Tag: transitions

How Embracing Failure Has Made Me A Better Mom

child, eyes, face

Failure. Who would ever label that a positive word, but still it can be. Why? Only when we fail and fall down, can we rise and learn from our mistakes, new ways of being and doing. I used to be so hard on myself when I would come up against challenges with Michael in the past. Now, I see that it is not me failing him, but him needing to learn the proper tools to help himself handle failure, obstacles and stress. Life is not easy for him. Life is not easy for any of us. Most of us though know how to regulate our emotions though, and look to others for our cues. For exceptional kids, this is hard. They have a more difficult time relating to people and what people are saying. Still, when I have failed in reaching Michael, or in losing my temper it has shown me something amazing.

It has shown me what I need to work on to be stronger, more compassionate and a better all around human being. It’s not that I am a bad human being when I fail. None of us is. It’s just that I have temporarily lost touch with what I need to be working on, honing my energy in taking better care of my internal compass and inner workings, so I can model that for Michael. And believe me, even though I know what I need to do to keep the balance in my life, I still sometimes fall back into old habits of ruminating, worrying, getting angry when I can’t control anything, all the things I tell Michael to not worry about. I re-learn the lesson the same time I am teaching it Michael. I also learn that it is alright to be vulnerable, ask for help, as well as offer help at the same time. It is alright to be human and to teach Michael the same thing.

child, childhood, family

While I have been finding new ways to reach Michael and keep my own spirits strong while navigating new challenges with him, I have also had the privilege of supporting other Moms in their journey. And a privilege it is. While I help them, they help me. Just as while I help Michael, he helps me. And we all heal. We heal from the need to be perfect, untouchable, fearless. We are all afraid sometimes. We are all brave at other times. Life is a roller coaster. You can choose to ride it in full glory and brace yourself as best you can with the ups and downs, enjoying the ups and knowing you’ll figure out how to handle the downs when you get there. Or, you can choose to not ride it, fearing the downs only. As each day goes by, I know I will sometimes have down times, stressful times, times when I feel weak. But I know it is temporary and will pass. The up times are coming, and I will have what I need by then to coast beautifully. This is what I now teach Michael too.

Exceptional Parents, how often do you fail as parents, as human beings? If it’s often, that’s good. It means you are human. It means you are trying. It means you will find the tools if you search and look in your heart for them. They are there. As we tell our children, they are perfect in their imperfections and so are we. So don’t worry. Treat your failure as a gift. Let it take you to new heights and help you overcome hardship. Let yourself and your child soar. 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. 

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

boy, child, cute

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.


blonde, girl, golden

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. 



Finding the Right Tools To Help Your Child Handle Their Overpowering Emotions


Man in White and Black Sneakers Standing Outdoor during Daytime


So yesterday Michael and I went on a power walk. Well, he power walked. I kept telling him to slow down. I’m in pretty good shape, but late afternoons are not the best time for me to exercise unless I’m alone and can go at my own pace. Still, I saw he needed it. He was a boy on a mission to rid himself of stress. As with other times, he walked and talked quickly, then gradually as he began to relax he slowed down his pace. I was relieved, yet as always, worried about the kind of stress he carries inside of him. Right now the main issues are about working and focusing at school, as well as  learning to sit quietly in a body that has hard time doing that due to his sensory issues. Michael also has a hard time asking for help or letting people know he is in distress.

I am experimenting with different ways to help him learn to calm down. Right now he pushes emotions down and then explodes in the evenings when things don’t go one hundred percent his way. Being told what to do all day is extremely draining and stressful, so at home he bargains and tries to change the rules on EVERYTHING. It’s been a process, and we are still teaching him that all of us have to follow rules, listen to either teachers or bosses, and find ways to manage our anxiety, stress and negative emotions. Exercise, yoga and different sensory tools can help. I am constantly adding or taking away from our toolbox. Talking too and giving him the space to share is also important.


Photo by: Frank Mckenna at Unsplash


This is challenging for adults, but even more so for kids, and exceptional kids have a more difficult time due to their very complex nervous systems. I remind him that he needs and can always turn to TEAM MICHAEL for help. It’s been tough though. Positive moments have been our talks about music, watching his agility improve climbing on park equipment, and he is interested in going on his scooter again soon. I’m also happy he is continuing with tennis. It, swimming, and soon soccer, will be great outlets for his nervous energy release. As parents, we have to find outlets for our kids. As with neuro typical ones, sports and being active is very important, but there are always other things to consider. Would they benefit from talking to a therapist privately? Do they need a new more structured home routine?  An educator can help with that. Are they sleeping enough? Parents, as teacher, caregiver and therapist have to not be afraid to try any of the above (or all) so that they can give their child the best tools for success out there.

