthy calm parent to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. Reach out and get help yourself so you can be the bearer of that light for them. And know you are not alone in your journey or your child in theirs. 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.

 

 

Exceptional December-5 Ways to Make The Holidays Go Easier

december preparations.jpegSo it is here. The month of December. This is a month that is beautiful and very difficult for me. It used to be my favorite time of the year. I looked forward to the holiday preparation among the stress of exams and holiday shopping when younger. Then I got older and had my first date with my husband-to-be during the month of December. Many years later Michael was born in late December so it became triply special- a time to gather with family, friends, a husband, a  beautiful child. Then autism hit with a bang. It meant the holidays had to be navigated in a whole new way. There needed to be planning, schedules, predictability in our schedule and not too many surprises. This made it difficult for Michael and us. Over the years in some ways it has gotten easier. In other ways, more challenging, but we were getting  the hang of it.  Now diabetes has hit and with it a whole new way of handling food, preparing for the holidays and scheduling. Finally we are now seeing other signs that point very strongly to ADHD and possible ODD. Yep. It’s good there is lots of alcohol and a sense of humor in this house.

But all jokes aside, it means that this year as December approached I have to say it, more than any other year, I dreaded it. I even toyed with the idea of not celebrating Christmas. That would be kind of hard as we have family and friends who are looking forward to seeing us and us them, but my heart just was not in the Christmas spirit last week as we approached December. I was depressed.  I cried. What kept me going  was my personal Christian spiritual belief about the holiday. Other faiths believe in the same things- letting light, hope, peace, and goodness reign, as we remember sharing our blessings and helping those around us who are struggling. This is what kept me going and helped me decide that yes, I would celebrate Christmas as I did every year, but as always , remember to keep it simple and pass that message on to Michael.

Keeping things simple with your exceptional child could look like, planning out the day you will put your holiday tree up (if you do put one up), what foods you will or will not make, the stories or movies you will watch as a family or not, and carve out family traditions that work for you and your family with no pressure. Remember, if your child is not comfortable, you will not be either. Figure out what will make the whole family feel good. What are you better off without? If visiting family and friends works go for it. If it doesn’t, forgo it. You need to do what works for every member of your family. Remember, the holidays need to be as low key as possible for exceptional families in order for them to be enjoyed. On that note, here are some tips that have been learned by our family after MANY hard times:

 

  1. Do what feels right for your family: See what is important for your family to mark and what brings you relaxation, peace and joy. Forget everything else, no matter what others say. You are the one living your life!
  2. Have a schedule prepared for the month of December: In advance, (as much as is possible) prepare for the holidays with what you will do when they arrive.
  3. Go with your child’s flow: If your child is comfortable, that is the most important thing. When you see they are comfortable, you will be comfortable too.
  4. Build in time alone, time with your child alone and family time in your schedule: It’s important to have a mix of everything in the schedule in order to have balance and feel good- time alone, time with you, your partner and your child, and time with family and friends.
  5. Take it one day at a time: This may sound contradictory to the planning it out point, but taking things one step at a time can really help take a lot of stress off of you as a parent and caregiver. If your child is having an off day, don’t assume the whole holiday will be off. Take it in stride, adjust and remember, tomorrow is another day when you and they will start again.

Exceptional Parents, what are your tools to survive the month of December with your Exceptional Children? Are they similar or different to the ones above? As long as you have tools and remember that for many families, and many individuals, this is a hard month and one that needs to be thought through and planned out in order for peace to reign, you will be fine. 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

 

 

 

Nighttime Fears and How To Combat Them- Our Family’s Journey And What Has Worked

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Michael is having a very hard time in the late afternoon or evening, even worse than usual at this time of year. November and December have always been hard months for him as they are for many children and adults whose mood and stress levels are affected by the shorter days and the darkness. It’s only been in the last two years that Michael has been able to really explain to me his fear of nighttime and of falling asleep then staying asleep. I find myself wondering if he does not have some version of SAD (Seasonal Affective  Disorder). Of course the added complication of difficulty getting to or staying asleep at night is the fact that mornings are hard. He can’t get up easily and it is a battle to get him out the door on time. What are parents to do?

