For the Mom Who…

…has to drive her infant around at 2 in the morning because being in a moving car is the only way he will go back to sleep.

…sometimes cooks three separate meals for dinner because her picky eater will only have pizza – but the crust has to be right, it can’t be too cheesy, the pepperoni better not be the spicy kind and there can’t be too much sauce. Oh and definitely not the sauce that is too sweet or has any green stuff in it.

…on some days actually falls asleep standing in the shower.

…most likely has read “Goodnight Moon” to her child at least 6, 947 times and still does the funny voices.

…gave up grown-up music in the car for about ten years in favor of Kidz Bop, Disney, and Pokemon CDs.

…can fix her child’s toys or computer, put together a shelving unit, replace worn appliance parts, mow the lawn, and still remove splinters with the precision of a surgeon.

…wants so badly to fix everything for her children but knows she must stand by and let them have the experience on their own.

…will be there to help pick up the pieces when they don’t quite get it right the first time, and encourage them to try again.

…always makes sure the house is never completely out of any grocery item, and the lunchboxes and coffee are always ready in the morning, without exception.

…simply doesn’t have time to be sick. Ever.

…has to endure the glares of people that think she simply doesn’t spank her special needs child enough when he’s having sensory meltdowns in public.

…eats the burnt toast so everyone else can enjoy their breakfast and nothing has to be wasted.

…sometimes cries when no one’s looking.

…knows that her children are here to teach her, too.

…gets up every single day and does what needs to be done no matter what kind of mood she’s in.

…accepts that right now it’s okay that her child with Autism is 10 and still needs help showering, using the bathroom, dressing, and brushing his teeth. She performs these tasks with grace.

…celebrates every success, large or small, and takes nothing for granted.

…knows that her children love her, but sometimes wishes they would show it a little more. However, she doesn’t require it to keep her heart open.

…goes to bat for her children, unconditionally, because their success is non-negotiable.

…always encourages her children to be their unique and authentic self.

…realized early on that there’s no turning back – this is a lifetime job and it isn’t for weenies.

…still knows how to dance with confidence, even if it’s in her living room. On the coffee table.

…learned long ago that the workload will never be “even” or “fair,” and that’s okay.

…considers the simplest pleasures a big deal, because life is precious and all we really have is the now.

…knows that her children chose her before coming to this crazy, adventurous place, and she is grateful.

…remembers that shining her light and being her true self is the greatest gift she can give to her children, for it inspires them to do the same.

…simply does her best, because there is no manual for this gig!

I salute you. All of you. Single moms, married moms, “unplanned” moms, adoptive moms, older moms, teenage moms, special needs moms…we have a bond – a circle – that is unbreakable. You are all amazing – don’t wait for others to honor you. Celebrate and honor yourself and the successes that YOU create.

Happy Mother’s Day!

What about you? Post some other “for the Mom who…” sentences below or share them on the Spirit of Autism Facebook page!

Are You Setting Your Child Up for Success or Failure?

I sometimes fail to remember: as parents we are not raising children, we are raising happy, productive, balanced adults.

Recently a friend of mine of 17 years had the courage to express an observation about the way I frequently respond to some of my son’s less-than-desirable behaviors. Instead of feeling judged or on the defensive, I reflected on his words and decided to take an honest look at where I might be setting my child up for failure.

I’ve mentioned on Twitter that puberty plus the lack of energy release during homeschooling has sent Justin into a bit of a regression with his loud noises, stimming and impulsivity. Add to the mix a mom that works overtime and does freelance projects at night, sleep deprivation, and a teenage sister that always rouses him, and we have some pretty obnoxious behavior rearing its ugly head.

I have a few stubborn “reflexes” about Justin’s noises that are rooted back to our pre-diagnosis days, where we frequently got kicked out of retail and eating establishments due to the fact that I “couldn’t control my child” :)  Before I understood sensory processing issues, auditory overload, and Autism itself I merely thought he was choosing to be out of control. Ha! I was so accustomed to apologizing and making excuses for him to get us through the trip to the grocery store or lunch with a relative;  I would do whatever it took to smooth over the incident and get us home.

Back to the observation of my friend: he said that I tend to speak about my son like he’s not in the room when he starts exhibiting these behaviors. I retreat into a litany of excuses while he continues to act in a way that’s actually unacceptable.

Now before you fly off the handle about how our children can’t help doing some of the things they do… yes. That’s right. My excuses are most likely accurate – sensory overload, puberty issues, too much downtime, unpredicted change in schedule and more. These are the reasons 99% of the time that a behavior creeps in. However, am I allowing my son to use his Autism as an excuse to not even try to do better?

