Tag: friends

Annual BBQ’s and Exceptional Traditions

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I love traditions. I love the way they mark time, passages, and growth. I also love the way traditions bring family and friends together. Michael’s Dad and I started a tradition a long time ago with close friends where we all get together once a year at our house for a BBQ lunch or dinner. It has shifted back and forth, but now it is back to a dinner so friends of mine who have smaller children don’t have to worry about their kids missing their nap, and my other friends with older children and activity commitments can still make it. Still, the friends of mine who don’t have children also have the opportunity of squeezing our dinner into their busy schedules. As a result, we’ve pretty much had everybody make it every  year for the past eighteen years that we’ve been doing it. These are friends I grew up with. We knew each other as girls, then women, then husbands and now children are in the mix. It’s absolutely wonderful.

For Michael, he is also learning about how important friendships are, and about the building of traditions to keep friendships going and moving smoothly into changes that occur in life. These friends are his aunties and uncles so to speak, and he gets along well with their kids. It’s always a fun way for us to end our summer with this BBQ. Now that Michael is older, he actively helps us prepare by buying the food, and tidying up a bit. Alright, he cleans his room, but still it is a start. 🙂 I am so proud of how far he has come from being overwhelmed by people, to looking forward to a party, even though there are challenging moments for him.

Exceptional Parents, do you have any summer time traditions that you participate in with your Exceptional Child? How do they respond? How do you respond? Remember, give them time to grow to love these traditions and soon they will begin to change their response to them. It also gives you a chance as a family to grow together, try new things, and form new memories. Until next time.

 

5 Ways Kids With Autism Teach Us To Have A Conversation

 

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Yes, what I wrote in the title is not an error. My son Michael has INDEED taught me how to have a conversation with him. Even in the beginning when he was non-verbal and it was difficult for us to understand each other, I realized early on that in order for Michael and I to communicate, we had to invite one another into the other’s world. In the beginning, there was much more of me doing the inviting, as it was a stressful process for Michael, to say the least. With his sensory issues, our world did not make sense to him. Why do people do certain thing? Why do they talk and move so quickly? Why is everything so bright? Even today, I see remnants of that, and I have to sometimes remind myself daily that Michael, and all people with autism or other neuro developmental conditions, are brave indeed to be able to survive and thrive in a world that is not physically friendly to them and to their bodies. As I began seeing we had to learn to “dance” together in order to be close and have a relationship, beautiful things began to happen and we began to have a conversation. Here is how to have that conversation.

 

5 Ways Kids With Autism Teach Us To Have A Conversation:

  1. Speak their language and meet them where they are: When he would rock back and forth near me, I would stay nearby and get his attention with a toy and then repeat that word. I would be patient and wait for him to come to me. Later on I tried rocking alongside him. He had already met me in “my world” at this point, and so he laughed and asked what I was doing. I often wished I had tried that sooner when he was younger, as I dear writer friend who thinks outside the box had suggested. 🙂
  2. Speak slowly and clearly: This was something hard for me to do at first, especially when language started to come. Patience is not one of my virtues, but I am learning. Kids with autism need time to respond to cues, verbal and other. When I would give Michael the time, he would respond and gradually learned to keep pace with me, and well, now he surpasses me in speech. 🙂
  3. Play simple games like peekaboo, swinging child in blanket or hide n seek: Simple games that involve two people will be the best way to teach social interaction and communication. These were breakthrough games for Michael and I.
  4. Look to their interests and embrace it: This means embracing their love of certain toys, tv shows, games etc. Yes, sometimes they are weird things, but think how you feel when family and friends listen to you talk passionately about a subject. This shows your child that they matter to you.
  5. Have a solid routine: I can’t stress this one enough. Everyone needs routine in order to function at top capacity. Kids with autism CRAVE it. A good daytime play, food and nap routine, as well as a night one, will go a long way in teaching structure and sharing of a household. Yes, you can (and should) alter the routine as they get older, and switch things up as they can handle it. Remember though, a good structure goes a long way to building secure communication together.

 

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In doing this, I have become, and continue to become, amazed by Michael’s grasp of the world outside himself which is getting stronger every day. Now he is learning “theory of mind”, that is putting himself in other people’s shoes and feeling what they feel. He throws me curve balls in conversation like any child would and I am so proud.

Exceptional Parents, what challenges are you having communicating with your children? What tricks of the trade do you use? For some children, use of a computer or a PECS system helps tremendously. Do whatever works for your child, just remember to meet them where they are and they will do the same for you. Then you will do the beautiful dance of social interaction together. Until next time.

