Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is Your Anxiety Getting in the Way?

Picture it. Your child’s screech pierces the air as you pass by the aisle of treats in the grocery store. Your intelligent brain tries to reassure you that you are right to not give in to the demands for candy, but, your ego’s voice is screaming, “Give him the damn candy and shut him up! EVERYONE is looking at you!”

Next scene. You are an educational assistant and you and the student you assist are calmly and discreetly entering the classroom and joining the other students in a learning centre.  Without warning, your dream of discretion is shattered by fingers gripping securely into your arm and the force of a determined pre- teen drag you backwards. Your face turns red, your arm throbs and all eyes are on you.

How do you feel in each of these scenes? Is your heart pumping fast, climbing up in your chest, face flushing, throat tightening and your mind racing?

If so, you are probably pretty normal…and healthy. At least your fight/flight system is working.

Even in less public situations it can be very challenging to manage self -control when a child/student is losing theirs. Sometimes, it can feel almost impossible. Perhaps you feel as if all eyes are glued on you and those stares reflect a complete disgust at your lack of competence. Maybe you feel as if you must be doing something wrong and your lack of confidence shines like a floodlight on a dark night. Perhaps, you are silently praying for a deep abyss to open from the fall and you sink in without anyone noticing!

Even though it is very hard to keep this in mind during a stressful situation, the feelings you experience are YOURS. Too often, we allow our own emotions to dictate the way we respond to the student with autism that cannot navigate their own emotional hijacking! The only thing worse that a child out of control is a child AND an adult out of control!

We all know that we need to stay calm and in control but knowing this is often not enough when our bodies feel as if we are under attack. That’s why we need to quickly recognize our physical response to an escalating situation and then immediately rely on cognition to self -talk our way through it. First, take deep breaths yourself through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Send oxygen to your brain so that it can do its job of thinking. Next, identify your thoughts.

Are you saying to yourself, “Holy crap, EVERYONE is staring? I look like I have zero control over this kid! I look incompetent. What can I do to stop this immediately?”  😳

That is your ego talking and it does not give a hoot about what is best for the child. The child’s needs are FIRST and FOREMOST. Your job at this point is to ask yourself what the child is communicating to you. This is NOT the time to ask the child a million questions OR to reprimand the behaviour!! It is also NOT the time to give in to the request for candy. We never want to reinforce temper tantrums as a means of communicating. It is NOT the time to raise your voice, call the child a baby and/or overpower the child.

Think about it. How would YOU want to be treated if you were experiencing an emotional breakdown?

Watch for the next blog to outline what you can do…  🙄

 cm396thumb - Be Like a Duck - Michael Caine

Does God only give special children to special people?

Personally, I don’t think so.

I think it’s fairer to say that people CAN BECOME a better version of themselves when they raise special children.

Disabilities happen. Diagnoses happen. It is how we respond to the events that makes all the difference in our lives and in the world.

Life events leave us with a whole plethora of choices in how we will react. Some choose to ignore the child’s atypical development; bury their heads and hope it goes away. Some choose to let their anger and bitterness spoil their spirit and their relationships. Some choose to become “warriors” and fight for their children. None of these responses is bad or wrong in and of themselves….if they are temporary reactions. But, when they become cemented in a pattern of response…the results are problematic. 28-Pedicel_flowers-033

I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. The God I believe  in is a God who loves perfectly so I am not inclined to think that God screws up a child’s development on purpose. In my thinking, genetics and neurons run awry at some point in the development. My faith tells me that I will be supported in raising this this child…divinely and humanly supported.

I HAVE a child with special needs. I will choose to respond with integrity, compassion, love and courage. The gift of my child will not be spoiled by my response. I take each day as it comes and take one step at a time in raising my child. I choose to be grateful for the small gifts: a full night of sleep, one less daily meltdown, new foods tried, a word spoken that has never come from the child’s mouth, an unexpected snuggle…

I choose to be optimistic about the future. I will be proactive: taking the initiative to reach out for help, ask questions, learn what needs to be learned. I will take the steps I need to take today (no matter how small) that will lead my child where he needs to be down the road. I will catch myself complaining and change my words to gratitude. I will choose to extend myself from my comfort zone: make phone calls, participate in meetings, play an active role in the goals and programs for my child.

I will allow myself to be vulnerable. Open to the help, support and love of others. I choose to see the goodness in others when the rest of the world cannot. I am training myself to see beyond the surface; to see beauty within. My child teaches me when I humble myself to be the student. My child leads me where I would never have chosen to go. My child with autism shows me that my view of success is small and limiting. Money, fame, celebrity, rank and degrees have little impact on the deepest needs of the spirit. My child teaches me that to love and be loved is what honestly matters more than anything…especially when our life on earth ends.

God gave me the gift of my child. Personally, I believe every child is a gift. What I do with that gift is what makes all the difference in my life, my child’s life and in the world.

serenity prayer


Slow Down Production

The autism consultant tells us that we need to use visual schedules to break down tasks into smaller more manageable steps. Eager to do anything and everything to improve life for the child and ourselves, we log on to the computer and launch into the creative flurry of making visual symbols and pictures for schedules and supports. Sometimes, we get so excited about finally knowing what to do that we forget the 10 binders full of pictures from the last creative burst!

Step away from the computer…think first…

You are starting to sprint and it is a marathon, not a race, remember?     slow down

Visual schedules are an awesome tool to use for expectations or situations that repeatedly cause problems. If you find yourself constantly needing to explain, coax or threaten a child with autism to wash his hands, hand in homework, put items away, move to the table when asked, then, a visual schedule may just be the answer.

If the child performs a task in one place but not another, it may save your sanity to make and repeatedly review a homemade picture book of all of the places he or she would do that task. Imagine taking pictures of all kinds of sinks: washrooms at the mall, in a restaurant, at school, at home, at Grandma’s…you get the idea. Hey, why not make it a ‘photo op’ and snap pics of the individual washing her hands at all kinds of places. Put the pics in a small photo album and VOILA…you have a perfect preview/priming tool where you used to have an occasion for nagging and friction!

Avoid becoming a visual schedule overachiever! Visual tools, checklists and schedules need to be prepared when we see a need arising or when we can anticipate a rough transition. Each tool needs to be so individualized for a child that making them in bulk and for every occasion is a waste of time, materials and energy. At the same time, trying to use visuals for every facet of life is a fast train to insanity.

Allow the child and your instincts to lead you…


Back to School Advice for Teachers and Kids

Mom’s advice:

A friendly reminder to all of my kiddies that going back to school may be brutal for some kids. Watch and listen carefully for those who may be nervous, sad, or lonely….even the teachers! Be compassionate and kind. A smile can go a long way to easing stress. 
AND don’t forget to speak positively! Stop yourself from getting caught up in any negative trash talk, gossip and judgement…about other kids and teachers. A good year starts with good thoughts. 

Be true to who you are. Leave the masks, facades, bravado at home and let your classmates and colleagues know the real you, right from the beginning.