Read that again. Am I allowing my son to use his Autism as an excuse to not even try to do better?

Ouch. I believe sometimes I am teaching him this. He may NOT know better, he may NOT be able to help himself, but what do I do with that information? Do I use it as an opportunity to help teach him how to appropriately handle his issues?

This doesn’t mean I don’t provide resources or abandon his needs. It doesn’t mean we don’t leave some situations because they are causing overload. What does it mean?

“Justin, this is the quiet room of the house. If we want to scream, we go in the other room.”

“Justin, it’s not okay to run into the room and fall on the puppy with that giant toy. It hurts him. When the puppy gets hurt, he bites people. Let’s run in the back yard or down the hallway only.”

“Justin, I know it’s really noisy in here and your ears probably hurt. Would you like to go into a quiet place for a while, or maybe put your headphones on?”

These solutions take time, especially when he’s learned that he can make his sister yell and his Mom make excuses for him. But my goal for him is to be able to tell what is appropriate and what is not, whether he can help the behavior or if he’s spinning out of control. If he can’t help it, he needs to learn to ask for assistance, tools, or even an out. I am in no way denying his sensory needs or coping skills.

It’s time, I think, to start sending the message that I expect the best from him. It’s when I make these subtle adjustments within my own mind that he always surprises me and rises to a new level of self-awareness.

What about you? Are there areas where you could expect more from your child? I’d love to hear your comments! Don’t forget to join the conversation on our Facebook page!

It’s IEP Time… Put Our Dukes Down?

It can be hard not to go into an IEP meeting with an attitude of “me vs. them”, ready to defend your child. Especially if you’ve been pelted with behavioral labels, accused of not disciplining enough, or relentlessly badgered about why you are not medicating. And believe me, I’ve been called some really inappropriate names during some IEP meetings by Special Ed district representatives that could have cost them their jobs.

No parent should be a doormat, but I encourage you to try a shift in your attitude before your next meeting. This hasn’t been an easy journey for me, especially during the two-year diagnosis process that seemed to be more about what category my child fell in than what he needed to help him be more successful in the classroom.

However, when I started coming from a place of appreciation, partnership, and resourceful ideas the IEP process really transformed into a positive experience. I’m not saying there aren’t any challenges or issues, or that all the resources I feel should be in place are. There are still budget constraints and understaffed schools; there are still many misunderstandings about what he can help and what he does to try and ease a sensory experience. But we are much closer these days, especially when I come into the process with honesty, willingness, and an open mind.

Appreciation. Instead of balking about what I see wrong straight out of the gate, I always start with comments of celebration and sincere thanks for what the teachers and staff ARE providing.  Remember, their job isn’t easy, either!

Keep moving forward. I like to keep a solution-oriented tone in the meetings, regardless of any disappointments or misunderstandings I may have experienced in prior sessions. By focusing on what I feel NEEDS to happen instead of all the things we tried that didn’t work out so great, it keeps the whole team in a forward momentum. This doesn’t mean I ignore things that went wrong, but fixating on them will not lend anything to the outcome of the meeting. Remember, we are ultimately there to find and ask for tools that will help our children succeed.

Bring some tools of your own. I am always researching scheduling ideas, resources, and routines to help us at home. I like to come into IEP meetings with a list of things that are currently working well for us, adjusting each for the classroom if I can. I also openly talk about some of the challenges I still experience and ask for input. It’s been my experience that these simple actions can be disarming and set the stage for working together.

Keep talking about the goal. Whenever we get hung up on a certain behavior or issue and I feel things may be getting tense or heated, I sometimes break the moment with a statement like, “My goal for him is to teach him to ask for xxxx appropriately, or self-correct if he is able,” or “I’m aiming for a decrease in the need for small-group time this quarter.” Sometimes we just need a small reminder of why we are there.

Aim high. Every so often, the team will suggest a support be put in place before we have experienced it. I have actually asked for the least amount of support at times to see what my son was capable of. By assuming he will have trouble in a certain situation without actually letting him try is setting him up to aim low in the future. Sometimes they really surprise you!

Overall, it is very easy to take things personally and experience frustration in the IEP process. You know your child best. However, I have personally seen the magic that happens when I have shifted the focus to taking the higher road and keeping my side of the street clean. There’s a strange ripple effect in your world when you stop expecting everyone to be against you : )