Michael has bee using Melatonin to help with falling asleep which was his original issue. Now that is usually not the biggest issue. It is the night waking in the wee hours where will eventually put himself back to bed, but will stay up awhile before doing so. He generally does not bother Dad and I, but the fear is there and the tiredness the next day. Short of sleep medication which we are considering down the road should we have no choice, what else has worked to help Michael be calmer at night and fall asleep? Here are some things we have tried with success:

  1. A good consistent sleep routine: This cannot be emphasized enough. It is important to have a sleep sleep routine to calm the body and mind. Something like a warm bath, a story, a massage or cuddle and some relaxation music can work wonders, for adults alike!
  2. Having stress busting strategies on paper to refer to: This is something we recently asked Michael to do. He wrote down positive things he could think about to work through stress- looking forward to seeing a friend at school, a friend’s birthday party, making a fun meal etc. OR strategies to handle stress- doing deep breathing, yoga poses, meditating or reading a favorite story.
  3. Talking about stress to parents or other adult and asking for help earlier in the day: This is also something Michael has recently started doing. When he does it, he sleeps really well. When he forgets, it is a challenging night.
  4. Exercise: This is something I will try and get back to if Michael continues to struggle. Exercise will help the body calm down and sleep better. The thing is, Michael gets home later this year so there is no time to go out and exercise at a park as well as dark and cold. We will try exercise in the house.
  5. Eliminating The Possibility of A Physical Reason Impeding Sleep: Sometimes it could be as simple as a sore stomach, a virus or a daytime fear impeding sleep. Try to get to the bottom of what is bothering your child. If they can communicate it to you, so much the better.

Exceptional Parents, what are your tricks for getting your little Exceptional Ones to sleep at this time of year? With the holidays approaching, it is even more important for children to be rested so they could enjoy themselves with family and friends. Remember, if things that have worked in the past are not working, don’t be afraid to experiment with different things with your child. Also, reach out and see what other parents have tried. Finally, reaching out for professional help is never something to be ashamed of. So many children (and adults) with autism struggle with sleep issues. It’s important they be given tools as early on as possible in order to empower themselves and learn how to control their stress levels. This is what will eventually give them success with their sleep issues, and relief to their tired Exceptional Parents who want to sleep too. 🙂 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

How Modeling Calm and Using Comforting Routines Helps Exceptional Children Flourish

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In the last few days with Michael’s return to calmer more predictable behavior, I have been reminded about two things I was forgetting about during the more tumultuous months before-staying calm myself and how comfortable routines in place that help Michael use his strategies. Whenever possible, this has been something that has always helped Michael stay calm and see the rhyme and rhythm of his day. Today was a perfect example of a non-typical day and some of the problems that resulted were due to that change. Dad and I had a training at the hospital with the diabetes nurse on Michael’s team. Though Michael did not need to be present at this meeting, we knew we would not make it home for the school bus in time so he stayed at his school’s after school program. He was a little nervous about it, but we’d prepared him well in advance and he knew that it was only for today. He loves coming home and unwinding after his bus ride.

Well, when he came home several things happened. His routine was off as he came home an hour later than normal due to the traffic we had encountered and of course Dad was home too not just me as it is usually is when he gets off the bus.Though dinner was ready and he could have gone right to doing his injection then eating, he saw the surprise we had been trying to hide from him that the diabetes nurse had given him-a stuffed animal and a series of books that helps kids handle type 1 diabetes.  Then he realized how much darker outside it was than it usually is as he was home later, and the crying and undoing began. It took him a good thirty minutes to stop crying, complaining that he hated the dark, he hated what I made for dinner  and he hated the gifts.  It was hard on him and on us watching him suffer due to a predictable routine being turned upside down. I did not think it would be this challenging though I had warned Dad to expect some fussing and stress. In retrospect, I wish we could have planned out a whole visual schedule for the evening, but due to so many unpredictable events we could not have done this. What did we do? The second best thing. I gave him lots of hugs. He sat on my lap and we cuddled. And once he was completely calm, we progressed with the usual evening routine even though it was a little later than usual. And guess what? With that predictable element in, he did great! He loved the toy and books. We read one of them at bedtime before his massage.  I remembered how kids with special needs flock to and love routine. It is recognizable, easier to get a handle on, and helps them feel some measure of control. This is something hard for them to feel in their every day life.

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I also remembered how when Dad and I stayed calm through the storm, we were modeling how even when things are unpredictable, staying calm and finding some recognizable routine or order can go a long way in calming the mind and soul. Dad is better than I at this, but I have learned much from him and other Mom friends who have made calm and patience an art. I now try to emulate it as often as I can, especially at those moments when it is the last thing I am feeling. I realize that is when Michael needs me the most.

