No More 0 to 60 in Seconds.

Stop watchSummertime is a favorite season for us! It is a time when our family is at it’s happiest! Why?  Because we don’t have the extra task demands and high achieving, perfectionist attitude that the school year brings. The house is abuzz with happy kiddos that enjoy the new schedules that summer brings. With that being said we have come to:

A screeching halt! Hear the brakes? As the summer season sets the clouds begin to roll in. Transitions make things challenging and stressful. Which means that mother and child do not always seem eye to eye. How to combat this? Or at least make it easier? I have found a few things that seem to be working and lessening the stress for all. First praise, ( positive reinforcement). “I love the way you smile when you awake.” “I love the way you help set your clothes out at night.” “I love the way you are taking your time while brushing your teeth.” This seems to set the right mood. However there are those moments when things go sideways. Not always easy to think in the moment. Times when I am not on my game. Creating not so positive parenting moments.

My kiddo is all too keen on detecting voice inflection changes. However processing those tones breaks down. “Why is everyone mad at me?!” “Nobody likes me!” “Everyone hates me!” is how it is heard. So I began to think what could we say as parents and siblings to help our ASD child and sibs communicate. Some catch phrase that would allow better communication before being in an unhappy place. While brainstorming after a chain of a not so great moments I/my little man came up with “T.O.” for a buzz word. Each time there is a moment when I am beginning to have my voice change tone or a sibling starts, my little man calls out “T.O.” aka “Time Out”.

This allows myself, my husband or sibs to take a step back and to re-evaluate the situation and tone. It also gives our frustrated little man a moment for calm breathing and verbal interaction. “Why are you mad at me?” This leads to better communication, better understanding and better feelings. Less moments spent going from 0-60 in seconds… It helps us to all keep “calm engines. So far this is shaping up to be a great school year! True that it is early, but maybe we can keep the summertime sun around a little longer! 

Open the Doors, and See all the People

Open the doors, and see all the peopleGot a student who is anxious about the big unknown world of school? Our kids love the advent calendar at Christmas time so we are going to do a modified “Back to School” version. Countdown the days until school starts with small doors that open to pictures of things they will get to do at school. Be sure to include your child’s favorite activities, such as puzzles, tricycles, or building blocks. Other ideas to add in to discuss could be the mode of transportation to school, particularly if your child will be riding the bus, and even a typical meal for their school day. Be sure to include friends pictures if you know they will be attending the same school. By month’s end you should have many fun things they can look forward to doing and seeing on their big day!

Our Hostess with the Mostest

Our hostess with the mostestTo help our daughter with autism get excited about starting another school year we have a big family Back to School Party in which we decorate using tons of pictures taped around the house: of her favorite school events from the year before, school friends, old teacher, new teacher, the school, playground, new classroom, etc. and we encourage our older guests to ask her plenty of questions about them. Also, we play a school supply themed scavenger hunt game and then she gets to play hostess, passing out cake she made. Our family looks forward to this every year as my daughter delights in being the expert and having her support team so actively interested in her school days! 

Times Have Changed, but Love Hasn’t

Family photoRaising two children with special needs in the late 1950′s and 1960′s was definitely a challenge. Due to a military career, we relocated often which meant a new environment for Debbie & Susie who were six years apart. Fifty years ago our culture had not acknowledged that these special children would have a functional place in society.  In fact, they were officially referred to with a word that bothered us back then, and thank goodness, has since been banished. To us, they were our children and very loved in our family of six.  Fortunately, they were social and made friends at school and in our neighborhoods. Sometimes by themselves, and, more often, through the support of our other two children and their friends.

There were not special education classes available in every school system. We found that our choice of where to live within a community was determined by evaluating if an appropriate education awareness existed within the school district. We helped form and became active in the only local parent group in Arizona for special needs children. ARC’s goal was to lobby the schools to best serve this growing need. Thankfully, both Debbie & Susie completed high school and went on to work in sheltered workshops. It is amazing how our society has changed over the past 50 years. It is extremely gratifying to see efforts to mainstream these children (and adults) into our everyday culture and consider the importance of all individual’s quality of life. 

Playin’ with Dad

Here’s an easy idea for getting back to school. Take your little guy to the playground of his school as much as possible.  Get him used to the actual equipment he will be using at recess. The playground is an important place to fit in. Sometimes I bring Little JP’s sand toys and sometimes his trike. JP can get in a rut (sound familiar?) so we try to change up what we bring.

