Tag: social skills self-trust

He Loves Me, He Hates Me- How Our Children Test Their Limits and Independence With Us

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One of the hardest things for a parent to deal with is both a child testing their limits and at the same time needing a parent’s gentle hand and understanding when the parent is on the verge of losing their own patience and temper. Yep. That’s what it has been like at my house lately. A few times I have yelled. Sometimes it helped. Michael took me seriously. He took the limits I placed on him seriously. Other times like the other day, I became a little bit of a control freak and disciplinarian by not picking my battles and really laying into him about small things. Yes, a parent of any child learns to pick their battles. A parent of an exceptional child with autism? You REALLY need to learn to pick your battles or there will be heck to pay. 🙂

I did not choose good battles to pick and now the last few days Michael has been using these “small obstacles” to test me. There was one day everything but go wash your hands became a fight between us. It was mentally and physically draining. It was the same with Dad. Then it all came out. He’s not used to school. He resents his teacher telling him what to do, and instead of using his words and strategies to manage his stress, he takes it out on trying to be a mini dictator with us, where he feels safe and has more control.

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Yes, parents. As frustrating and infuriating as it is, you must be stronger than your anger and see the child’s need. For me, it meant taking some time in nature to recollect my thoughts. Taking time to workout, even a short one when the rest of my house was falling apart, so I could be strong to weather the storm that is Michael. It is hard for him. My beautiful little boy struggles to be understood, to understand. We are lucky to be in an adapted school where he has services. I imagine what it would be like for him in mainstream school where some teachers would instinctively “get him” but others would not. He is considered high functioning due to his verbal ability and his social nature, but there are so many things he needs to be taught and does not understand. It is the same with me. I confess I am sometimes embarrassed by how little I know how much he knows. I am so glad when he opens my eyes. Then there are the times I overestimate his capability of understanding, of coping. And I curse myself again. It’s alright, Joanne. Tomorrow is another day. I know I know him better than anyone, and when I don’t, my son educates me on who he is. We climb that mountain of love together.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle your Exceptional Child’s behavior? How do you cope with their outbursts and your own? Know that however you do it, you are doing your best. In time you will learn how best to help your child who is, like any child, unique and special. Reach out to professionals, fellow parents and most importantly, your child themselves. He/she will show you what they are made of, and let me tell you, our kids are stronger and smarter than anyone gives them credit for. Stay strong, take care of your own health to be there for them, you and those around you, and remember. Life is a journey, not a destination. Until next time.

 

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. 

Where My Exceptional Child Leads Me I Go

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My life is nothing short of boring. I think I have spoken before in this blog how many years ago, more than I care to imagine now, I was feeling restless and bored in my life. It was way before Michael was born, way before I saw how important writing was to who I am, and I, humble human, asked God to please challenge me and show me the path to a life of meaning, which despite a good marriage, a loving family and friends and health, I did not feel I had. Yep. I said to challenge me. I asked for it. And the next thing I usually say is that God and the Universe has not stopped challenging me since I requested that all those years ago. Sometimes, on particularly “meaningful” days I have been known to scowl and talk upwards, “Ok, enough. Stop laughing.” But I digress. In many ways, I have grown up so much. From doing many jobs and seeing that none satisfied me. From moving out of my hometown and learning what I was made of, for better or worse, and then from spectacularly crashing from two burnouts until I finally remembered, “Oh yeah. I asked for challenges. Now, I need to be strong and ask for help to get through them.”

That’s the thing. God and the Universe never give you something you can’t handle at some point. Even in my darkest moments of despair when I was crying holed up somewhere and I would pray fervently, “God, I can’t do this. I can’t be strong anymore. Get someone else.” I would always hear what I imagined was a sigh, but a patient one. And the answer was always the same, “Yes, you can. You were made to overcome whatever challenges you have.” And dang it, I knew I was, but challenges and unexpected adventures are so scary. What if you fail? What if you upset people? What if you lose stability? Michael has taught me that none of this really matters in the end. Of course we all need to follow rules, have stability of some sort to pay bills and have a routine. But, all the people pleasing, all the time worrying about what others think instead of feeling life, trying new things, going on adventures. I’d been missing out, and Michael has showed me, and continues to show me more and more, how important it is to go on crazy adventures.

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The other day we went to a new park that he had seen driving in the car. On the way back to the car, he discovered another mini park that was too small for him to play in, but my little guy insisted on going on the equipment. He bumped his head, got annoyed, but then said, “it’s ok Mommy. I wanted to try. Let’s go back to the car now.” We ended up going back to the car from a totally different direction. Michael and I together navigated back. He is rubbing off on me. 🙂 I never would have done something like this prior to Michael’s birth. Ask my close friends. I tend to go to the same places, the same restaurants, but now Michael is shaking me out of my comfort zone. I have been reborn, and my new self, my exceptional mom self, is not afraid. I have Michael to guide me as he has me to guide him.

