Category Archives: Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs

The Best Gift of All 

A reprint from one of my favorite holiday posts from 2013, the message is still so timely!! 
THE BEST GIFT OF ALL
Now that the gifts are unpacked and family celebrations are winding down, is it possible to include an often overlooked dimension to this winter season?
This might be the right time to introduce to your child an extra awareness of the world around us and to cultivate your own version of spirituality. 
 Recent research has found that children who are more spiritual are happier – and healthier. This doesn’t necessarily mean typical religious practices but the research included qualities such as a child’s sense of personal meaning and their sense of basic values as kindness towards others, altruism, meaningful relationships and volunteering. All of these things, the research found, were associated with a spiritual life and ‘enhanced well being.’

It is often said that children are more open to spirituality than adults who have become hurried, cynical or just too busy to consider adding a spiritual dimension to the day. But children also need to be exposed to the possibility of expanding their consciousness outward, not just downward into the face of an ipad tablet, but outward to notice the gifts of nature and the wonder of living a life that transcends the material world.

When we elevate our children’s sense of wonder, we also open the possibility of having a child who just might be more contented, less hyperactive and more open to other types of thinking that is not found automatically from living in the grind of the daily routine or found on TV.

Children who are atypical are often more vulnerable to the commercial influence of the shopping ‘gotta have it’ culture. And parents of atypical kids are more stressed, and more invested in trying to make their children happy so they also may buy into the culture of ‘more’ while forgetting that there is another side to life.

Yet, just as spirituality is good for kids, it is also good for you, the parent. Even the most secular and least religiously affiliated parent can consider the possibility of connecting children to forces outside their own sense of self. 

When we experience living as connected to the world as a whole, rather than the “me-me-me dimension” , lives become enriched. Consider, for example, how you might feel after a morning volunteering at a homeless shelter rather than another trip to the local mall?

Providing perspective on life is important, especially for atypical children who are struggling in their own way and are confronted with a great deal of inner stress. In this season of wonder and change for the new year, consider the possibility of adding an extra dimension to your life as well as that of your children.

5 tips to cultivating spirituality in yourself and in your children.

Gratitude

 give thanks before you eat, not just for the food but for everything that allowed the meal to get to the table. The farmer, the store, the truck that brought the food and the blessing of being in a country that has food in abundance. Get in the habit of pointing out your blessings, from the big things to the little things we all take for granted. Children will learn what they see, and gratitude will help a child be more sensitive and appreciative.

Practice wonder – 

a mindful contemplation. Experiment with having a moment of silence and pay attention to how you are feeling. Do this with your children. Report to each other how it felt to be silent and what you were thinking and feeling. You can do this before before bedtime, including breathing and stillness as a practice.

Helping others – 

practicing kindness and giving are experiences that children can learn to model. Volunteer as a family or just perform random acts of kindness, such as helping an older person open the door or take their groceries to the car for them. It can open conversations for children that would not occur otherwise.

Connect with nature – 

consider spending your evening with a contemplative walk outside and appreciating the stars. Experience along with your child a walk in the forest or a picnic at the beach. Take the time to look at the shore, the waves and the sky and point out details that might get overlooked. Consider the snowflakes as being unique and draw parallels to your unique child. By having these conversations, you are exercising your child’s ‘spiritual muscle’ and are building more calm and resilient children as well enriching your self.

Provide a spiritual role model

 If you don’t feel like you can be a positive spiritual role model, try to find one for your child. This will help your child connect outward and learn from others a more purposeful and positive outlook.

For more information on building spirituality in children, visit these websites:
http://www.Spiritualityforkids.com
http://www.livescience.com/3198-spirituality-religion-kids-happy.html
http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Life-Children-Robert-Coles/dp/0395599237

Do You Feel Sorry for Your Atypical Child? 


Feeling sorry for a child who struggles with a special need is a common, understandable reaction from a loving parent. But it’s not going to help your kid. Here’s how to adopt a new mindset that will.

Nine-year-old Amanda walked into my office, a worried frown on her freckled face. She heaved a heavy backpack off of her shoulders, dropping it with a thud and blurted out, “I’m exhausted!” Her mother agreed, noting, “I feel so bad for her all the time. She is under so much stress!”

As a parent, it’s hard not to feel sorry for your own child sometimes. It’s especially hard if your child has the extra burden of an atypical profile. Children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, ADHD, autism, or developmental delays are additionally weighed down by the necessities of their diagnosis, whether extra tutoring, multiple therapies, socialization groups or intensive behavior training programs.

Parents may have to let go of typical fun activities, such as sports teams or school plays, in lieu of prescriptive interventions. It’s emotionally draining both for child and parent. No one wants their child to be different, and yet differences seem to drive the weekly calendar, continually reminding everyone of the “special needs” of the child.

A major reason it is so difficult to keep a positive attitude when your child is atypical is because, like all parents, you worry. You worry that your child will be bullied, have no friends, never go to college or get married. That he’ll suffer.
But yet, because children learn by watching their parents, it is critical to adopt a cheerful attitude. The way you see your child ultimately shapes her own self perspective. On top of everything you’re challenged to do, you have to cultivate optimism, resilience and confidence in your child’s outcome. Is that hard? You bet it is. But if you keep these Dont’s and Do’s in mind, it can be easier. 
 

