Don’t Forget to Listen

I had a conversation with a parent the other day regarding some struggles they were having with their child. The first advice I give to parents, caregivers and educators is to ask their child/student. Talk to them. Ask them what they are struggling with and what they feel they are doing well at. What are their likes and dislikes? What makes them happy and what upsets or angers them? Especially as a teen, it is good to let them know that you see they are struggling and you support them no matter what. The question, “How can I help you?” or “What do you need from me? I’m here,” can go a very long way sometimes. Instead of us telling them what they should be doing (don’t get me wrong, I feel like I’m telling Gracie all the time how to do things), we can ask them what they feel they need right now. In this very moment. Just letting them know that you are there for them, and allowing them to make some of their own decisions (as long as they are safe) empowers them to make the right choice and you just might be surprised! All of those things you’ve been harping on your kids for, might just sink in. We tend to forget sometimes that our kids, no matter what age, can be very insightful to what they need. Obviously this is more difficult for some. Some of your kids may be non-verbal, or give you one word answers or a grunt. They may say things are fine when they aren’t. But just letting them know you are there for them, can open up the doors to communication. If you child is non-verbal but can point to yes and no or nod their head, get creative and come up with some things you think might be triggering them. Look at what they are playing with or what they are watching. Sometimes if your child is watching the same episode over and over, it might be on topic with what they are going through. Sometimes the answer is right there in front of us but we are too busy to really see it. And don’t feel bad about that! Just remember, the answer could be the knowledge your child/student already has. They are pretty amazing.

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Developmental Age Is My Saving Grace

Patience. We either wake up with it or we don’t. Some say we choose it or we don’t. I like to think I’m patient, but I know I run out of it sometimes. I’m only human. As parents we have a lot going on in our lives. Regardless of whether we work full time, are a single parent or if we are a stay-at-home mom or dad. We all have our own busy lives.

The last post I wrote was on our child’s developmental age vs. their birth age. That post had more to do with how to teach and treat our children. One thing I didn’t add but wanted to share was how seeing your child’s developmental age can help us as parents, caregivers and teachers to have more patience.

Gracie will tell me she loves me a hundred times in a day. Seriously, I use a counter to track how often sometimes! It feels like a million times! She wants to hug me just as often. She wants me home. She follows me around. She is learning but still interrupts conversations to say what she wants to say. She gets excited over the smallest things. Christmas and Santa and the Easter Bunny and all other magical beings are the most exciting times in her world. She loves candy and anything sweet and always wants the first and biggest piece of cake. She wants to cuddle (and would get on my lap if I let her). She watches Treehouse TV and cartoons galore. She is completely innocent when it comes to sex, drugs and alcohol. She is emotional at times. Up until recently, she had meltdowns like a toddler. Imagine that in an adult body.

On the flip side, she listens to rap music. Has her sister do her makeup some days. Is able to have very mature conversations at times. She is very tall and grown up physically. She says swear words (limited to her bedroom only). She deals with all the same hormonal changes girls her age go through. She likes some name brand clothing and wants to fit in with others (although she seems to have gotten past that and is happy in her own skin). But, she posts selfies, some that include that duck face pose and likes the comments she receives! She has a boyfriend and best friend. She wants to be like every other teenager in the world.

Now here is what I mean by “her developmental age is my saving grace”. When I look at Gracie as her young 4-8 yr. old self, when I see the child inside her, I have much more patience when dealing with certain things. When I see her developmental age instead of her birth number or size of her body, her symptoms make complete sense to me. When I don’t realize that, it makes it much more difficult for me to understand and be patient with what she is doing. So give it a try. The next time you are starting to lose patience with your child or student, try seeing them at their developmental age and see if it makes a difference to you. How would you react to a 3 yr. old vs a 13 yr. old?

As I just explained to Gracie, she is a teenager but still has that “small kid inside her”. One that she is so blessed to have! How many of us have grown up wishing as a child to be an adult? We couldn’t wait to grow up and our parents would tell us not to rush it. She has the luxury of growing up, but still has the innocence, excitement and magic of a child we all wish we still had. That is something she is so fortunate to have! And we as her family and friends are so fortunate that we get to see life through her eyes. Her excitement, energy and belief of magic is contagious. Holidays will always be exciting because she will always hear that bell ring, because she will always believe.