Exceptional Parents, how many crazy adventures have you gone on with your Exceptional Children?  Our kids naturally draw attention to themselves because they are different, and are not afraid of being so. This is a good thing if channeled properly. Don’t be afraid to go along with them for the ride, wherever it leads. 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 Michael And I Challenge Each Other

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I have tried this summer to give Michael more challenges.  This has usually worked out beautifully, but at other times it has backfired on me. Michael has had to remind me that I don’t understand or that he can’t do it. Sometimes he has been right, other times, with gentle encouragement, I have showed him that he is wrong and can do it. But I am beginning to see the advantages of pushing him a little bit and what I expect of him, as long as he has ways of handling his stress.

Emotions continue to be the difficult thing for him to handle, especially when he gets overwhelmed and frustrated. I am constantly talking with and reminding him when he is calm about using his strategies when upset to handle his emotions, but lately due to the time of year and increasing anxiety about school, he will fall back into hitting himself, hitting me, or screaming and swearing or other inappropriate behavior. The good thing is that he is catching himself more quickly after these incidents, calming down and apologizing, but stopping the overreaction is still too difficult for him. It is a process and one I know he will get through as will I using patience and love.  It’s just a matter of him finding something that works for him. Ever since he was a baby, once Michael understood something, he became an expert at it above and beyond.

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Some challenges I have been asking of him are help around the house, waiting to go places or staying home until late morning, a VERY hard thing for my active kid to do, and teaching him how to initiate a conversation and not to interrupt one in progress. This is also hard. He will often interrupt with an “excuse me Mommy.” It’s all coming though, and I see how he is doing his best. The other day Michael gave me a challenge. He wanted to go for a long bike ride. The route sounded far too long for him to bike, but I decided we would do it as he wanted to try it. I left my bike at home in case he would need some help from me in giving him a push or two. I really did not expect to get farther than another five minutes of our usual route of about thirty minutes. He has not been bike riding consistently this summer, so I figured he would be tired. He actually did the equivalent of an hour and a half! And yes, he was flying down the bike path on a busy stretch near our house. I was the crazy happy Mom jogging along side him marveling how, once again, I had been proved wrong. I was so happy about it!

Michael has always surprised me like this, even though I now know that he is full of wonderful abilities and is wiser than me in some ways. He later confessed he didn’t know if he could do it, but “I pushed through Mommy and forced myself.” He was smiling as he said it. I corrected him by saying he did not force himself, but he pushed and tried so hard he succeeded! I was so proud of him. On the way back home, he said he couldn’t do it, but I told him in a firm voice I couldn’t push the bike home he had to. And so he did. Michael reminded me how important it is to never give up on ourselves.

Exceptional Parents, what challenges do you give your Exceptional Children? What challenges are you maybe afraid to try? Remember, our kids will only be brave if we show them that we believe in them. As parents, our job is two fold: reminding them of what they can do, and reminding ourselves of what they can do. Then, we can show others, teachers, therapists and professionals the amazing things our children are capable of doing. Until next time.

 

How To Plan For Success On Exceptional Vacations

 

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

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

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

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

 

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 .

5 Ways I Teach My Exceptional Son Social Skills

 

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Michael is verbal and extremely social. Everybody who knows him, or reads about him in my blogs, could see that. I used to think that having this ability would magically solve the social issues and problems he experiences when having a conversation. But it didn’t. What it has done, is made me see through my beautiful little boy’s eyes, how he sees the world, and how he does not understand why certain things he says can be viewed as rude, strange or wrong. He has taught me so much, and continues to, about being myself, living in the moment, and laughing and enjoying life. I have realized that it is my turn to teach him how to talk to people in ways that will not alienate him from peers. He is starting to get it though, and even when confused, will share that confusion with me and we will come up with a way to make it work for both of us.

Here are 5 Ways I Teach My Exceptional Son Social Skills:

  1. Modeling how to make polite chit chat by correcting: Just the other day Michael and I were at the library. He remembered a librarian’s name and announced it then walked right past her. She knows Michael so laughed and said, “Well, I’ll try not to take offence.” I knew she wasn’t offended, but this was my cue to gently remind Michael that he needed to greet her with a “hi, aren’t you Jody? How are you? I’m Michael. Do you remember me? etc.
  2. Scripting out different dialogues for social conversations throughout the day in advance: This is a good one to help your child learn how to talk at stores, school, on play dates with friends. Practice these scripts between the two of you.
  3. Talk about his feelings, mine and other people’s: This is big one. Michael is starting to understand my feelings and perspective slowly. I use this to explain that when he says this it hurts my feelings. I use the, “how would you feel if someone said or did this?” I suggest how he could try and see if someone wants to talk, is uncomfortable by looking at their face and tone of voice.
  4. Token System to Earn Rewards for Good Behavior and Reparations to Say Sorry: Yes, this can end up being very black and white, but most people with autism see things in black and white terms. So I let Michael earn tokens to trade in for a reward, or when he makes a mistake and is genuinely sorry, he earns it by reparations to me, helping with a chore, dishes, etc. He is beginning to recognize why you need to listen and follow rules.
  5. Tell stories about yours and other people’s childhoods: OK, I’m a writer, but this goes over great in most families. All kids like to hear stories of how their parents were raised, what they did, how their grandmas and grandpas handled it. I entertain Michael by telling him these stories and teach him about how other people’s feelings, mine, my parents, and his, matter.

