Understanding Your Child’s Stim As Necessary Healthy Self-Regulation

It has taken me a long time to make peace with Michael’s stimming. I finally did about three years ago. Like many parents who were told their child was autistic, after being told what we had to do to “fix” it, the next thing was how to normalize their outside behavior, ie. stimming in order to fit in better in society.  As I came to understand that autism is not something to be fixed, my child is not broken but beautiful in another way,  I also began to see that though stimming made me nervous and maybe some other neuro typical people nervous around us due to not understanding it, this was something necessary for autistic people like Michael to do and they each had their own unique way to do it. Neuro typical people stim too, by the way. We just don’t think of it as stimming as it is no ingrained in our popular culture. Playing with hair, bouncing a leg up and down under the table, flicking a pen open and closed are just some examples. Autistic people’s stims though involve things that are unusual for many neuro typical people to understand; rocking, clapping repeatedly, vocalizing with certain words, spinning. The thing is though, that for them it is a way to regulate in a way that calms their body and mind. A lot of stimming is usually done when they are excited or overwhelmed in a busy environment. It’s necessary for their mental health to do this and we all need to understand this.

Some children with autism are sensory seeking like Michael. He LOVES to do long walks in traffic then sit down and watch the cars going by while rocking. Sometimes he will stand and do it. He also loves to rock and clap to his favorite music. I have learned over the years to let him stim whenever he needed to as I see how this has helped him de-compress. Sometimes he tunes me out as I would tune people out during a walk or drive, but usually he can focus just fine on what I am saying. I’ve had to overcome my fear over the years that Michael’s stimming would get him noticed as being different, and then my next questions was, “why is that a bad thing?” The answer back was because I did not want him laughed at or thought of as weird. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what is beautiful about Michael IS his difference, his difference in how he relates to the world, how he takes information in and talks about it. His autism is part of who he is, and I don’t want him fitting himself into a box he is not meant to be in. I want him being proud to be autistic, proud of how his brain works. The world also needs to start recognizing that difference is not to be feared. It is to be celebrated.

I realized that the issues around stimming were my issues. As I got over them, I now embrace Michael’s stimming and all autistic stimming as something I may not always understand, but should I be privileged enough, maybe one day it will be explained to me by an autistic person why they stim in a particular way. I’ve already had some conversations with Michael about this. I loved his answers. And the first time I heard about adult autistic stim parties and told Michael about it, I remember how his face lit up and he said, “Wow. A party where people with autism get together to stim. Cool.” I wanted him to know that when the world gets too much for him, there are people who think like him and have fun by stimming for as long as they need to.

Exceptional Parents, where are you on your journey towards understanding your autistic child’s stimming? It’s not an easy road, and the fact that they are different than you will always be a challenge on some level of communication. Remember however, it is important that they are comfortable in their own skin, physically and mentally as it is for any child. Encourage them to be themselves. If they do not have special needs friends, reach out to others who also have autism so your child sees that there are others like them.  It’s great to have neuro typical friends too, but your child needs to know they are not alone. On your journey as a neuro typical parent, also don’t forget to look for adult autistic mentors for your child who will know your child in ways you will not. I am at that stage now, and it is a privilege to listen to these individuals talk about their childhoods, adolescence and adulthood and say, wow they get my kid because in some ways they are him! They will be your child’s guide and yours to the world of autism and all its wonder. Until next time.

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Long Walks, Long Talks-How Having A Parent/Child Routine Can Help Build Resilience In Your Child

So as Michael has pulled more inwards due to puberty and all that has brought up, I have used two physical activities he and I both enjoy doing as a way to keep the lines of communication open; bike rides and long walks. It is on the long walks, even though he brings his headphones along, that Michael will say and do things, sometimes proper, sometimes improper, and I get a chance to talk to him about his behavior and how to conduct himself in a way that brings out his best side. I have to admit that on some of our walks I hold my own emotions together better. On others, well, I raise my voice, even yell a little, then it is a lesson for me too on patience, learning to be calm, and to set a positive example of how to handle myself when up against a challenging personality. Ironically, Michael has said that it is hard to talk to me sometimes because I nag and tell him what to do. This is, of course, when I am telling him to do things that he does not want to do. I gently try to redirect him by reminding him that he may not like everything I say, but if I am saying for him to do something he may not like, for me to push that point it has to be due to his health and well being . Then I get an, oh, ok.