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Don’t Think Your Child Will Be Able to Camp? – Part 2

Part 2 is on practicing the skills needed to camp, especially for those families who are pretty certain this will never happen. That may be true. But I urge you to read on if there is even a tiny thought that your child might enjoy camping if they could just handle some of the challenges they may face. Obviously I don’t want you to traumatize your child. Go at their pace and read their body language and listen to their words or gestures. Camping isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok. You just don’t want them to miss out on it if they too want to join the family but just don’t know how.

First off, you know your child best and if you are 100% sure that they will NOT handle the sensory experiences or sleeping in a tent or trailer (or anywhere else other than their own bed), don’t rush it. But why not give it a shot? It will just take some time and practice. Think about each activity you might do when camping and practice each one, little baby steps at a time if you must. You can start with having a campfire in the backyard roasting s’mores one night. Then on another day take a few minutes to go to the beach. Some of you might be thinking “Are you kidding me?! My kid won’t let any sand touch him!” or “My child hates the smell of a campfire!” There are many many things that deter some of our children from the joys of camping but it might not be impossible to get to the point where your child can join in on the fun.

I’ll jot down below some possible concerns with some strategies but if your child struggles with something I haven’t mentioned, send me an email at wellbalancedlife@rogers.com and I’ll see if we can help you out. I don’t want to overwhelm you, so just take a look at the bold sentences and choose to read what applies to you.

My child won’t sleep in a tent – if your child is too afraid to even go inside a tent, let alone sleep in one, put the tent up outside and leave it open with some pillows, sleeping bags and some of your child’s favourite stuffies, activities and food in it. I’m sure they will take a peek inside no matter how frightened they are and may develop the courage to go inside. If your child won’t go outside because the tent is there, try putting up a small tent inside your house. Or, build an indoor tent with sheets, play and sleep in it together. Keep the tent up as this may take several days/weeks until your child feels comfortable with it. If the child’s first step is playing inside the tent, when you feel your child is ready, try pretending to sleep in it during the day. Instead of playing house, play camping. Then extend that to sleeping in it at night. If your child doesn’t make it through the whole night, that’s ok. Keep trying and hopefully your child will stay longer and longer until they finally do it for an entire night – I would reward my child the next morning with going out for breakfast to their favourite restaurant, take-out or favourite dish made by mom or dad!

My child HATES the smell of campfire – I’m not a big fan of this either so I make sure I wear my least favourite clothes to a campfire. Clothes I won’t mind getting smelly or burnt by the small ashes that sometimes land on me. Help your child pick out some “campfire clothing”. Again, I would start small. Have a very small campfire outside. (If that’s still too much, I would make a “campfire” out of yellow and orange tissue paper on logs and pretend to roast marshmallows). You don’t need to sit around it just yet, but have it burning so your child can get used to the smell. If your child won’t even come outside because of the campfire, I would place a sweater near the campfire and bring it in the house and drape it over a chair in an area that your child is frequently in. It won’t be as strong as the campfire but it might be faint enough where he/she can handle it and slowly get used to it. If you need to hold the sweater over the campfire for 5 seconds the first round, then 30 seconds, then 1 minute etc. to make the scent slightly stronger each time to gradually increase their tolerance to it, then that is what we do. Eventually, the goal is to get your child outside around a campfire.

Would your child be willing to wear a mask to the campfire to block out some of the smell? With Covid, there are many places and people making masks. You can find one with their favourite character or even a pattern with campfires on it that is meant to wear only at the campfire. Add some essential oil under their nose to help drown out the campfire scent. Lastly, grab a plastic bag that is labelled (campfire only). Your child can then change out of their campfire clothes which will go directly into the campfire bag and sealed tight until it is washed. They can have a shower or bath if needed to get the smell out of their hair. There are many ways to gradually increase your child’s tolerance level to just about anything, we just need to be creative.

My child only eats certain foods – This is where you will have to do a lot of planning ahead. You may need to spend a weekend baking your child’s favourite breakfast muffins, waffles or pancakes that you can cook ahead and just drop in the toaster when camping. Cook up that favourite noodle dish or stockpile their favourite cereal. I highly recommend investing in a good plug-in cooler. The ones that can also be plugged into your car. This will allow you to bring milk, eggs and meat without worrying about keeping ice in it or the food getting soggy as the ice melts. That is a nightmare! Precook, pre bake, preplan! It can be done.

