Tag: My exceptional child is raising me!

Staying Calm in the Eye of A Tantrum-My Exceptional Lesson from My Son

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It’s been a tough month for Michael and I. We’ve both been adjusting to him being back at school, in routine, with homework. At school, Michael is calm, listens and pushes down his emotions. When I’m boiling pasta for dinner, if I forget and leave the lid on the pot, the water boils over and makes a big mess. This is similar to what Michael does when he is upset, and doesn’t let his emotions out or find strategies to handle them. I have had a hard time finding his latest triggers, and the anxiety with doing things “right” has gotten worse. He is hard on himself when he doesn’t do things perfectly, things don’t go exactly as planned, and this is manifested by the “stimming lady” as he calls her, who tells him he has to do it over and over until he gets it right. With the help of the school psychologist, I am slowly seeing that the stimming lady is essentially a representation of all the adults in his life that make him perform and who Michael feels he is letting down when he does not understand something. Now that it is becoming more clear, I am trying to tell Michael how proud I am of him and give him ways to cope when he makes mistakes. I don’t want him beating himself up and making things worse.

 

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Another thing I am learning is how to truly stay calm myself in the eyes of the storm, which in this case is Michael’s tantrum. They are being defused more easily when I do this, and the few times I have lost my own temper and his anger flared, I would quickly remove myself from the situation. After I thought about what led up to the outburst, what words I could have chosen differently, how much sleep he had etc, I always came back to the same thing. I need to stay calm myself. I need to keep my voice level. I need to not betray how angry I feel, how powerless I feel to see Michael losing control and suffering over handling difficult emotions. And why must I do this? Because I am learning when I am the calm, it reflects back to Michael eventually. He sees I trust him. He becomes calm. He learns he has control.

Exceptional Parents, when your children are upset how do you both comfort and let them find their place in the storm of a tantrum? Anxiety and anger management are just that. It is about being there for your child as co-pilot of the ship, but letting them, the captain, determine the course, for better or worse. That is the challenging part. But the worst thing to do is rush in and save them each time. They need to learn, as we do, that saving themselves will teach resilience, strength of character, and ability to trust their own instincts. . That is what they do for us after all, guide us in trusting our parental instincts. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

 

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Exploring Old Places In A New Way-My Exceptional Son’s Thirst for Going On Walking and Driving Expeditions

 

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I love Michael. He is tireless, has lots of energy, and has a sense of adventure. Sometimes as his Mom, I don’t want to go places after school. It is late afternoon. I am tired after a long workday, plus the fact there is tons of stuff to be done in the house. But for Michael it is boring being home. He is not a child who likes to play with toys. He has always been more interested in people and places. This is a good thing, but I also have to be careful to remind him of the rules of social etiquette when we are out: no kissing or hugging strangers, no talking too loudly, stay close to his father and I. You know, basic rules that most of us know. These are hard for kids on the spectrum to grasp at first, but once it is explained to them, they never forget it. Still, going on our “adventures” as Michael has called them, has taught me a lot about myself, about being spontaneous and about  seizing the moment. Ironically, it took my exceptional son who is so focused on routine and predictability to teach me that. But taught me that he has, and now , I look at our adventures as a chance e to try something new and show Michael that embracing the unknown can be a fun thing.

The last few days we have been taking long walks around our neighborhood. It has been a good workout for both of us, and I know for Michael it has been extremely helpful in getting him to work through the stress of adjusting to school and its responsibilities. Sometimes we will be silent on our walks and sometimes we will talk. I let Michael set the tone. It has helped me see him in another light. He also gets to have some control when he will tell me what streets are where and show me the different twists and turns we can take in heading home. Of course, I always make sure we agree at home on the route. Once we got into a fight as his definition of a short walk and mine were not the same. So now, we go through the itinerary beforehand. And it has been successful.

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It is the same when we drive to stores. Michael loves to explore in the Dollar Stores. He equally loves small second hand shops and bookstores, and is happy to window shop and browse seeing where everything is and learning the ins and outs of the store. It is fun as through him, I will inevitably see things I took for granted before, I maybe didn’t notice on the shelves or racks. He is a very keen observer and takes me by the hand showing me all the things there are. It becomes an adventure of learning for both of us and I am always excited to share in these trips with Michael. He is teaching me as much as I am teaching him.