In spite of the ups and downs, we usually have good conversations and Michael has said he enjoys our walks and likes to talk to me. So far so good in keeping the communication lines open like when he was a young child. I too enjoy our conversations. Even when he frustrates me as he sees the world in a way I sometimes still have trouble understanding, I love the way his brain will look at something in a totally different way than a neuro typical person’s would. Sometimes his reasoning seems black and white. Other times there are so many colors  I am amazed. I always feel better after our walks as I learn things too. I learn what to continue doing and what to stop doing.

So how can a parent reach their exceptional child at any age? How do we form a strong bond? Here are some tips that have helped our family through the years:

  1. Find a common activity you both love: If possible, this is the easiest and best way to go and do this activity regularly; ie. daily walks, bike rides, a trip to the park, an outing to a favorite place, or time at home playing a game you both love.
  2. Take a HUGE interest in what you exceptional child loves: This is not always easy as sometimes our kids’ tastes may strike us parents as strange, but there is only positive things to gain if we immerse ourselves in their interests and their world. In my case Michael loves drives and navigation, and now, for better or worse so do I. 😉
  3. Find a good time of day to talk and bond: For some families mornings work best. For others evenings or weekends. The important thing is consistency.
  4. Ask them what is bothering them and/or look for signs of agitation: For kids who are able to communicate effectively, ask them their favorite and not so favorite parts of the day. For children who have a harder time with communication, be vigilant for signs of distress and have sensory sensitive strategies ready to help them unwind and regroup.
  5. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help: If your child is not acting like themselves and other issues are appearing that were not there, seek outside help from professionals who have a  love and respect for the exceptional community. Make sure they vibe with your child and your family.

Exceptional Parents, how do you maintain a good bond with your Exceptional Child? As long as whatever you do involves showing love, respect, positivity and hope in your child and their abilities, you and they are on the right path to continuing to have a close relationship with one another. Until next time.

Enjoying Every Stage of Your Exceptional Child’s Development

As I sit and write this post I am both happy and sad. Happy that Michael is deep in puberty and pushing away from Dad and I as any normal tween almost teen would do. He is asking to do more things alone and for more independence which is a good thing. Then there are the surly comments, the sighs when Mom or Dad ignore him, all part of the program too. I laugh these off. While I didn’t expect all of this to be occurring before 13 years old, I also did not expect to be missing some of the things I used to be annoyed about- taking him to three different parks a day, having to supervise him and listen at the “Look Mommy” every three seconds, and doing things alone this year that last year he couldn’t wait to do like walking up the street at the park on the track only breaking for Michael to go running into the splash pad. We had to stay till the park pretty much was deserted at  9 pm.

This year, he will occasionally come to the park for a walk with me, but is too old for the splash pad. It’s understandable on both fronts, but as I walked the track myself tonight enjoying the fact I could go around as many times as I wanted to and not have to sit with all the noisy kids at the splash pad, I felt strangely sad. That phase of Michael’s life is over and we have moved into the next phase. I wasn’t ready, but it happened. Did I enjoy him enough at that age? I think I did and now I must let go. The same thing happened at other ages as he outgrew toddler hood the little boyhood, but with those I do not remember being anything but happy. A friend of mine used to tell me how sad she was that her baby was growing up. I couldn’t relate to that. As much as I enjoyed many moments in baby and toddler hood, there was more stressful moments, sleepless nights, and of course, Michael’s diagnosis, so I was glad to be moving forward to better communication, toilet training and other things. But now I actually am starting to see it, the growing up phase, with all the pros and cons, and reminding myself that it is normal to feel loss, but that life goes on.