Exceptional Parents, what’s in your toolbox to help your child regulate their emotions? Have you made any changes recently? Sometimes shaking things up a bit can be helpful. Our kids are growing all the time so what worked previously may not anymore. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches. Talk to other parents. Talk to professionals. Read books and articles. Remember, you are your child’s voice to the world and can help explain them to their team the best. In the end, it’s all about giving them success in life to be the best they can be. Until next time.


Looking for new tools to help with anxiety management? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 


Coming Back Home: Church and Nature: My Exceptional Sanctuaries From Stress


I sat in the Church pews for the first time in two months yesterday. I was alone. Michael was not ready to come back to church. That is a whole other blog post. In this one, I want to talk about how I re-connected back yesterday to something important to me that I had been losing over the summer in the hectic day to day life. What was it? My ability to re-connect inwards with my soul and spirit to get strong for what lies ahead with Michael, and any other life events that are coming my way. It was bittersweet and emotional for me to be at mass alone yesterday, but I needed that time. Lately, Michael has still been having growing pains adjusting to school, homework, and his ever growing need to be on the move and keep busy. His stimming people tell him he has to. I think it is due to all the worrying and stress he carries around in his head. He is literally running from it. That, and the fact as he has told us, mapping out all these destinations on Google Maps means now he has to visit the countless stores and places everyday after school that he has seen. This is part of his love and hyper focus on directions. I am proud yet exhausted, and am slowly trying to find a compromise for both of us. I have told him we stay home once a week this month, twice in October, three times in November, and then in December four days a week, and that I will show him the fun things he can do at home. It has not been easy. There have been tears, fighting and stress on both our parts, but I know we will find a compromise.


This is why being in church yesterday was so good for me. It helped me remember how to go in ward and find strength to help Michael and myself. The next place I went yesterday afternoon that recharged me, was a park with Michael. While he played, I sat on the bench, and after taking some pictures of the trees and nature around me, I lay back, closed my eyes, and began to slowly heal from the stress of our fights over the last few days, the mental and physical exhaustion of working, taking care of Michael, making time for my marriage, and catching up in my house. I felt my old positive spirit start to emerge again slowly. I was in danger of losing it due to stress and anxiety. And that is when the word hit me: sanctuary. Nature and religion are my sanctuaries and the places I must retreat to when times get tough and stormy.

Exceptional Parents, what are your sanctuaries in times of stress and difficulty? If you don’t know offhand, try experimenting BEFORE your tension levels skyrocket. Try out taking a nature walk or sitting near a body of water, try a new exercise routine or yoga routine, go sit in a coffee shop, do whatever you need to do to heal your spirit. Make sure you show and remind it what it needs to do to recharge so that when things do swirl out of control, you know where to go. I’m sure glad I did, and now I can show Michael to do the same thing. Until next time.

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



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.


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. 



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


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.


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.


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



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.




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. 


Trying New Things-My Happy Surprise At Michael’s Challenge To Me


So Michael has thrown me a few curve balls this year, good ones I’m happy to report. This has been nice as there have been the usual “settling into the school year” ones which are a little stressful this time of year. How has he surprised me? He has opted out of an activity he has been doing since he was three years old, a special gym and swim program, saying he was ready for change, AND he has asked to have one less structured activity so he could “explore shopping centers and playgrounds more.” Wow. The exploring more didn’t surprise me that much due to the fact that he loves navigating, but what did surprise me was his wanting out of an activity that has been a part of his life for so long. He was willing to do another swim program, just at a different pool. Dad and I said we were alright with it.

OK, I have to be honest. It was more of a surprise to me how shocked I was that he didn’t want to do this activity. I actually felt a little anxious and stressed myself  that this activity would be missing from our weekly schedule. What does that say about me? I have become even more of a creature of habits than Michael has. I have become as attached to my schedule as he has. It was interesting as at first I fought it a little. So did Dad. We could not believe that he really was fed up, Michael who craved routine, the same structure. It became so interesting to us to see that we were now the ones who needed a little shove in a new direction. Dad and I were so proud of Michael, and we reiterated to him that we are proud of him and know he will do well. At the same time, we also reminded him that if he misses his old swim program we would call up and see if he could go in the winter session or the spring one. We want him to know nothing is absolute and it’s good he wants to try new things. He is beginning to understand that growth only happens when we do new things. Mom and Dad and slowly learning that too. Michael is ever the patient teacher.

Exceptional Parents, when did your Exceptional Child last surprise you by being spontaneous and making a big change? When did they get you to think outside the box? Lots of kids with autism are capable of doing this and enjoying the journey of learning more about themselves as they do so. It’s important as parents we continue to encourage all their exploration in any direction and stay behind them showing them that risk taking is an important part of growing up. 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. 


When Mom Needs To Stay Home-Exceptional Respite From Childcare


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.


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


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.


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