Exceptional Parents, what adventures have you gone on lately with your Exceptional Children? How have they helped you see the world differently? All our children have a unique way of viewing events that look mundane to us. Let them carry you away to that realm of excitement, and see how their faces light up when you are present with them sharing it. That is what real growth is about for both of you. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

 

Acting Out and Learning to Turn Inward-What Michael’s Anxiety Has Taught Me

 

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Yesterday afternoon had been a tough day at school for Michael. The rain made it all the more harder to listen, and when he walked through the door demanding to go somewhere and not stay home in his ugly house, I knew. He was running away from his anxiety. A family member recently pointed out to me how lots of people with anxiety do it. It’s true. I used to also. Then I started losing myself in other activities around the house or obsessing about friends’ problems. After that, I started realizing I had to get a hold of myself and handle my own emotions. With great difficulty, I see I have to start teaching this to Michael now. At first he was just angry when I reminded him this was the day we stay home. He hates being home and always likes to be on the move, but I know from personal experience, it’s not healthy if you never turn off. I helped him calm himself before the tantrum turned into meltdown, and then we talked and the story came out. He had gotten in trouble and was afraid to go back to school. He’d been put in time out and was worried the teacher would still be mad. I told him no. He made the mistake, he sat it out, learned his lesson, and now it was time to move on.

 

The whole week has been an anxious trial for Michael. He has been testing me with rude behaviors and some aggression. I have been exhausted by it all, and realized I had to start taking better care of myself. My meditation and yoga are what have gotten me through, along with a visit to the local spa for a hot tub stint. I also finally got in an aerobic workout yesterday. I need to think of parenting Michael like a marathon, and in a marathon you need to be rested, energized and relaxed to give your child the best. By Wednesday I had gotten the hang of having more patience, not taking his outbursts personally, and reminding myself, if it is hard for me imagine what he is feeling. I am the adult who needs to set the example.

 

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Now when he is reacting aggressively and testing, I ask myself: “What is the reason behind the behavior? What is he telling me?” When I remained calm, he finally opened up and  apologized. We were not only friends by bedtime, but I heard a symphonies of “I love you Mommy’s.” “You’re the best Mommy God gave me.” “You give the best hugs.” And at one point, all he wanted to do was hug, cuddle and laugh. He had just needed to be reminded that I always love him no matter what. And I showed him you could get mad, but still love someone. I was reminded about the importance of connecting to your child when they are angry and frustrated. Give them their space and time and they will come to you.

 

Exceptional Parents, how do you connect with your Exceptional Children after an outburst? How do you stay calm when they are enraged? It is hard, and sometimes as parents we say or do the wrong thing. That is alright. Use it as a teaching moment to show your child, particularly if they are anxious, that we all make mistakes and can learn from them. No one is perfect, but everyone deserves a chance to be loved and try again. Until next time.

 

Feeling overwhelmed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

When Mom Needs To Stay Home-Exceptional Respite From Childcare

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So two weeks ago, there were a few days when things were a little rough at home. When this happens, Michael usually takes out the worst of it towards me. I am after all his safe haven, and he knows I love him unconditionally whatever he says or does. I have to admit that I was also under stress. The last leg of summer is a tough one for parents and kids. I think he may have felt I wasn’t present for him and fully available on all levels. We were both going through the motions, you could say. So some behaviors began to get worse. We had been planning to have a few fun filled family days. We still managed to have some, but there was one day I knew I had to stay home. I had been gradually losing patience in handling the challenges and broke down crying in the bathroom. I decided Michael and I needed a little break from each other. It ended up being the best thing for us both.

That day I not only caught up on some much needed writing work, but cleaned the house ( a much needed task), and then spent some down time in my yard reading and relaxing with a fiction book. I hadn’t done this in a long time, and I realized, though I talk about self-care to other Moms I had not been practicing as much of it as I needed to at that time. I realized that I made the right choice staying home. It was my Mommy respite that day, so I could be strong for the next few days with Michael before school started. This got me thinking how many times I had mistakenly pushed myself too much to go to his activities, do everything with him, and do everything as a family, out of fear that I was a bad Mom if I needed space. He also needed space from me. He was a little sad leaving the house that morning that I wasn’t coming, but I knew by his previous actions over the preceding days, he needed a son break from me. He’s too young to realize that we all need our space from those we love from time to time.

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Of course he had a great day out with his Dad and his godmother. And you know what? This made me realize that I need to do more of these Mommy respite days in the summer so I can have the energy for the long haul. And Michael needs to be with other people alone, away from me, so he gets to interact in a different way. The other beautiful thing? The homecoming was great. He missed me and I him, and we ended up having a wonderful day the next day.