DON’T

Confuse feeling sorry for your child with support. 
There’s a big difference between pity and empathy. Stay positive and help your child find resources to build resilience and confidence.
Always look through the disability lens
Your kid is a whole person with different gifts and great potential. The special need aspect is just one aspect of your child’s life.


Don’t Project forward

Sometimes, parents will worry about something that might happen – but it’s stemming from their own experiences or fears. Are you worried that he won’t be popular because you weren’t popular? Take some time to find out what your child is worried about; you might be surprised to find out that he is much more at ease than you thought.

Don’t Overindulge to “compensate”
Extra video games or unlimited treats, for example, do not have anything to do with your child’s disability. Stick to “typical” rules, while allowing for occasional leniency in circumstances that really do relate to her disability.

Don’t Be too tough



Tough love doesn’t work with atypical kids. Atypical kids are more fragile. Get to know your child and work with his strengths. 

 
DO: 

Step in when necessary
Some atypical kids are prone to social isolation and depression. Teachers, even if unintentionally, can exacerbate the problem. Keep an eye on your child and have open communication so he’ll feel comfortable confiding in you.
You are your child’s advocate, and your child will need assertive intervention at times. This is not “babying” your child. It’s part of your job as a pro-active parent of an atypical child.

Do Encourage participation
Don’t limit your child’s activity options based on what you think she can’t do. If she really wants to join that club or try that sport or take those lessons, chances are there is a way to make it happen.

DO Enjoy the present
Staying in the moment and noticing your amazing child as she unfolds is an important—and joyful—exercise. Take a short break from the everyday jostle to savor small moments of just being together.

DO Express gratitude daily
Before bed, perhaps at tuck-in time, encourage your child to think about what he’s thankful for. Chime in with a few ideas yourself.

Not What I Expected: A Review

ADDitude magazine is a terrific magazine for parents, children and adults with ADHD.  They wrote a review of my book: Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children (Perigee, 2015). 


Not What I Expected: A Book Review

Not What I Expected is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Vacationing With Children on the Autism Spectrum

It is my pleasure to have Sean Morris, a dad and writer, to guest blog this week.  

Vacationing With Children On The Autism Spectrum

Summer break is the time for travel and taking vacations with your loved ones, but preparing to leave home with children can be overwhelming at times, and if you have a child on the autism spectrum, you may be facing a different set of challenges than with your other children. From packing the right items to making sure your accommodations are safe, there’s a lot to think about.

 

It can be hard to know where to start, but the best way is to sit down and make a list, beginning with your child’s specific needs. Will she need a quiet place to wind down in an otherwise crowded spot like an amusement park? Will there be issues with using public bathrooms? Write down everything you can think of and ask your partner for help so you don’t miss a thing, then start listing what you’ll need to pack and who you’ll need to contact.

 

If you’ll be staying in a hotel or with family members, call ahead and make sure your family can sleep on the ground floor or in a room without a balcony (if your child wanders). If there will be a pool or hot tub present, make sure the facility is equipped with a locked door or gate that your child can’t access.

 

Once you know where you’ll be staying, check online for maps and detailed photographs so you–and your child–will know what to expect. Talk to them about the trip and show them photos well before you leave so they can get acquainted with where they’ll be sleeping. It’s also helpful when planning family outings, so you’ll know what restaurants and activities are nearby.

 

If possible, bring your child’s pillows and blankets from home to re-create their own bed. Adequate rest is important for children of all ages, so whatever you can do to make the trip more comfortable for your loved one is worth it, even if it means packing yet another bag. Ask hotel staff if the rooms will have door locks that are out of your child’s reach; it’s a good idea to pack a bell or other noisy item that you can hang on the door handle to alert you if your child decides to check out the hotel on their own.

 

If your family will be flying, it’s a good idea to have an ID made for your child to keep in his or her backpack, and take a picture of them in their traveling clothes before you leave; that way, if you get separated in the crowded airport, you’ll have a recent photo that shows exactly what they look like. Contact your child’s doctor about obtaining a letter from them that states exactly what your child’s condition is in case you need to show airport security.

 

Do some research on local restaurants and eateries that will be on your driving route and make sure you’ll be able to find something that caters to your child’s needs, especially if they require a special diet–such as gluten-free–or if they have allergies.

 

If you’ll be staying with friends or family, be sure to contact them well before your trip and let them know what your child will need during the stay. It’s important to be clear about your needs before you arrive so that the homeowners can make their house as safe as possible, including making sure all doors and windows are lockable and that there will be no issues with any pets.

 

Family trips can be a wonderful time to bond and have fun, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your child is safe, healthy, and happy during your vacation.

 

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.

Why aren’t the kids playing? 

  
Kids don’t play anymore. It’s no secret that playing has been replaced by longer hours of homework and passive screen time. Do we have to sacrifice the previous years of childhood in order to maintain a high level of academic success? 

Here is what we know now. And if we know it, why aren’t kids in the US playing more? 

Read on: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/10/07/if-we-know-play-based-learning-works-why-dont-we-do-it/