You can also make the campfire more exciting with s’mores and wieners and these fun and easy foil packet meals from Little Family Adventure Blog. There are tasty treats like eclairs, popcorn and cone s’more packets and meals for the child who prefers to eat like a king or queen. Something for the picky eater and something for your foodie!

My child can’t handle loud noises & fireworks – we never leave home without our noise reducing “protection” ear muffs. They are the ones people wear in construction or to concerts where the noise is so loud it can do damage to the ears. You never know when loud noises will appear! You can pretty much guarantee there will be fireworks on long holiday weekends, but honestly, I’ve been hearing fireworks almost nightly this summer and July has just begun! Bring the headphones with you everywhere so you will be quick to place them on their sensitive ears! If you’ve never tried them before, buy them ahead of time so your child can try them out at home and get used to wearing them. If they don’t like the feel of them, you can try different brands out, or desensitize your child to it by trying them on for 5 seconds, then 6 seconds, then 10 and so on. They were a lifesaver for us when we went to see the fireworks or concerts or amusement parks. You can also wear the small ear plugs that squish into your ears if that helps. Another option is to go to a campsite during the week when there are less crowds. Many provincial parks and private parks have certain areas of the park that have reduced hours where noise is permitted. Just do your research. Even calling ahead to the campground and explaining your story a bit so they can direct you to the most quiet and most secluded area for you and your family. Especially if you don’t want to be near the water as that might be too hard to keep your child away and too dangerous.

Not having a routine will be too hard for my child – No matter where we go, I would make a visual schedule for Gracie. Our weekend or weekly camping trips would be fully scheduled. We would keep her routine as much the same as possible, such as meal times and quiet time. But I would research the area we were going to and plan each day out accordingly. Keep in mind the weather when you are scheduling something. If the day needs to be sunny to experience an activity, you may have to include IF IT IS SUNNY on the schedule and what you will do instead IF IT RAINS. Always have a back up plan. Check out this link from The Inspired Treehouse on how to make a visual schedule.

My child wakes in the night. How do I keep her safe? – Tie some bells to the zipper of the tent so you know you will hear them if your child tries to leave. You can even get zip ties or twist ties and zip tie yourselves in there but have scissors easily accessible only to you (most tents have little hanging pockets) so you can quickly cut it off if you need to. ** This is not meant to “lock” your kids in a tent while you are sleeping in another one! I just mean that if you are so worried that you might not wake up if your child tries to leave, even if they have to climb over you to get there, that you could potentially use a zip tie or twist tie on the zipper and a tie back loop if needed to make it more difficult for your child to open it and leave. **

If you have more than one tent, make sure an adult is with the child who wakes in one tent and another adult (even a friend or family member if you are a single parent) sleeps in the other tent with the other children. If your child normally wakes in the night but you know he/she is safe at home and you are still able to sleep at home while they are awake, this obviously won’t be the case when camping. So keep your camping trip short. Even if the first time is just one night. Although two might be better because it might take your child a full day and night to understand what this camping thing is all about. Call the campground ahead to make sure you are not located near the water or pool. Better yet, borrow or rent a trailer so you can lock the door! You might want to test the waters before buying your own. **If you don’t think this will be safe, don’t go camping! Safety comes first!**

My child doesn’t like public washrooms – This is something that is pretty common. Think about all of the sensory experiences in a public washroom. Loud flushing. Large line ups and crowds. Extremely loud hand dryers. Crying babies. Awful smells. Using a public washroom will be a skill in itself that many of our kiddos will have to learn. Again, start with baby steps. Go to a public washroom where there is just a one room washroom to start. Most areas have a “handicap washroom” or family washroom where there is a one room option. Start there. Marinas have single washrooms with showers etc. in them. I’m sure if you asked to borrow one on a regular basis to teach your child the skill of using a public washroom, including the shower since that is what you will find at campgrounds, most would be open to the idea.

Here is an explanation about what I mean when I say break EACH activity down into small steps:

Take the washroom for example. There are several challenges just to using a public washroom. One out of many sensory experiences in the washroom is loud flushing noises. Start there. If your child won’t even flush the toilet at home because the noise is so loud, try using ear plugs or noise reduction earmuffs. If that still doesn’t work, have your child stand outside the door while you flush the toilet for them. Explain that you are going to be helping them get used to noise. They can cover their ears while standing outside the door or even down the hall. Then work your way closer to the washroom. And even closer until you are standing right in front of the toilet. A further step would be to record the toilet flushing so your child can listen to it at a quiet volume and you keep increasing the volume as they can handle it, until they can flush the toilet themselves. This is a great idea for the loud hand dryers as you have no control over who will start it and when. Using a recording at home in their safe space is a good place to start. Practice this daily. Some children are scared of the water twirling and going down the bowl. A simple fix for that is to close the lid before flushing.