It’s important to love and appreciate your child at every stage, spend time with them doing quality things, whatever matters to them at that particular age. Though he is not all cutesy cuddly anymore, he still wants to share things with me, spend time with me doing walks and bike rides, and cares about what I think. In some ways this age needs you more than ever to set the stage for how they will handle themselves as adults. I am ready and proud of Michael. For all the areas of struggle, he has made so many more surges forward into independence. I reminded myself that tonight after a busy day at his sports camp he chose to chill out with his music and videos as he deserved too. Enjoy and respect every age and you won’t have regrets as a parent.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle the ups and downs of your Exceptional Child’s growth? Remember, they are on their own curve. Respect that curve, love them, and be there for them as support cheering them on. As long as they know you are in their corner, you can’t go wrong. Until next time.

How We Can All Learn Determination From Our Exceptional Children

So there we were this evening biking on Michael’s favorite busy street. We stopped a few times for breaks and so Michael can watch the traffic. He loves cars and moving traffic. He would clap his hands and watch, then clap some more. That is his “traffic stim.”  When we moved on after the third little break, I noticed that one of his tires on his bike had gone a little flat. It was not completely flat, but was losing air so bike riding would be more difficult.

“Michael, your tire is losing air and it will be a little more challenging to go to the next block like we had planned. Do you want to try and you can partially walk the bike or do we head home?”
Michael looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want to do it. I don’t mind if I have to walk a bit with the bike. I want to do the route we planned.”
I was so proud of his determination to finish what he started and pretty much knew this was what he was going to say. I only warned him as I was worried he may get discouraged when the bike riding got harder. However, I had forgotten for a second who I was dealing with, a child who never gives up, perseveres and pushes through to get what he wants, difficult or not.

“Ok honey. We’ll do it. ”

Several times during the bike ride when we would stop Michael would ask me if I was proud of him. I also said extremely. I saw the smile he would give me. I think he knew my answer would be yes. I would be crazy not to be proud of the child who from birth fought to be born through a series of difficulties, then fought to catch up on the milestones and did it, then fought to learn strategies to overcome anger and anxiety and still continue to fight to figure this out. This is a hard challenge. AND finally, fight to master learning how to manage a chronic life long disease of Type 1 Diabetes. I sometimes forget through the exhaustion of parenting, just how tough, resilient and spirited Michael is. He does not give up. He does not take no for an answer, which can be a drag as a parent when you want your child to listen, but heck, I know he’ll do fine making his way in the world one day because of his attitude of not giving up what he is going after.

This got me thinking about what Michael is here to teach me, like all our children are here to teach all of us. He is here to show me to never give up. He is here to show me not to give up on my dreams no matter how challenging it is to make it happen. He is here to remind me to fight for who and what I believe in always. He is here to remind me that love conquers all.

Exceptional Parents, what has your Exceptional Child’s determination showed you? I’m sure it has reminded you that no matter what , you can get through anything, just like your child has. You advocate for them they advocate for you as well, and help you be the best person you can be. Never never give up. Until next time.

Communicating Feelings Properly With Your Exceptional Child

It is not easy being an exceptional parent or an exceptional child. Michael and I both have our challenges with figuring out how to express ourselves honestly, asking the other family member for space, and with believing in each other from time to time. Yep, that last one is a tough cookie. You see, Michael is in the middle of major teen rebellion, angst and general confusion.  There could be other things going on too which we are not ruling out, but the thing is, he is super hard to talk to him these days without one or both of us getting frustrated. I feel like he jumps at everything I say, and he feels the same apparently. Just before dinner, I’d finally had enough with the way he answered me and told him this was exhausting for me, to which he answered;

“Mommy, I can’t be like you were when you were young. I’m doing my best. I have a hard time controlling what I say sometimes. I’m sorry.”

