Thursday, May 15, 2014

10 Things I Will Do When My Children Turn 35 and Above.

10 Things I will do when my children turn 35 and above:

1. Bust through the bathroom door while you are showering or reliving yourself and ask the most random question ever. So random it actually makes you Google when you are done with your toiletries. 

2. Spill their coffee. Like throw that shit across the room. 

3. Stain their clothes. Forever.

4.Chew on stuff. Like your phone charger, toys, remote control, your cutest high heels, bracelets, Valentine's Card, flash cards, puzzle pieces etc. 

5. Leave the most jagged Lego's I can find in their bed, with the sheets drawn. 

6. Flood their house. 

7. Spill their beer. Like soak an entire couch cushion with beer. Their couch.

8. Shit through my pants on a plane. 

9. Grab their boob in public, for absolutely no reason. Hard. 

10. Love them unconditionally.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Most Priceless Gift

          February 14th, Valentine's Day, a day of hearts, cupids, candy, a day of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. This day reminds me of the joy of being pregnant. All the fantasies you have of giving birth to a ballerina, a rock star, a world class athlete or the person who cures cancer. When you hold your son or daughter for the first time, so excited and so proud, never in a million years did you think that you would ever send them to school on a shorter than average bus.

          Often when we are pregnant we are lucky to share that pregnancy with another couple. How exciting to plan future camping trips together, maybe our kids will end up being married to each other and we will be family. A friend of mine bought our soon to be born kids matching teddy bears with their names engraved on the bellies of the bears. I never see them anymore. We used to go to all their parties, and then kid's birthday parties.  But I saw the pictures from the recent party on Facebook, and we weren't invited. 

          When my oldest was a baby he belonged to a regularly scheduled playgroup. As he grew older and his ADHD became more obvious. And I had 2 more kids, one with Autism, it got harder to attend this playgroup. But I always responded to the emails, and I was so happy when I could get all of us there even if my youngest didn't last long. Suddenly the emails stopped coming. I checked my spam folder and saw nothing. I let it go. I saw this group at a park and they look so ashamed.

          Having kids lets you know who your real friends are, whether your kids are typically developing or have special needs. Now I only gravitate to friends who support me and the struggles I have with my kids.  The friends who share in the choices I make, and the joys of small successes.  I don't bother with people who act like my kids are contagious or are just “naughty”. 

          With the prevalence of Autism in our society these parents are going to find it harder and harder to shield their children from “different” children.  I am sad and disappointed to think that people I considered close friends are raising their children to be intolerant.  And being the parents of special needs kids we really don't have the time to coddle those who don't “get it”.  To hold your hand, while you decide whether my family is worth your time and effort. I know it's important to educate others but I don't have the time to do that if my son is getting ready to run out into the street.

          Real friends, and loving family take the time to educate themselves, to ask questions, to reserve judgment and just be there. These cherished people offer an attentive ear, an open mind and a big hug.  The most priceless gift you can receive for Valentine's Day, or any other day of the year, is to know that you are loved and supported. Chocolate doesn't hurt either.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stress Free Summer

Remember when you were a child and all you had to do for summer break was show up? Even on days where there was no fun activity planned it sure beat going to school, or doing homework. A trip to the beach was nothing but fun! Your mom was the one who had to make all the food, pack everything, find a parking space and then make sure you kids didn't drown, get sunburned or get a rash from the wet sand. Now that we are parents of special needs, or typically developing kids, we start planning summer break in the month of March. And it's time consuming, expensive, and a little stressful. I'm fortunate enough to be able to stay at home so I can't imagine the stress of having to work full-time and juggle summer childcare and activities. Makes me break into a sweat.

In this article I have compiled some hopefully useful tips on making the transition from school to summer a less painful endeavor.

Have a Plan: Before that last day ask your teachers for any tips that they may have. They may have some excellent ideas if they live locally and they do know your kid. Ask what academics or behaviors they would suggest you focus on during summer break so that your child doesn't regress. And since consistency is key in avoiding regression there should be at least one activity a day, and one activity a week that stays the same throughout the summer. Whether that means going to the bathroom at the same time every day to avoid accidents, or having a quiet time for the kids so you can catch up on laundry or work. For once a week it could be a trip to the pool, library, etc. Just anything that is the same to reduce anxiety and build a schedule around. The day camps, and day trips can be built around this concrete activity. Asking for their input will increase enthusiasm and compliance.

Show it off: And once you come up with that schedule write it down and post it somewhere visible. Or make a more visual picture schedule for your non-readers. And have them mark each day off with a big X. This helps them prepare for the next day.

Have a Plan B: You worked hard to plan your summer down to the last minute, posted it on a huge colorful calendar and then blam, something falls apart. You have no problem being flexible but our children can be quite rigid. When planning your summer remember to warn them that sometimes plans change, and come up with some alternate activities. But I wouldn't post those alternates on the calendar just in case those don't work out as well, you don't want to totally blow out your kid. We are lucky to have dry summers here in California but we do have a risk of heat and bad air. Save the air days , often happen when the temperature goes above 100 degrees, and local forest and brush fires make it unsafe for children to play outside. On those days you can do whatever activities you normally would do when it rains. Movies, bowling, library, or just stay home to watch cartoons and build blanket forts.