Now look at each thing your child despises about the public washroom and break each one down like I did with the toilet flushing. This post is getting too long to do each one, but I think you get the idea. Work on each skill one at a time until they’ve mastered all of them. Then you can attempt a public washroom with many stalls once you think they are ready.

Obviously, there is a lot of prep work to be done. Lots of skills to teach. It might be a lot of work and this isn’t going to be a relaxing holiday for you as the parents/caregivers. It will be exhausting and you will probably need a mini vacay after this family vacation. But if you go into it with no expectations and just the hope that you will have even the smallest success, it will be priceless. Just remember that this camping trip is for your child/children to learn and grow and experience. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Patience. Time. Baby steps. Practice. That’s all you need. And remember, all of the skills mentioned above won’t just be for camping. They can transfer these skills to other areas in their life. Yes, you might have to practice these skills in other areas as some of our kids have a hard time transferring a skill they’ve learned to somewhere else, but you’ve got the hardest part down!

Good luck! I wish you and your family a safe and memorable summer! xo

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Don’t Think Your Child Will Be Able To Camp?

Neither did we! But boy were we wrong. That’s why I never like to assume G can’t do something. We have had some great family camping trips and some did have a few challenges along the way. But it sure was worth it!

I will always have great childhood memories of camping with my family in Honeymoon Bay. Days spent swimming, fishing, creating fantasy worlds in the forest that surrounded us, finding “furniture” and homes within the shapes and grooves of the granite rocks and cooking over the campfire. The whole family including grandparents, cousins and pets would be there. These were memories I hoped to make for my family. That reality became a little more challenging when the kids were young and Gracie struggled with meltdowns and sensory issues more than she does today. But most importantly, how could we be sure she would be safe when she was known to take risks when she didn’t understand the danger?

Well we did manage to go camping several times and make memories I hope they will cherish like I did. It wasn’t always easy though and there was a lot of preparation to make the trips a successful one!

I still remember the time Gracie was about 10 years old and having a doozy of a meltdown. We didn’t want the entire campground to hear her or have her siblings embarrassed because all eyes would be on us. So I managed to get her in the car and drove around the campground and parking lots. I can’t even remember what it was about. But boy did G scream! She screamed and kicked the windows, kicked my seat, tried to hit me and tried tearing off her seatbelt (she was too distraught to think clearly enough to remember to just click the button) but that is why we stuck with the camp roads and parking lots. I don’t know how long this went on for but it seemed like forever. She finally stopped and we went back to our campsite like nothing had just happened. Emma and Josh were still having fun with their dad and grandma and the other campers were still going about their business. I asked Gracie if she was all done and ready to try again before we got out of the car. She said yes, got out and joined her brother and sister. Now I’m sure this meltdown was about something she wanted, when she wanted it as this was usually the antecedent. So if she asked again for whatever it was she had to scream about, the answer still would have been no. We need to be consistent with her or the meltdowns would be 100 times worse. She would’ve realized that I wasn’t changing my answer and moved on or if she started with another meltdown, we’d get straight back in the car and start all over again. She obviously didn’t want to do that again so she chose to move on. A few hours later, when she is fully calm, is when we talk to her about what happened, how she reacted and what she can do next time she feels that way.

During that same camping trip we visited Ottawa and Quebec over Canada Day weekend. We saw fireworks, made s’mores, visited museums and saw concerts. There were crowds and noises and chaos. But we managed. And even though the meltdowns and tough times are still remembered, it’s the good times that stick with me the most.

I share this with you because I know many of you have these same sort of challenges plus some, that might make you believe there is just no way you could ever go camping! But no matter where your child is in life right now, you can still provide the experiences of camping one way or another. Whether that’s at a campground or in your own backyard.

I realized sharing this story and adding in some specific strategies can make for a very long post so I decided to make this a 2 part blog post. Click here for Part 2 if you would like to keep reading on how you too can have a successful camping trip.

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Summer of 2020! What Shall We Do?