Exceptional Parents, how do you teach your Exceptional Child social skills? How are they with people, one on one and in groups? This is challenging for our exceptional kids due to the wiring of their brains. But remember, gently introduce them to neuro typical society by showing them how to interact. Also, instruct neuro typical people on how to interact with your child and meet them halfway. By doing that, everyone is happy and will grow from the experience. Until next time.

 

 

 

How Michael And I Are Learning Social Skills Together

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The first time it happened, I was both overjoyed and worried. Michael ran up to hug a complete stranger walking down the street. It was beautiful to see him connecting to another person. Usually the people he runs up to and women are older, though occasionally it has been an older male. However, teaching Michael to maintain personal space and boundaries has always been difficult, especially with friends who do not like his hugs, kisses and closeness. Adults tolerate it better than children. I should have seen this coming, I remember thinking. When Michael runs up and kisses family they love it. We have elder neighbors whom he hugs and people at church and he gets the same response. Still, I worry. His Dad and I want to teach him to be cautious and friendly at the same time.

He got into trouble at summer camp last year for hugging an older lady in a restaurant. So Dad and I are having to examine this and teach him relating to people in a friendly but non physical way, people of all ages. Still, he is teaching me and Dad something too. Like I’ve said often, as much as we avoid the spotlight, Michael thrusts us in it. Before he was born, I knew our neighbors vaguely. Since Michael was a baby, they began coming up to me and talking to us. I began to come a little more out of my shell. Then, Michael became very verbal and social and now we walk down the street and see a neighbor and a hi and how are you is not enough. Michael will ask them (depending how well he knows them), where are they going, are they having a good day? People light up when they see him. He has always had this inner beauty that people of all ages gravitate to. The young, the middle-aged, the old. I’ve had conversations with neighbors I barely know, people in grocery stores, churches, parks, and they all say the same thing. “He’s a good boy. So sweet. So helpful. So polite.”

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As much as his Dad and I have to teach him to be more conservative, just a little, he is teaching us to come out of our shells emotionally, not to be afraid to connect with people, and to let our own soul shine. Because that is what people are attracted to-Michael’s soul, his essence. Whenever I sigh about his exuberant waving, hugging and talking to strangers, and know I have to teach him moderation in this regard, I also remind myself that Michael is speaking to me to be more open, more giving. I need to reach out more and show my light and encourage others to show theirs.

Exceptional Parents, how are your children teaching you about socializing or maybe not socializing? I believe that what our kids need to work on, often we do as well, though not in the same way. God or the Universe put people in our lives to guide us to grow, shape our thoughts and become better people. As parents we need to do that for our children, but remember, your children have something to offer you too. They are showing you how to view the world through their lens, an exceptional and unique one for each of them as they are exceptional and unique. Until next time.

 

 

Exceptional Organizing by Drawing Or Writing Out The Day

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Michael’s Day by Michael 🙂

 

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite two words these days-strategies and tools. Why? Well, it’s because my little guy has taught me the value of having good strategies and tools at your disposal whether you are an exceptional child or parent. We all need to have ways to organize our day, our thoughts and what is going on around us. Why should our exceptional children be different? Actually, they thrive with this and it helps them even more.

Many years ago when my son was in an adapted preschool there was a guest who came to talk to the parents at one of the evening workshops. These featured an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, as well as a nutritionist. Another evening, it was the father of a son with autism. He and his son were artists, and the son, though limited verbally, expressed himself through drawing and literally drew out his day and how he was feeling. It helped lessen his anxiety and communicate better with his Dad, teachers and therapists. There in that workshop I learned something valuable which I shared with Michael. After pictograms no longer worked, I began drawing stick figures of his day on paper so he would know what is happening. I would insert them in social stories. Then last year as Michael’s handwriting skills improved exponentially, he looked at me and told me he would now write out the day. What started as lines has now progressed to the words you see in the pictures in this blog post. Amazing! He will often ask me what is happening, then proceed to write out the day. It has helped him deal with anxiety, frustration and anger. Last week all I had to say to defuse a mini tantrum, was remind him to write out the day as we had talked about it the night before.

Whatever writing or drawing level your child is at, encourage them on paper to “draw or write out” their day. Michael used to do lines. No matter. As that father taught me all those years ago, they had meaning for Michael and I labeled them:

___________- park

_________-lunch

___________-grandmas’s house

etc. If your child cannot draw or write, do it for them and talk to them about it. Or, if they are partly on their way to doing it, help them hand over hand. You will seen the amazing results in time with this technique.

Exceptional Parents, what tools help you and your Exceptional Child best handle the day? For some, it is pictograms, for some drawing, for some writing. Whatever the method, help your child learn to organize their day. Organize yours in a similar way. If they see you are a creature ruled by good habits, good tools and strategies, that will motivate them to find things that work to lessen their anxiety and stress. Until next time.

 

 

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.