Exceptional Parents, how do you model staying calm and sticking to a routine with your Exceptional Child? Is it something easy or hard to do? How does your child  react when their routine is off? Remember, some kids need routine more than others, but all Exceptional Children like the predictability of a routine and like when their parents react consistently in all situations. This is how they will learn how to handle their own emotions as well as the world around them with ease. 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.

The Calm After The Storm and Other Exceptional Surprises

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It’s been nothing short of month from hell for our family. That is not me exaggerating. Even before we tried a new anti-anxiety medication to help Michael regulate and calm down (it only made things worse), I saw his attention, anger and aggression worsen towards us, and even himself. Though there was significantly less anxiety and at school they were seeing a sillier side of Michael who did not know when to quit laughing or fooling around with friends, it was hard on all of us. What was the most difficult was hearing Michael apologize to us right after the verbal or physical aggression looking genuinely sorry, then turn around and do the exact same thing a minute later. He also would make a show of looking at his strategies that he had devised to handle his aggression and anger better, but we could see that his heart was not really in it. We brought in visual schedules but that angered him too. It was all in his head. He did not need to see what was on paper.

As a parent it is heartbreaking to see your child suffering and all the tools you are using not working. Thankfully, a step in the right direction was taking him off the anti-anxiety medication on Friday. Even with that the weekend was a bit about the withdrawal effects of the medication. The verbally aggressive things he was saying were hard not to take to heart, though I found chillingly that I was becoming numb to them at the same time. It’s called exceptional parenting survival. Then on Sunday night I started seeing noticeable differences. He was calmer, listening to us again and not freaking out when we asked him to do something, and then, I was both shocked and overjoyed when he looked at us and said, “I am going to schedule my day Mommy.” And just like that, the schedules came back. He also started actually using his strategies to handle his anger and with the meds gone his anxiety over the dark and nighttime came back. But, I was so proud to see him coming to his Dad and I, letting himself cry in front of us, and then proceeding to use the strategies he used to use to handle nighttime anxiety.

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I started thinking where did it stop going wrong and start going wrong? Was it all medication? Was it all blood sugar related? Did Dad’s and my consistency start paying off? Was it due to the fact that we told him he would soon be meeting with a new team to assess him for his attention and anger issues? He had been asking to talk to a psychologist for a while. I think it was all of the above personally.  Regardless, my little boy, the one who didn’t go off like a firecracker every second, was back. The PTSD symptoms I felt I was developing each day on my way home for work were going away. I felt happy and hopeful that a combination of good communication, consistency in response, and a good medication match may be the solution we are looking for. He actually told me he wants to listen and not anger us or his teachers. He seems calmer, grounded like a cloud has passed over.  This is very common with exceptional kids. They have their moods, their difficult periods, their honeymoon periods. As exceptional parents, we need to be looking at all the clues of what could be helping or hindering them. It is downright exhausting, but worth it in the end to log any strange behavior or any other developments as well as what is working and not working. It is also important to not give up on your child. Michael reminded me that after a hard period with him often comes a rest for both of us. He reverts back to himself. He is growing, changing, testing. He is helping me to stretch myself, and as frustrating as it is to have to go back to the table for more answers as to what other conditions he may have that he needs assistance with, I am grateful for the support of the amazing family and friendship network I have. As usual, they have come through for us in the form of professionals for us to consult, shoulders to cry on, and give me the strength to ask God and the Universe to fill me with the strength I will need on this journey of raising Michael to reach his full potential and do the beautiful thing he is supposed to do in this world.

He is letting me hug him again. He wants to sit in my lap and he tells me he loves me, he loves coming home to me and talking to me. He appreciates his father and I. There is nothing in his eyes that leads me to believe anything other than he is telling the truth. I take him on my lap, hug him, and tell him I love him too and want him to be healthy and happy. We are both ready to turn the page to the next chapter of helping Michael succeed.

Exceptional Parents, what surprises do your Exceptional Children give you? I’ll bet some are beautiful, some not so much. Whichever ones they bring though, remember it can be used to make you both grow stronger and more secure. Your child needs to learn limits and letting go and trusting in your parenting. And you as the parent, need to learn what your limits are and when you need to let go and trust in yourself as the parent. Know that it is OK to be scared, angry and not know. Also believe that your child will surprise you every time and that you need to be ready to go on to the next leg of adventure with them. Remember, you are each other’s guides to growth and becoming stronger as individuals. Until next time.