Exceptional Parents, with school back in full swing are you taking some respite time for self-care and recharging your batteries? It is so important. Think of people other than your partner or family members who would love a chance to play with your child and your child to play with them. Take a break from parenting so that you could come back stronger than ever to the table. You and your child will be the better for it. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

Learning From One Another By Building Bridges

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Today is my monthly Coffee Break group at the local community center. I have pretty much been attending these meetings for the past six years quite regularly. I’ve missed a few due to work or other family reasons, but they are important to me. Seeing the other Moms who have become some of my closest friends discuss their struggles and triumphs with their children and themselves, is always so eye-opening. It is my constant reminder to myself how important connections are, to ourselves, to our children and to others.

Michael is starting to get out more in the community now. He loves engaging with people of all ages, and as I’ve written many times, has gotten his Dad and I out of our shells socially too. Of course, we have to redirect him away from his own interests and show him how to talk to others, and he is slowly learning about feelings and emotions outside his own. He will surprise me sometimes with his compassion. Yesterday he accidentally stepped on my toe. When I said ouch, he immediately apologized and looked so sad. “I’m sorry I hurt you Mommy.” It touched me to see how deeply he is learning to care. Of course, I knew it was an accident and thanked him for caring then told him I was alright. On the other hand, there will be times, and it is almost funny, that he doesn’t get his way, and he will say, “I don’t like you. You’re not a good Mom. I like Daddy more.” He will inevitably say the same thing to Dad when he is upset with Dad. We’re learning. 🙂

 

 

 

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I am also learning how to reach out to others, other Moms, other children, other friends outside of my support group. We are all in this life together, and we need to remember to uplift one another on our journey. Everyone has a purpose, and I believe that we all have a responsibility to help others in the world find their purpose. They also have that responsibility to us. Those that are enlightened, helping others and living their life purpose already do that naturally. Think of nurturing parents, health care providers, volunteers. All of these people give of themselves to uplift others. I know that Michael, and exceptional children like him, are here to remind all of us to do that to everyone in our life as they do that to us.

Exceptional Parents, do you connect with people around you in your family, friendship circle, work, support group? It’s so important to remember you are not alone and by reaching out you remind others that they are not alone. Parenting an exceptional child is hard work for us and it is hard for them to be parented by us. Take care of yourselves and those around you by sharing, listening and helping build connections and bridges. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

How My Exceptional Son Helped Me Find Myself

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I love Michael. I love him more than anything in the whole universe. I try and remember to tell him this, but I sometimes forget. Parents are not perfect, after all. He has no fear of what people think of him. He is truly comfortable saying what is on his mind at any given moment, even if it offends someone. This of course is not good. I tell him. So does his Dad. So do his teachers. He looks at us and understands, but will still have social faux pas. The Neuro Typical world is hard to understand. Heck, I’m neuro typical, or as a friend once joked, neuro typical enough, and I have a hard time with the many unwritten social rules we have to remember to keep things in order, what to say, what to avoid, what to read in facial expressions. Seeing the world through Michael’s eyes is confusing for me too at times, and as a writer, I have always felt like a bit of an outsider looking in more than looking out. It’s cool, but I always wonder if I’m alone in this, unless I’m in another room full of writers, of course. 🙂

What I most admire about my little guy though, is his tenacity, his strength, his endurance in trying to be himself in a world that has rules he doesn’t always understand, a pace he can’t always keep track of, and people who, well, are weird to him. And we are weird. All of us. That’s good. But most of us pretend we aren’t and that we all fit in. All the time. That’s how things can run smoothly. Everyone has to follow a certain regime or there would be total chaos. It is not always self-evident. Still, I manage, like other human beings, to balance this. It is a lot harder for Michael.  He sometimes succeeds in getting it, what the rest of the world expects of him, other times not so. He is so brave though. He keeps trying. He makes conversation. He gets out there and he is himself, completely himself.

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 I look at my different exceptional son and I say, wow! Each and every second of the day he amazes me with his ability to try and cope in a world that he does not understand and that is confused by him more often than not. Still, everywhere he goes he spreads joy. Every person he encounters and speaks to, hugs, interacts with has a smile, a kind word., and is visibly and emotionally impressed by him. All seem to accept him at face value, appreciate him, and as one friend who is a writer recently told me upon reading one of my blog posts, “the world needs a hug from kids like Michael.” Remember parents, your children are beautiful. They bring a beauty to our world as well as en eye opening warning that in these times of war, discrimination, injustice, humans need to change their ways. They need to accept difference in all forms. They need to realize that all people,  all living things are connected. We all make mistakes. It is time to grow, and not be afraid to challenge ourselves, whether we are neuro typical or exceptional, to think outside the box. Even on difficult days for me, I always ask myself, and what kind of a day has it been for my son? How much harder for him?