My heart hurt and I felt so bad. Yes, he is not neuro typical so of course is more touchy, anxious and angers more easily. I know this and try to understand, but I have my limits some days, and I see that he is also not trying to use new strategies to handle old problems. When I have told him this, he will agree, but say he does not know where to start.

“Then we can brainstorm together. I’ll show you what information we have from your team and we’ll go from there. Daddy and I believe in you, everyone believes in you, but you need to believe in yourself to succeed.”
“You do believe in me? Ok Mommy, I will take time before bed to look at the notes and strategies and try to make those changes. It will take me time though. It’s hard.”
“I know Michael, but each day it will get easier. And I am always here to help.”
“Then how come when I talk to you you are always busy?”
“If you start talking to me when I am cooking, driving or doing another errand, it needs to be something quick as my concentration is on that first task. If it is something important though, tell me. I will put aside what I am doing then if I can, or set a time aside to listen to you very soon.”
“Oh ok. I will.”
Communication is key with exceptional kids. There are many like Michael who can talk about a storm, but misunderstandings ensue because of how they hear what you are saying, if they are anxious, tired, frustrated. As parents, we too sometimes feel exhausted and frustrated as I did today, and don’t hear them out as well as we’d like to. When there are challenging behaviors to boot, it makes it all very complicated. Still, when Michael expressed how he does not feel heard by me, I felt bad as there were times I could have been more clear to him about what was a good or bad time to talk. I also somehow gave him the impression that I don’t want to listen to him or am deliberately misunderstanding him. I quickly corrected that and made a point the rest of the evening to tell him about the good things he did, and how I enjoyed things like our mother/son bike ride early this morning and our mother/son walk up at the park in the evening and a drive we took together mid day. He is so smart and has so much to offer, but when communication lines get crossed it is challenging.

Exceptional Parents, how do you make sure you are communicating effectively with your Exceptional Child? Remember, really listen to them when you can directly, and if it is not a good time to talk, tell them and set aside a time. They will sometimes misunderstand our tiredness for lack of interest or frustration, when really it is bad timing. This is the neuro diverse brain, nothing else. Don’t be afraid to tell your child when they have overstepped your boundaries, but be gentle and direct. Make sure to spend quality positive time with your child doing a favorite activity that leaves good memories, and don’t be afraid to be specific about what you expect in return. Until next time.

Easing Into Summer With Your Exceptional Child

Summer was officially here both on the calendar AND in our household as of Friday, June 21st when Michael and I finished school and work for the summer. 🙂 The last few days have been the usual. Michael and I planning out his first full week at home prior to summer camp, a choice I make to give us both a bit of a breather. This consists of structuring our days on my phone calendar and on a wall one. The wall one still has to be done, but we have our basis. After that, the next step is usually getting used to a new schedule of how our day will unfold. Due to the fact that in our neck of the woods Monday was the first long weekend of summer for us, Dad was home so planned out a family activity. All in all, things went well, with some minor hiccups as usual. This has always been the case as Michael adjusts to a new schedule and I find myself doing it along with him.

This time of year is always a little more stressful for us due to this change, but I have come to expect it, give him space as he gives me, and now things have gotten a lot better as a result. It’s not always perfect, and I find that reminding myself of the following tips helps me keep things in perspective a lot better for the long summer haul. Here they are for any other parents and children who struggle when the routine of school ends and a new one begins:

  1. Structure some of the unstructured and let the rest go: It’s important to have a plan to keep things moving but you know your child best. Leave some wiggle room in for unexpected things like weather changes, tiredness, or spontaneity. The last one is hard for many kids to handle, but is an important life skill to teach in certain circumstances as long as parents are up for it.  Be prepared for higher anxiety and riding it out.
  2. Decide camp week and family vacation in advance and share with your child: Depending on how much they understand and how much time they need, share the camp and family vacation schedule in advance to help them ease into summer better .
  3. Don’t plan too many adventures when you are tired : I made the mistake one year of asking Dad to take the last week of June off for family vacation right after school ended. It was a more stressful week for all of us as Michael was only slowly getting into vacation mode and tired from school, and Dad and I had had a crazy June with work. Now, unless there is a good reason, our family does family vacation later in August so it’s something to look forward to. Every family is different, do what works for you!
  4. Be gentle with yourself if you are feeling down: Caregivers who are exhausted cannot get into the summer vibe until they rest. If you need to sleep more, eat more, rest more and be alone more, don’t worry. You are not losing your mind. You just need to replenish your energy. I only start to feel like myself after about four or five days into the summer vacation. That’s me and I’ve learned how to pace myself.
  5. Be honest with your family about your limits: I’ve also learned through trial and error to be honest with my family about how much “together” time I can handle, and when I need “me time.” This has saved many a couple and family fight. Know what makes you happy and helps you be a better partner and parent and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Exceptional Parents, what are your summer plans with your Exceptional Child? Whatever they are, just make sure to be true to who your child and you are. Don’t follow the crowd as tempting as it may be. It’s always good to get ideas from family and friends, as they probably do from you, but follow your own agenda. You know yourself and your child/dren best. Until next time.

 

Long Drives And Conversations-How I Learn About My Exceptional Tween

Michael has always been a talker and extremely social, with us and the world around him. Then puberty hit. He became social with peers and semi-social with us, but more often than not, I am noticing more retreating and heading to his room for private time alone with his videos or talking to friends. It is great when I have things to catch up on in the house, but I have had to get creative to find ways for us to bond and talk. We do eat meals together, but his appetite is not huge lately due to his medication so it is a quick deal. Other times he is either on the phone or on videos. How do I reach Michael? Well, interestingly, he gave me the opening. It is on long or longer drives around our neighborhood. Yes, as most of you know Michael loves to navigate on Google Maps and loves being in traffic. So you can guess that two of his favorite things to do are to go for drives in the car with ways he has mapped out, or to go for long walks with with me on busy boulevards where he has mapped out what streets he would like to take. Bike rides come in third. 🙂

As most parents will tell you, it is important for your child’s interests to become your own in order to continue to build a good rapport with them. If they see you loving what they love, they will continue to trust you and open up to you, even if you are no longer as cool as their friends. 😉 This has worked for me as Michael in many ways is the typical teenager, except with a dash of ADHD, anxiety, autism and blood sugar issues due to his diabetes that affect his moods one way or another. I have noticed on either walks or drives, he will talk about things that are important to him- friendships, crushes, puberty, anxieties about school or the upcoming summer vacation and we can talk about it together without it sounding like Mom grilling him again. He will also share with me his favorite music. When a song he likes comes on the radio he will tell me. We often have the same taste in music which has been a cool thing to talk about too.

With all the ups and downs he has with learning how to self-regulate, I can honestly say that our drives and walks though sometimes challenging for me when I am tired, have really cemented our mother/son relationship. I feel him opening up to me and sharing thoughts, and it is helping him to learn how to converse and handle emotions that come up. I also get a glimpse of the amazing kid I have, which I sometimes forget is there when he is having behaviors and well, rebelling against his parents as tweens do. Hey, I’m human too, and have my moments when I sigh and say, not another emotional crisis. It is important to truly be there for your child and see them in all their states and abilities. It is important to give them a chance to prove to you and themselves that they can overcome obstacles. And most importantly, it is important to encourage their passions-whatever it is.

Exceptional Parents, how do you continue to stay close to your Exceptional Children? Whatever their interests are, and of course it can be a bit of a challenge, try and immerse yourself in them. Show them you are fascinated by it. Ask questions. Stay close by if they want to talk about it. Eventually they will want to share and let you be a part of the whole experience. That is truly a priceless thing for a parent and child. Until next time.

Helping Your Exceptional Child Balance Structured and Unstructured Time

Having Michael fill his time schedule with structured and unstructured activities has always been a challenge, though when he was younger at least filling it with structured activities was easier. Why? Well, that was because as his Mom, I set the schedule of naps, meals, parks, play dates etc. As he got older, however, Michael understandably began demanding more activities that he wanted and that sometimes compromised my time more, like long drives or going to certain stores and only to the departments where he liked to go, ie. toy departments, and later to play on the IPADS or phones.