No summer camps, no respite, no daycare, no summer school, no community living teen groups. Is this what the summer of 2020 is going to look like? I don’t know about you, but this summer is going to look much different for us than it usually does. We’ve already had 3 months of constant family time! Don’t get me wrong! It’s actually been pretty great! And much better than expected! I seem to have had more patience even with homeschooling. Which brings me back to those moments when Gracie was younger and having major meltdowns. It seemed that the bigger the meltdown, the more calm I became. Anyone else ever feel that way? It’s like when there is something traumatic or frightening going on and you just go into “fix it mode” and then crash when it’s all said and done. That seems to be what has happened in our family. Everyone stepped up, and thought about each others feelings and needs. But let’s be honest, it’s starting to wear thin on everyone.

Summer is a time for fun and friendship and outings. Campfires and boating, swimming and camp! The biggest challenge for Gracie is not getting to attend Camp Kennebec this year. Every summer she meets up with friends for a week or two and has the time of her life! Other than Christmas, Camp Kennebec is the highlight of her year. A place where there is no judgement, she can be herself, try new things and make memories that will last a lifetime. But this year is different. And those of you who have children who struggle with the word “different/change/transition” know what I am talking about. It’s hard enough to have the small transitions and changes that happen on a daily basis, but something as big as this with a lack of understanding about Covid19 makes things a little more complicated.

For the most part, the tough times of having to explain to our kids about Covid has come and gone and I’m hoping most of you have gotten into some sort of routine. But I know it hasn’t been easy.

This summer will be different. But that can also bring on some creativity. Whether I want to be creative or not, I need to figure out what this summer will look like so my daughter will still keep up her social skills and have some good memories. Out of the 8 weeks of summer, Gracie is usually in an overnight camp and day camp for a total of 4 of those weeks. So for HALF of the summer, Gracie is entertained by someone other than myself. Now I get to entertain her for 8 whole weeks!!

Here are some things that we will be doing to help make this summer go over a little better:

We have an AMAZING friend who has 3 children on the spectrum. You want to talk about Wonder Woman, this is her in the flesh! She parents her 3 children (all who have different likes and needs) in a way that I aspire to be like! Every time we go to her house, she has activities planned and THE best snacks for the kids. Now I’m not saying you need to do all of that. I’m just letting you know how fantastic she is because she definitely deserves a shout out! So does her hubby Marc who helps her out!

This fierce mama has invited a small group of kids to her house weekly so they can see each other, go for a swim and keep up their social skills. We have worked so hard to teach our kids the social skills they need (and we keep teaching them) so this isolation stuff has been hard! I am so grateful for this family and their kindness. Do you have a friend who might like to host if you aren’t able to? Now is the time to not be shy. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And these are trying times where we really need our village to help us out!

Swimming: the beaches are now open in our area. And I hope they won’t close any time soon! As long as everyone is respectful and keeps their distance, we should be good. We will head to some smaller beaches and secret spots we know about. We were even thinking of getting a small above ground pool for the summer, but that’s still a discussion to have with the hubby! Lol Although now that the weather is so hot, driving down the road to the beach is welcoming!

Walks: There are many trails in our area. Can you find a quiet trail to take your kids out for a walk on? Check out these trails in our own back yard, Awenda Provincial Park There are also several around town. And don’t forget about the Wye Marsh! Their trails are open with a limited capacity.

Zoo: The Elmvale Zoo is now open so that might be a nice place to take the kids for the day. Easy to keep your distance and some interesting animals to see. The Toronto Zoo is now open but you have to book your tickets online only and there are time slots. For those of you who have children that would never walk the distance of the Toronto Zoo they now have a Scenic Safari where you can stay in the comfort of your vehicle. It is a 90 mins. tour. I’m hoping they keep this as an option because I think it would allow MANY families to attend who normally wouldn’t be able to.

Camping: We hope to get out camping. At the very least, my hubby and I are going to go one weekend as the kids aren’t as interested in that anymore. But remember that awesome mama I mentioned above. She has a daughter who would struggle with camping, so they improvise! They have camping in their backyard with tents and a campfire. They enjoy all the activities of camping you can imagine and when night falls and it’s time to hit the tent, this mom and her daughter head inside so her daughter can sleep comfortably in her bed and their dad stays outside in the tent with the other two. So awesome!! And still SO.MUCH.FUN! I will do another post just on camping and will link it here when I do.