Exceptional Parents, how often have we unintentionally stopped our Exceptional Children from being themselves? How many times have we forgotten to tell them, I’m proud of you for having made it through another day in a world that is hard for you? Don’t worry. We’ve all made that mistake. What’s important for the future, is remembering to value difference, value what makes your child stand out, and value what makes you stand out as an individual and parent. That is the gift you will give your child and yourself. Until next time .

How Being Concrete Can Help You Get Inside Your Exceptional Child’s Mind

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Michael is an amazing little boy, and extremely complex. The same can be said of many children, and many adults. We all have our layers of complexity, and getting to know one another can be challenging. Having autism is truly having a brain that works differently than most people’s. It is also amazing how much gets lost in the shuffle of communication. I used to naively think that when Michael learned to talk more, we would not have the misunderstandings, the meltdowns, the anxiety. Instead, it sometimes seems to complicate and frustrate both Michael and I even more. There are disagreements, the meshing out of things, and constant negotiations. He wonders why I don’t understand what he is saying and I feel the same. It is getting better though, with each passing day.

What is helping me is this whole neuro diversity and different brain movement happening in our world today. This movement is showing me how Michael really does see things differently, and how he needs things broken down to him so he can get where I am coming from. It is also I who need him to explain to me sometimes what he needs. He is getting better at doing this.

A good example is the following. We were playing tennis the other day, and though I had told Michael we could only play for a half hour to have time to go to the park, I had thought giving him a five minute warning that the thirty minutes had elapsed was enough. That was not the case. Michael felt taken by surprise, angry and thought that a half hour couldn’t possibly have passed. He had a big fight with me and that afternoon ended in tears and a meltdown. Afterwards, when he had calmed down he had told me why I hadn’t explained to him what a half hour was, showed him. He is starting to learn to tell time at school, and I honestly thought he knew. I apologized. Ever since this time only a short week ago, I now make sure my instructions to Michael are very clear, have him repeat back to me what will happen and ask him if he has any questions.

 

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I am beginning to see that I have to be very concrete and precise when I outline the day to Michael. I have also asked him to tell me when he is anxious, confused or needs clarification. Last night I had told him to get ready for bed and choose his story then wait for him when he is done. I was on the couch reading a book. He proceeded to get his story and wait on the couch with me. I had made the mistake of not telling him to “wait in your room.” When I calmly turned to him and asked him what he was doing on the couch next to me he said, “waiting for you Mommy.” I almost laughed. Michael then realized, “oh, you wanted me to wait in my room. Next time tell me Mommy.”  Michael has been calmly reminding me how he needs clarification and I have been doing my best to give it.

Exceptional Parents, are you making sure that you are super clear when you talk or structure the day with your Exceptional Child? Don’t worry if  you have not been. It’s a learning curve for all parents, as most kids will throw new things out at us. Exceptional Kids though often forget that their brains work on a different level than ours, so they too need to be reminded to pace themselves when talking or explaining things to us as we do to them. That’s all you can do as your child’s caregiver, love them for all they are, and show them they can tell and trust you with anything. Until next time.

Opening Up To New Things The Exceptional Way

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People around us usually force us to grow, for better or worse. We usually hope it is for better, or else that is one relationship we must exit which is not always easy. Michael definitively has forced me to grow, but in a good way. It has not always been easy. Actually, there are times it has been quite raw and painful. My soul is constantly laid bare for this very observant little human being who learned to see my flaws and imperfections better than anyone. He doesn’t miss anything going on around him. He takes in life like oxygen, full deep breaths, and it has been a wonderful way for me to learn to open up my eyes to all I have been missing out on previously. And missing out, I was.

Michael loves to talk to people, spontaneously hug strangers and he does the things most of us would not do. Some of it is due to being impulsive, but some of it is due to him wanting to figure out how things work, what the person will say, and just in general, what will happen. He loves having a structure, a routine, but yet following rules we take for granted in the world, like when to be quiet, when to keep your social distance, is something that puzzles Michael, and really a lot of kids with autism or different brains. It has been the thing that has endeared him to total strangers and family and friends as well as me as his Mom, while at the same time I have to teach him to follow the rules in our society. It’s a tricky balancing act, but one that most days I think I am up for.