 

My Little Ninja Has Found His Path

 

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What can I say about Saturday morning’s dance concert. It was truly one of my proudest moments as Michael mother. There stood my little guy on the stage with his friends from dance class, doing his ninja dance performance. The confidence, the precision, the lack of fear and enjoyment I saw on his face proved to me once again, that he can truly do anything he sets his mind to. It also gave me the confidence as a Mom to trust my gut. I’ve been gently encouraging him towards performing on stage since he asked us to record him singing and dancing at home to songs he memorized or dancing he made up. He also loves to play instruments and improvise. Yet, due to his fear of performing on stage, that is what kept me back from pushing him too much a few years ago. Then two years ago they noticed at his school concerts how much he loved to sing. As a result, the last two concerts had him singing at the microphone with a buddy. My baby is growing into a beautiful flower and I will never doubt encouraging his love of something again, even if he is afraid. We’ll do just baby steps as we’ve done with encouraging singing and dancing.

I have to confess something right now. I LOVED performing as a child AND was terrified by it. I sang in choirs, tried out for plays, and would have taken dancing but instead amused myself by being near the front at aerobics classes. I am shy and nervous in front of large crowds, but put music on and I am a different person. It is like with writing. I am absorbed into those art forms and become one with them. I don’t know how else to explain it.  I was afraid that I was starting to live through Michael, and didn’t want him feeling pressured to sing, dance and perform because Mom loved and would love to share that with him. I encouraged him at church choir for the same reason, but when he told me he wasn’t ready I held back. I’m glad now. If it’s meant to be, it will be. I see that I was right as a Mom and saw in Michael what was really there in him: love and talent for music and performance. I know now that he will only continue to find his path with art and mapping and it is exciting to see the future he could make for himself following his passion. I’m thrilled as is Dad to be along for the ride. I pray for the means to continue to encourage all his loves and help be a part of shaping the incredible human being he is becoming.

Exceptional Parents, what is your gut telling you about your Exceptional Child’s talents and passions? Trust whatever it is saying and if there is an interest to try an activity, let your child explore whatever it is. That is how they will find their path. If if happens to be along the same interest line as yours, don’t question it. They are your children and may share some of the same passions. Encourage, support and step back. You won’t regret when you see them shining in the spotlight of their accomplishments. Until next time.

 

 

Exceptional Spring Fever and This Mom’s Growth

 

This week has been quite the week with the hour change. It’s felt like that period of the full moon back in December. I’ve experienced Michael as extremely silly, other times anxious, and still at other times he’s been testing those boundaries again with pushing for more time to play, more portions of food, or more control over a situation. Most of the week though, other than at bedtime when he’s been a little clingier than usual (I blame the hour change), I’ve been noticing that extra burst of energy, the even extra bounce in his step. Spring is indeed in the air! He has been talking about bike riding, playing soccer, summer camp. We’ve had conversations about how he can’t wait to go to parks, swim outside and ride his bike. And the walks, oh yes, he is looking forward to going on walks all over the neighborhood with his father and I. His favorite haunts are walking to the various parks around our home, and of course, his favorite local shopping center. 🙂 He also loves when we take his favorite busy stretch of street due to all the traffic. This kid loves traffic.

I’m feeling an excitement too with Spring in the air. Spring traditionally has been the time of rebirth. The earth, the plants, the trees everything is coming back to life after the winter rest and it is kind of a chance to start over, renew, grow again. I, like everyone else, am looking forward to doing more fun things outside, walking, swimming, biking, going to the beach, and just in general, enjoying feeling physically and psychologically lighter. As Michael has gotten older and I have learned more about self-care, I enjoy keeping busier with him than ever before. I know my limits, and I know his. I know when it’s time we chill out at home, (though with Michael the rest is usually brief due to his high energy level :)) and I like exploring new things to do with him, new places, activities and meeting new people. I used to be so shy. It is still natural for me to be in the corner of a room during a party instead of center stage like my son. But Michael is not giving up in converting me to be a more social person, from all the people he knows everywhere we go who come up to us to say hi, to teachers and friends who tell me what a joy he is to teach and interact with, to Michael himself that dares me to go on adventures with him, take this new way around the world and be myself.

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children have Spring Fever? Do you take you on cool adventures around your neighborhood? Do they help you see the world in a different and unique way? I’m sure they do. All of our children are unique, have a way of seeing the world that is special, and if we are lucky as their parents, they invite us in to explore with them. Wishing you all a wonderful Spring and happy exploring! Until next time.

Out of Town Exceptional Adventures And Balancing Adventure and Stability

 

Today we will be going on an out of town adventure to a museum and some sightseeing in a nearby city. Michael is excited about the adventure as are we, his parents. It wasn’t that long ago that outings like these terrified me. How would he act? How would he handle anything unpredictable? How would we as his parents handle it? Yes, there have been colossal successes and colossal failures, but through it all we’ve had adventures to say the least, exceptional adventures, and we have all learned from one another. We don’t take these outings for granted. I know there will be challenges, but we will get through them. Sometimes we are nervous to try new things, but I find that with time and practice we learn to do different things and it helps to form us as people, all of us.