I was going to keep writing and adding some summer activities. But I’m going to be honest with myself and with you. We will be at home A LOT of the time. I’m not big on going out. I work full time. I’m tired a lot of the time. I have great ideas of all these exciting things we can do, but if I’m honest with myself, we don’t get to half of them. We like our alone time. Our down time. And honestly, I’m not going to feel bad about that anymore. We’ll do what we want, when we want, and when we can but we also need to keep up with our responsibilities and our own needs too. I’ve learned to not feel bad about it anymore. I’m a good mom and I do my best. Even if my best means taking some down time for myself so I can keep parenting my kids the best way I know how. So please, to those of you who can’t get out or do a single thing I mentioned, don’t be hard on yourself! You are doing what you can at this very moment! Your kids will remember the love they feel from you much more than the memories of camping or going to the zoo.

For those of you who are interested in more ideas for things to do with your kids this summer, click on the link below and check out the photo where you will find some great ideas.

Edventures with Kids I like the bucket idea…you’ll see what I mean when you click on the link.

I found this picture on Pinterest. I would like to give credit to the person who spent the time to create it but it was on a few different blog links. Obviously we won’t be able to do some of them because of Covid and closures but there are several that can be done. I hope you enjoy some of them if you can!

So to all of you families out there, enjoy your summer, whatever it may look like!

Wishing you a safe, healthy and happy summer with as few meltdowns as possible!

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Study Tips!

Exam time is upon us! If you have seen Gracie’s video on Facebook about being stressed and you aren’t alone feeling this way, you know it’s a pretty stressful time in our household. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you follow us on Facebook at Well Balanced Life.

Here are a few study tips from Gracie and I:

Make or buy cue cards. Write the word on one side, definition on the other. If your child is a visual learner, write each card in a different colour. They may not only remember the definition but the colour it was written in! (The colour helps them remember).

Take your child’s favourite song and change the lyrics to teach them the topic! You don’t have to be a great singer!

Use bitmojis, favourite characters or whatever they are obsessed or fascinated with and be creative! How can you incorporate the one thing they think about the most into a learning experience?

Practice writing a test. Don’t forget to include, and teach if needed, the different types of questions – multiple choice, matching, short answer and essay questions.

Here are some things to think about and discuss with the teacher:

Does your child need extra time, less questions or a quiet space to write?

Can you chunk the test/exam into shorter “mini tests” and write it over more than one day?

If your child/student gets overwhelmed just by seeing so many questions on one page, can you cut the paper into strips and allow them to do a few at a time, with short breaks in between if needed?

Does your child do better writing their answer, having someone scribe for them or verbally giving the answers?

Can they write with their favourite writing tool whether that is a pen, pencil, markers, technology, crayons, etc?

Can your child have an open book or “cheat sheet” for more difficult tests?

What happens if they fail or do poorly on their test/exam? Can they have a rewrite opportunity?

If your child is creative, can they do an art piece to show what they know?

If your child/student is able to get their knowledge known to you, does it really matter how they present it?

If you are unsure what works best for you child/student, ASK THEM! If they can communicate… ask them! Some kids are great at knowing exactly what they need and how they learn best.

And if the school can’t accommodate them, ask them to create an IEP (Individual Education Plan). If they already have one, go over it and gently remind them what needs to be accommodated or modified.

Wishing you all the best on your studying and exam writing! As Gracie says “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” And as I say “YOU GOT THIS!”

Mel & Grace

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How Do You Connect?

Ever wonder how to connect with your child or student? Do they seem to be in their “own world”? Will they not make eye contact with you, hug you, play with you?

One thing that I have used with my own daughter but also several students of mine is the Floortime Method. And I have to say, it has worked each time! Keep in mind, every person is different and I’m not saying that this will 100% be your strategy to finally connect. But, it’s worth a shot isn’t it?

The Floortime Method/DIRFloortime was created by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. On his website you will find a free assessment and parent course. I purchased one of his books many years ago and if you’re interested, you can purchase it on Amazon.

