Category Archives: Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs

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/

MYTH BUSTING FOR MOMS

1. THERE IS NO VILLAGE:

You know what I’m talking about. The village where everyone gets together on Main street in the evening. Where you can leave your baby next door with Grandma while you pop over to get your hair done. Where your neighbor down the block, who just happens to be your dear friend since elementary school, knows to send over a fresh baked quiche for dinner when you’ve just come home with your newborn. What? You don’t live in that village? That’s because it’s not 1954. And that village has evolved into a major metropolis where neighbors don’t speak to one another, your relatives live across the country, and even if they lived near you, you aren’t on speaking terms anyway. Moms, in case you were wondering why you often feel so alone and unsupported, it’s because (sorry, Hillary) the village that has been promised to help you raise your child does not exist. Instead, let’s update the concept. I prefer: “it takes an army.” Parents are the commanders-in-chief and they just might need to hire foot soldiers and other staff to help support everything that goes into raising a child these days.  If it sounds terrible, it’s not. It’s reality. Because if you are one of these ‘do it yourselfers’, you will find yourself stuck with an avalanche of drudgery that won’t let you be the cool, loving mom that you’d like to be: school meetings, cleaning soccer uniforms, trips to doctors, chauffeuring kids to all types of therapies with names that sound like something out of a science fiction movie, and the never-ending need for entertainment – otherwise they will be watching TV or playing video games all day long, or worse, whining that they are bored. If you are overwhelmed by all of these challenges, you are not alone. But if you try to do it alone, not only will you not be able to take care of all of the details that kids today need, you won’t be able to maintain your own personal life, either as a working adult, or as just a human being with your own needs. Remember to still be you. Build your army. It may not sound as warmly fuzzy as a ‘village’ but it’s the truth. Include your circle of friends and family if you can, but if you have to hire them, go for it!

2. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE CHILD:

When a baby is born, all the attention turns to the adorable cupid-like infant. And who can resist? Nature in the form of neurotransmitters and hormones, such as oxytocin, prolactin, vasopressin, wires us, both mothers and fathers, to fall in love and be obsessed with the child. This is completely normal and ensures survival of the species in evolutionary terms. Although the hormones do taper off, the habit has been set: it’s “all eyes on baby” and then ‘all eyes on toddler’ and then……. It’s a habit. What happens to parents who ignore their needs, feelings and desires after a while? They aren’t at their best! Good parents take care of their own needs as well as those of their children. Nurture your own interests, take good care of yourself, continue to build your community of friends and people who nourish you. Don’t get too over-involved with your own child, they need to know that they are not the only focal point of your life. See point #1.

3. MOMS ARE NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE:

You already know that you aren’t like other people, at least like the women who are single or haven’t had children. But did you know that it’s not only your body that has changed? Through research, we know that the brains of mothers change as well. You are more empathic, courageous and have stronger memories for what your children need than non-moms. You also have more energy. These changes will stay with you and will become gifts to use in other ways once the immediate challenges of raising your kids become less demanding. All of those years of sleepless nights, chronic anxiety and massive hormonal changes, transforms you into a super-human being. Stringy hair and puffy eyes notwithstanding. Hang in there; these changes will be long lasting and will come in handy down the road. You can truly move mountains when you need to!

4. GENES ARE NOT DESTINY: CHANGE EM IF YOU DON’T LIKE EM:

Freud once said: “Biology is destiny”. Today, we know that not only isn’t that true, but you can actually alter your own genetic patterns by your thoughts and behaviors. It’s called neuroplasticity and it’s powerful. We can always work on ourselves. While some things are hard wired into our brains, other things such as our tendency to be pessimistic or our loathing of exercise, is soft wired. We can change our brains. Anxious? Try mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), a form of therapy that has been shown to be highly effective. Depressed? The world of positive psychology has developed numerous ways to actually change your natural mood setpoint. Practice gratitude as a beginning trial and see what happens.  Exercise, too, is a habit that can be built, just start with one step. It takes about 12 weeks for the exercise habit to get set. Go for it!

5. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT THE NEIGHBORS THINK

Much harm has been done to the psyches of moms by worrying about what others are thinking of you. Its as if moms imagine that other mothers keep imaginary scorecards analyzing your best and worst performance. The real scorecard is in your own brain. Keeping up with the Joneses is a very real phenomenon, we are wired to be competitive, it’s part of the survival gene. Their child is crawling before yours? It’s enough to send some new moms into a real panic! Everyone is better at Red Rover than your skinny little girl? Get a grip, and get her a set of boxing gloves! Or better yet, since she doesn’t likely care, get yourself a pair of pink boxing gloves and work it off! It doesn’t matter who does what first or better!! The road to success is paved from the inside out: for a child to feel happy, nurtured and secure comes from having a confident parent behind them, not a frazzled pushy mom whose kid needs to be the star of the show. Give it up, people! Look in your interior mirror, no not the one that shows your new gray hairs, but the inner mirror; ask yourself: what will make you today a more content and calm and confident mom? Close your eyes. Breath deeply and quietly for a few minutes. Put your hands on your heart and wish yourself well.   You know what it takes. Go for it. And have a happy and peaceful mothers day