Michael of course loves to go driving anywhere and continuously talks about getting his driver’s license one day. We encourage him that he can with enough hard work and practice, and I hope he does do it. Believing in your child’s potential can only help them in achieving the best things out there, in my opinion.

It has been quite the Spring/March Break for us. Lots of play dates, Michael and I playing at home, yoga sessions, and witnessing Michael’s musical and emerging drama talents. Over the weekend he will have some of his extra curricular activities back and some down time. I think the balance will do him good as he slowly transitions back to Monday’s return to school.

Exceptional Parents, how do your out of town adventures go with your Exceptional Children? Are they adventure seekers outside of the home or are they more of a home body? I think as with everything else, balance is key, a little bit of home and the outside world can do a lot to shape their characters and help unleash the gifts that lie in each of our Exceptional Children. Until next time.

 

Winter Carnival Fun and Important Exceptional Activity

It’s great to see Michael having so much fun at school with Winter Carnival. Not only is he happy that he is having fun at school with winter sports like hockey, snow fort building and other such activities, but is glad to have a break from homework for a few days. I have to say though, that he is getting so much better at doing his homework, and is improving in his reading and writing skills. I think it is mainly the need to be active that’s so important for Michael, for all exceptional children, and when you think about it, all children.

In today’s world kids don’t move enough. I’ve seen so many articles on the rise of children’s obesity, stress and anxiety levels, and recently read a great article on why there are so many preschoolers showing signs of Sensory Integration Disorder. They are not moving enough inside at gym or outside at recess. Kids need activity as much as food and rest. They also need free time to cultivate their imagination, the creativity. This is something that is lacking in today’s fast paced industrial world. I try to remember when Michael is asking me to go on adventures and roam around our neighborhood, that it is so good he wants to explore. I am equally proud he loves sledding, skating and is interested in hockey. I look forward to the day he may play with friends from school.

As parents we get so caught up with academics, with making our kids learn more, get smarter. As Exceptional Parents, we are so worried that they are behind with milestones, walking, speaking, fine motor, gross motor, then academics, reading ,writing, math. Yes, all those things are important, but I am really beginning to see how important movement is for the brain, for reducing anxiety and opening up learning in different channels. This goes for myself as well as for Michael. When I don’t move with stretching my body and exercising, I don’t think as clearly. I  think better though when I am in balance physically. Thanks again Michael, for reminding me of this life lesson.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you praised your child for being active and having fun? Try it next time they come in from dancing, swimming, skating, sledding or plain old winter fun. You won’t regret the message you are sending, which is that winter carnival fun can be all winter long, and that physical movement belongs up there as a priority right alongside academics. Until next time.

Exploring Platonic and Romantic Affections

 

So Michael has a new crush. This time it’s the assistant swim instructor at his adapted local swim program. He gave her a nickname of “snail” and she calls him “turtle,” and she is all he is talking about this days.

“One day I’m going to marry Snail Mommy.”

I smile.

“Michael that is not her name.”

“I know, but it’s my name for her. I love her Mommy. She is so pretty. Can she come and babysit me?”

After this, he waits a few seconds more to add.

“Alexia is still my other girlfriend. I have two.”

I laugh. How could you not? Alexia is a little girl close to his age. We haven’t seen her in awhile, but Michael still remembers giving her big kisses at the pool a few summers ago. To me, it could have been yesterday.

 

 

He is also talking so much these days about his platonic male BFF, called Alex. I refer to this little boy as truly his soul brother. They are inseparable when they see each other. The hugs flow freely and the I love you’s. Michael has bonded with a few boys this year, but not like this. Is the same for his buddy. I watch these platonic and and romantic forms of love grow daily with Michael. It is beautiful to see him exploring relationships, seeing where they fit in the world. He is also very affectionate with me lately too. He tells me “God gave me the best mother. I love you,” and my second absolute favorite, “I love hugging you Mommy.” Right before bed each night he does this deep hugs with me, before turning on his side doing a few more cuddles then falling asleep.

Love and friendship are very complex things for all of us to understand. We don’t always know what draws us to a person. Attraction means that they make us feel good inside. They bring out our best as we do for them. It is a beautiful thing to see Michael bringing that beauty out in people outside of our family as well as those people continuing to bring out Michael’s inner beauty.  I am reminded how each of us has something to share with the world, and how important it is to show others that they matter.

Exceptional Parents, in what way have your Exceptional Children touched the lives of those around them? How have those around them responded? It doesn’t have to be with words. There are many ways we affect one another by our actions, our presence, the beauty of a smile or kind gesture. Start to look for these signs in your Exceptional Children. By you looking to those signs, you will surely see more of them blossoming into the world and exploring their own versions of platonic and romantic love. Until next time.