Unstructured time has always been difficult in our house. Michael never wanted to be home. He liked to be on the go all the time. I remember the summer when he was little that his boundless energy had me taking him to 4 parks a day, as with me not working camps were out of the question, and he was a little young anyhow. Well, that was the last summer I did that. It wore me out, he got bored, and when friends were not available, he did not know how to keep himself busy. He was never a kid that could watch movies, and even playing video games is challenging. His attention span for them is about five to ten minutes, though at school with friends he could play for a little longer.

Now fast forward to eight years later and we have the opposite problem almost. Unstructured time he adores! As long as he could spend it on his phone navigating Google Maps, watching his favorite videos or listening to music and stimming  to his heart’s content. I get it. This is his downtime, and I love it too as I get time to do things in the house or write. He could do that for hours on end which is not healthy. This is why I have continued to insist we do structured sports or other activities out of the house to make sure he does not become a typical teenager totally absorbed in the audio visual world. He was annoyed, but cooperated. After he got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and puberty hit full steam, he also expressed less interests in playing in parks and going to stores, unless it was a store to look in the computer department. 🙂 I know this is a normal part of being a tween and soon teen, but sports is a great outlet to burn stress, so slowly I am trying to get him back into park outings.

Fortunately, he is willing to go to sports camp for a chunk of the summer, and he is starting to become receptive to doing other types of mother/son activities when he is home with me like long bike rides or walks. For our family vacation we are staying in town again this year as it is economically feasible, and I hope to get him a little more out of his shell with some structured and unstructured activities on our stay cation. In the end, it’s really about knowing your child’s limits and pushing a little more past that, as well as knowing when to let them take the reigns. On that note, what are some good ways to structure and un structure your child’s summer?

1) Give them choice for their unstructured time, when to schedule it in summer or on weekends during the school year.

2) Expose them to different structured extracurricular activities and have them choose 1 of 2 activities to practice.

3) Invite friends over or try a new place with a friend on a play date.

4) Have simple family activities that get them moving-bike rides, long walks, outings to stores or malls.

5) Negotiating- one hour of an outing for an hour of A/V time. Make sure they understand why you are encouraging them to go out in society. It is a great way to practice social skills and appropriate social behavior.

Exceptional Parents, how do you manage to balance your Exceptional Child’s structured and unstructured time? Do you give them some choice, all the choice, or choose it all yourself? As you have probably guessed, the best advice is a balance of following your child’s lead in what they want to do as well as giving them small nudges to participate in different activities. You will most likely get the best balance this way. Until next time.

When You’ve Had Enough-How To Deal With Your Frustrations Before They Escalate With Your Exceptional Child

What parent hasn’t had that moment, that moment when your own frustration, stress and exhaustion causes you to lash out at your Exceptional Child’s latest meltdown? Well, I had one of those moments this afternoon. I usually make a point to check in with myself and see if I am feeling calm and in control of what I am feeling BEFORE Michael comes in through the door. This afternoon however, I skipped this step due to it being one of those days where my coming home was about two minutes before he walked through the door. It had been a busy day at work, my seasonal allergies were flaring up even with meds as they have been for the past three days, and well, as he lost his cool escalating over a fear of being in trouble with his Educator over some challenging behaviors last week that I had shared with her, and unfortunately so did I. I tried to redirect him to his room to calm down, only I forgot to redirect myself until it was too late. Then I stormed out of the room angry and frustrated and he stormed out right after me. Sigh. I failed him and myself, I thought.

When it all calmed down and I had gone outside on my patio to regroup, which for me was having a cry, then doing some meditative breathing followed by a glass of wine, I realized that I had needed to do the regrouping for me right away on the patio or in some other quiet contemplative place.  I needed to be honest with myself and see that I was in no shape to help Michael through a crisis until I was calm and he had calmed down too. Neither of us were hearing the other one, and both of us were escalating the other one, meaning each of us was driving the other’s frustration.