Find Balance: What if your kids are far apart in age, special needs vs. typically developing, one is active and one is content doing more mellow activities? You may not be able to afford a whole summer of camps, most of us cannot. So there are days you have to find an activity for everyone. Before summer starts make sure you have the numbers and/or emails of the parents of the friends your kid likes to play with. Having a couple of friends over for a play date is often easier than entertaining your own kids. They play together, entertaining each other and you just have to make sure they are safe. This will give you a chance to hang out with your other child, giving them extra attention and doing something they enjoy. Even if that is cuddling on the couch watching their favorite show. When the other parents reciprocate, and have your child over their house, that also gives you a chance to do something special for one of your kids that their sibling might not enjoy. And if you can get all your kids to a play date you can have a few hours by yourself!! And not everyday needs to cost a lot of money. Go to the park and bring a picnic lunch, check your local theater for free movie times, or just stay home and let them play with the garden hose. And remember to let yourself enjoy the summer too! Get a sitter during the day to give yourself a break, or a sitter at night to have a quiet dinner with your spouse.

Whatever you decide to do this summer have a wonderful time! And remember it's only 12 weeks, you can do it!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Holidays with Special Needs Kids

As our bodies adjust to the time change our minds start thinking about celebrating, and/or enduring, the spring holidays.  The excitement and chaos of any holiday brings challenges along with joy to the parents of special needs kids.  

I grew up with Easter but now celebrate Passover in my family. I converted to Judaism when I got married and honestly Easter is the only holiday I miss. I hope I can offer some useful tips on de-sensitizing some of the traditional festivities. 

I may be using some vocabulary that is unfamiliar so I will offer links to definitions instead of verbose explanations. 

Easter Bunny: 
Everyone has a vision of their children in their Sunday finest perched on the lap of the Easter Bunny. But even for typically developing children this can be a scary experience. Practicing is best. Sounds silly I know but showing your kids pictures of the Easter Bunny and walking through the experience with words and pictures is the best way to give them a heads up, and to let you know what issues could arise. Finding a low traffic time to visit the bunny at the mall, and of course offering a treat as soon as they slide off his lap will sweeten the deal, and give the Grandparents a picture worth framing. 

Easter Egg Dyeing: 
Even an hard-boiled egg can be fragile in the hands of a child with a deficit in fine motor skills. When I was a child we just had the dyes and that thin metal tool used to hold the egg as we dipped into the colored water. And my mother added apple cider vinegar to the dyes to help them set better. That tool was hard to manage and I can't imagine using vinegar anywhere near my son with Sensory Processing Disorder.  He has the sense of smell of a wolf and would recoil at that strong scent. There are so many great alternatives to dyes.  Stickers, markers, a crayon used on a still warm egg. Or you can just use plastic eggs filling them with stickers and candy to avoid a choking incident. 

Easter Egg Hunt:
This stresses me out just thinking about it! The noise, the scrambling about frantically, the competitiveness, it's a recipe for a world class meltdown. You are brave if you attempt a community egg hunt, but I suggest a fun hunt at home. How do you avoid the fights and disappointment over who found more eggs? Set aside an equal amount for each kid and write their initial on it with a Sharpie. Or one kid gets all the eggs with the red star stickers and their sibling gets the gold star sticker eggs. Hide them according to their skill level.  My sons can't find an elephant in a phone booth but my daughter is more determined. For wheelchair bound children hiding eggs among table tops in plastic grass gives them an advantage. My grandfather would hide eggs as cleverly as he could and in mid July would find the ones we missed, he would just follow his nose. Trade the kids candy for their hard-boiled eggs and make deviled eggs to avoid misplaced stink bombs. 

Easter Church Services: 
While doing research for this article I found an excellent blog post about worshipping with your special needs child. Her suggestions and gentle words are fantastic and I really can't offer more without plagiarizing the author. 

Passover Seder:
If you are unfamiliar with what a Seder is you can read the above link or I can give you a very brief definition. A Seder is a meal where you sit and read from a book called a Haggadah. Yes sitting with an ASD or ADHD child for more than an hour while you read from a book does sound awful doesn't it?  But there are plenty of opportunities during the ritual to engage your child. When you first arrive, or if you are brave enough to be hosting, set aside a time that your child, all children present, can get their wiggles out. Weather permitting take them outside and run them, or have a room set aside for them to dance and move. 

The Seder Table:
It is customary to set the table as beautiful as you can for Passover,  but fine china and  vases of flowers just don't mix with active children. This is when the holiday tradition of a kids table is of utmost importance. Target now carries lots of  plastic Passover tableware. 

Passover Foods:
Bitter herbs, horseradish roots, hard-boiled eggs, Gefilte fish are common on the Seder table. But these foods aren't popular with picky eaters. Putting some kid friendly snacks on the table for them to munch will keep them at the table longer. And having them sniff those strong foods ahead of time will help desensitize them to the ick factor. 

The Haggadah:
Now that we are seated the real challenge begins, keeping them in their seat, or at least in the room so you can participate. Kid friendly Haggadahs do exist this is the one we use. Less words and more pictures, even the adults appreciate it. Twice during the ritual guests are asked to wash their hands, but instead of everyone getting up and rushing to the sinks, get your most active child to be the hand-washing representative. He can symbolically wash his hands for everyone. The story of the exodus has many exciting scenes that can be re-enacted by your energetic child. The parting of the sea, jumping like a frog, building a pyramid out of blocks. And if they are readers they of course can take turns reading with adult help. 

Like Easter, Passover has a hide and seek tradition. This time it is with a matzoh instead of an egg. Hiding half of the broken matzoh according to your child's skill level is best to avoid a meltdown. Maybe a game of hot and cold to help them locate it can speed up the process. 

Singing and Communal Prayer:
My son calls it creepy and loud. And my other son gets the giggles. Bringing ear plugs for the singing will dull down the volume, and lucky them maybe completely drown out their tone deaf Uncle. A week ahead of time, practicing the Passover songs will get more participation, instead of hiding under the table with their hands over their ears. 

Whatever holiday you celebrate this season I hope these tips will help and I hope you have a wonderful time.