Scout it Out

Middle School TransitionHere’s a transition tip for families who have a child who is transitioning from an elementary school setting to a middle school setting. It can be super scary and anxiety-provoking, especially for a student with ASD who needs structure and routine!! My recommendation is to tour the school ahead of time (and map out how to get through all 6 periods of the day), make arrangements to meet with his/her teachers, and prepare the student with school rules. For example, “Once the first bell rings, you have 5 minutes to get from one class to the next.”

 

Remember to discuss P.E. rules especially, because our kids with ASD miss social cues and nuances. P.E. rules can include “Focus on yourself’ or “Keep your eyes and comments to yourself.” Perhaps a role play at home would be beneficial as well. A go-to person at this new school would also be extremely helpful. Maybe it could be the school psychologist, school counselor, or even homeroom teacher. The student should be told that he/she may go to this person for problem solving during frustrating moments during the day or week. This list can go on and on… 

You Make my Heart Sing!

Debbie and Her Little SisGrowing up with an older sister with developmental disabilities did not seem unusual. My mother decided early on that we were just a regular family. Not easy for Mom, but as adult children we think of ourselves as equal family members.

My sister recognizes we are different. She still lives at home. Although she works as a grocery store clerk, this is not enough for her to feel independent. As a family, we have developed other ways.Often it might be easier to do something yourself, but I can truly see how important it is for Debbie to do tasks herself.She does her own laundry- taught by breaking the chore into simple routine steps.She is responsible for her room and making her lunch. My mom typically buys the food, but Debbie contributes by listing what she wants to eat.

What seemed to be missing was a social life.After years of going to church, she met a boy.A big life event. He lives in a residential group home, and she says they will marry some day. Not sure what will happen, but having someone special has been great.My mom bought her a pretty wedding dress. It was a message to say we see Debbie as an adult. Although she is not totally independent, we support her dates: Driving them to movies, and taking them to dinner, but sitting at separate tables. I tell her how special that is because even I do not have a boyfriend. My reward? Hearing Debbie say, You make my heart sing. Maybe that is why a sister and I both work in special ed classrooms.These kids remind us what is truly important.

 
 

Give Thanks

Give ThanksGrowing up my sister started a Thanksgiving tradition (one not involving food)! She would cut out paper in the shape of leaves or hands. Every guest would write down what she or he was most thankful for.

 

We would then put them in the middle of the table. Everyone would take turns reading the items of someone else and guess from whom it was. This would continue until all the leaves or hands were read aloud.

 

This is a great way to remind us why we gather to celebrate and momentarily shift the focus away from the food!

Healthy Trick-or-Treat Alternatives

Healthy trick-or-treat alternativesHalloween can be a challenging time to find healthy alternatives among the candy sales that seem to start earlier every year. Here are five healthier alternatives to hand out this year:

*Mini bag of pretzels*

*Pre-packed whole, raw almonds*

*Box of raisins*

*Mini bag of baby carrots*

*Air popped popcorn topped with a spice mix*

Trick or Treat!

Sugar… Not as sweet as it seems!

No sugar, or at least less sugarSugar is everywhere nowadays.It comes in many names and forms:
beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener,
corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice,
fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey,
invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar,
sucrose, sugar, syrup, turbinado sugar, white sugar, sucrose, molasses, and the list goes on…

 

Once in the body, all sugars act virtually the same. No matter what sugar
you choose to eat, it is best to limit it!

 

With Halloween on the horizon, here are some non-candy sweet treats to try:

 

*Plain yogurt swirled with ground cinnamon, fresh berries, and a dollop of
honey.
*Core an apple and stuff the hallow center with natural peanut butter, some
raisins, and a few dark chocolate chips.
*Sweet veggies (jicama, bell peppers, carrots) served with hummus or
guacamole.
*Homemade granola made from rolled oats, honey, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds
baked in the oven.
*Core a pear or apple and sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on the hollowed
inside. Place fruit in baking dish and bake in oven at 325 for 45-60
minutes.
*Baked sweet potato fries. Slice sweet potatoes and/or yams, sprinkle with
olive oil and any favorites spices (rosemary is a favorite). Baked at 425
until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Enjoy on their own or with organic
ketchup.