This brings me to talking about the importance of parents handling their own frustration, exhaustion and stress, before attempting to help their child with theirs. And yes, this is easier said than done. That is why taking stock of how we are feeling on the inside is so important. Had I done that today, I would have seen that I was not yet equipped to talk to Michael about his stress, and though he would probably have gotten upset that I was not ready to talk at that moment, had I taken even five or ten minutes only, that could have been the difference to the afternoon ending on a better note. Good things to do to check in? Take a few deep breaths. See if you are experiencing any tightness or pain inside your body. See if there are any resentments or anger from the day you are holding on to. Most importantly though, be gentle with yourself. If you are kind to yourself, it will be easier to be kinder and more compassionate to your child as you are coming from a more loving place inside.

Exceptional Parents, have your frustrations ever caused a major escalation in your child’s behavior? You are not alone. You are human and you are entitled to your feelings of anger, stress and fear too. Just remember that unless you get those feelings under control, it will be hard to help your child through their fears.  Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve reached your limit. Take time to regroup, and you’ll come back to parenting with a fresh perspective. Until next time.

Trusting Your Exceptional Child Alone-When That Day Comes!

I can’t believe that I am only writing about this now when I was so proud of Michael after it happened one week ago exactly. I guess it was just one of those times I worried that if I said out loud, things went really well, they would take a turn for the worse. I’m usually not so black and white anymore when it comes to Michael’s mood swings, but hey, what can I say? I still have my moments. 🙂

So what happened was that last Thursday night at Parent/Teacher night at Michael’s school, I was given a late afternoon appointment to see the teacher. There was no time to make any babysitter arrangements, and Michael has been asking for awhile now to be trusted to stay alone in the daytime. I left him a handful of times in the winter to run to the store quickly for about thirty to forty minutes. This though would mean he would be alone for two hours, late afternoon before dinner until Dad came home from work. Would he be able to handle it? I didn’t know, but he had been progressively showing me with his words and deeds that I could trust him not to turn on any appliances, open the door, pick up the phone unless he recognized the name, or do any other safety hazard to endanger himself .He was excited and understandably a little nervous, but I told him words I have been longing to say to him for awhile, “Michael, I trust you. I know you can do it.” And guess what everyone? He did it! Dad came home at six pm to find Michael listening to his music, the house in order, and he cooperated beautifully when Dad gave him his injection and warmed up dinner for the two of them. When I came home to my two happy boys, the first words out of my mouth was praise for Michael followed by promises to leave him alone again in the daytime for longer stretches. After that was mastered, we would work our way into solo evenings.

Now, this trust did not happen overnight. I have been seeing how Michael is becoming more independent over the course of the last six months, and longing for this challenge and decided to try last Spring leaving him for small increments. The trust we had in him seemed to fill him with more confidence, and he continues to want to do better and show us he can cope. There are boys in his class whose parents already trust them for long periods of time at home, so Michael is excited to be moving into this direction. I and Dad have continued to instill in him how this takes organization, maturity and trust on his part to do this, and on ours too  for that matter. Michael is getting closer every day to being able to handle himself, and I couldn’t be prouder. He is learning how to handle his emotions, build his trust in himself and us, and find a balance between growing up and asking for help when he still needs it.

The next step… giving him a key to let himself in after school and possibly later this summer, going to the park up the street by himself either on foot or bike. Eeek! I am on pin and needles about it, but on the other hand, I truly believe that as the parent, you will know when and if your exceptional child will be ready for such big steps. Start slow, and go from there.

Exceptional Parents, are your Exceptional Children ready to be left alone for short periods of time or do you see a time when they can be? Don’t despair if you are not there. Every child develops differently. As the parent you need to acknowledge where they are, love and support them to grow into confidence, and then you and they will see what they are capable of when they will be ready. Until next time.