I see where I have held back from family and friends and been afraid to express myself properly, to tell them what they mean to me. I also see where I have been afraid to “open up” and take chances in my life in the past: in my relationships, in my writing and even in my wardrobe. Michael is helping me to change this. He is causing me to question how I want to live this next leg of my life, and how I want to teach him to live it, pushing those boundaries in society a little, while following some social conventions. We make a good team, I think.

Exceptional Parents, how has your child pushed your boundaries of comfort, for better or worse? We all know the worse part, the struggles that every parent to some degree goes out on. But how have they forced you to grow? I’m sure if you and they are doing your jobs right, both of you are blooming from the inside, learning from each other about give and take, innocence and identity and what really counts, the purity of the soul that is in each of us and is here to change the world for the better. So, go on now and push beyond your boundaries of comfort and teach your child to do the same. Watch the beauty that will unfold. Until next time.

 

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Exceptional Children And The Joy When Spontaneity Happens

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I was more surprised than Michael last Saturday on one of our traditional long walks when it went even longer. And what I mean about longer, is five whole blocks longer! Michael kept saying in a calm low voice:

“No, Mommy. I want to try it. I want to walk farther.”

“Are you sure Michael? We didn’t plan this honey. We may have to alter our afternoon plans.”

“That’s ok Mommy. I want to do it.”

I was so proud of him! Spontaneity! For a kid with autism being spontaneous is NOT easy, or is not usually something they like to do. It brings up all kinds of feelings of anxiety, stress and loss of control over the outcome. Come to think of it, sometimes neuro-typical Moms have a fear of spontaneity! Ahem! 🙂 Regardless though, wow, this was a milestone for Michael and me. And he let things unfold that whole day. We did have to alter the afternoon. Dad got a little stressed, but then I gently pointed out how well Michael was adjusting. Dad smiled and went along with Plan B. Michael showed us, and I hope this post can show all people, neuro typical or exceptional, that just because your brain works a little differently, does not mean you cannot do things like a neuro typical person and they cannot do or feel things like you.

We walked to the end of the five blocks and he was tired, so tired that we asked if Dad could meet us at the shopping center we were originally going to drive to, and then we would all go home together. It ended up being a fun family trip. Michael learned that he couldn’t walk THAT far yet, but when the time was right, he was older, had a little more stamina, we would attempt it together. I loved how he did not view saying he was tired as a failure. That was something that he would have done not too long ago, like several months ago. He has grown up so much. Dad and I were and are very proud.

Exceptional Parents, when have your Exceptional Children taken you by surprise with a spontaneous idea, game, excursion? If it hasn’t happened, fear not. It will. Start by introducing little elements of surprise into their day. I’ve been doing that with Michael thanks to the wonderful advice of a friend who is doing that with her son who has autism. And as a result, tolerance for change and novelty will grow. Enjoy your child, and help them enjoy life and being in the moment. Until next time.

Making Friends At Camp And Stretching Boundaries

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I’ve mentioned before how I held my breath while Michael started at a new non-adapted camp last week. It went beautifully, and as a result I am not worried about this week, his last week of camp. As a super bonus, I am thrilled about something else. Michael made a friend. We got her Dad’s cell phone number and will try and get the kids together later in the summer or fall. Yes, it is interesting that he clicked with a girl, but then Michael has had some female friends when he was younger. Now, I find that girls tend to have more patience with him when he talks a lot, and though he is active, he is not a rough and tumble little guy like other boys his age. That is why it is sometimes hard to forge friendships with boys off the spectrum.

Michael reminded me the last two weeks how I need to learn to let go of worry a little bit and trust my  intuition. I also need to learn to trust him that he will be able to go with the flow of trying different things, making friends with new people, and even with challenges, he will overcome. He has repeatedly told me he likes camp, he likes his companion/shadow, and he likes the busy structure of the day. They do crafts, play games in the park and swim. This works perfectly with Michael and helps him regulate best. The kids here are also very understanding about autism and various challenges. There have been a few boys who attended who have had autism, so different mannerisms that Michael has are not shocking. The next thing to do is to get a dialogue going in camp about differences and embracing them. That will come in the future, I hope.

Exceptional Parents, do you trust in yourself and your child in new environments? How do you feel about risk? Interestingly, your child probably will take after you or your partner in one way or another, being fearless or fearful, or a mix of the two. Michael is pretty much a mix of his Dad and I. The important thing for you to do is to teach your child resilience in the form of risk taking combined with some calculated caution. Teach them that everything, good and bad, is an experience that they can learn and grow from. They don’t need to regret anything, but do their best and learn from their mistakes to become stronger in the future. Until next time.