I don’t want to make this post too long and there is so much to explain, but if you go to the websites, there will be a wealth of information there for you to read. BUT, I know how busy you guys can be!! So to make things super easy and simple, in a nutshell, you literally just get down to the child’s level and start engaging in the activity that they are doing. Is she spinning? You spin with her. Is she banging cars together laughing? You bang cars and laugh along with her. Is he flapping his hands looking at an object with his head at a certain angle? You do the same! Every time I’ve done this, the child has connected with me in some way. They have always smiled and seemed thrilled that I was joining “their world” and doing something they love to do! After connecting in this way, you up the stakes a bit by not just joining their world, but literally going in their world. If Gracie was throwing bean bags down the stairs, laughing, I would run down before her to grab the bean bag, run back up the stairs as quickly as possible and throw it down again, laughing my head off! If a student was rolling a car down a track fast so it could crash, I would start by stepping in front and saying “my turn” and I would roll the car down the track fast and react in the same way he did when it crashed. At first, the kids were like “Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” but very quickly when they realized they had a turn next, they would join me in play. They seemed excited to play with me.

This method of play therapy is very specific with a certain amount of time during the day, a certain step by step process in a sense. But for me, as a parent at home who just wanted to connect with my child as quickly as possible? I started with what I’ve mentioned above. I took their idea and did what I could.

That’s what we do with EVERY professional we saw. Take their advice and use what we thought would work best for our family. I’ll do a video on this soon and will link it here.

I hope this helps you and your family!

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at wellbalancedlife@rogers.com

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Honesty… it’s not just my story. It’s theirs too.

It’s been a very long time since I published anything on here! Almost a year! I’ve been struggling a bit with what to write for so long because I don’t want to write anything but the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly! I feel that writing about our life story is the best way to help others understand that we are all in this together. If I can’t be honest, then what is the point? Social media is affecting so many people in wonderful ways but can also be so unrealistic! When I was dealing with health issues and feeling like crap, I could not even look at Reese Witherspoon’s IG posts! Her perfect outfits and perfect hair in her clean house with her happy kids and well behaved dogs! You know what I’m talking about right?? My house seemed to be in complete disarray and I didn’t have the strength to even do my hair for work let alone cook a delicious healthy meal for the family AFTER work! Are you kidding me?!? Seeing her posts plus the many others (even from real life people I know) was too depressing! The guilt I would feel for not being like that! It’s crazy, I know! Don’t get me wrong, I love Reese and I’m sure she’s had her fill of struggles too. But the perfect persona shown on social media was just too much for me to handle at the time! I also see many moms on social media who post videos of their toddlers and lives, and I LOVE their honesty! That’s what keeps me coming back to read their blogs or watch their videos. The problem for me is that my kids are teenagers and have a more “shy” personality. Mine get embarrassed if I show people their baby pictures let alone post it for the world to see! I’ve wanted to post about many things over the past year. Where Gracie was and where she is at today. The struggles that all 3 of my teenagers have faced over their high school years. The problem is, it’s not just my story to tell. It belongs to them too. I’ve talked to Gracie about how telling her story can help others, especially since she’s come so far. She shouldn’t be embarrassed by the things she’s done in her past, the choices she’s made or the struggles she’s faced because that has made her who she is today. And to us, she’s pretty incredible! She has agreed to share some things now and I will post them (with her permission of course) as often as I can. But for now, what are some things you would like to know? What are your biggest challenges and how can we help? Shoot me an email or comment below and we will do our best! I just wanted to let you know that we’re back. Hopefully with some inspiring info. that can help you and your family live a well balanced life!! Or at least somewhat balanced!

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Friendships

Well this is a tough one! In all honesty, I think that certain skills can be taught on how to be a good friend, how to have conversations with people, play skills, how to connect with non-verbal children who seem to prefer to play independently etc. etc. But what it really comes down to, in order for all of those teachings to work, is for your child to find someone who accepts them for who they are.

GG has always connected more with adults than children her own age. The adults seem to enjoy her enthusiasm and even more, her honesty. Not all teenagers can handle that kind of honesty.  I would say her biggest struggle right now is not understanding the conversations that her peers have. Plus developmentally, they are at a different stage than she is. She is wanting to go to parties or hang out with friends on a Friday night yet still loves treehouse tv. She listens to the typical rap music her peers listen to and then mixed in with those playlists she has the wheels on the bus, etc.  She can’t be unsupervised so this makes things very difficult! She can be easily manipulated to do something because she wants to fit in so bad. She’s been in tears over this.

I know some of you have children who continue to struggle with peers and developing friendships. My advice to you is to keep working through them as they come along, but also throw in some teaching moments whenever possible.

*Disclaimer! LOL  I haven’t researched this in a long time! We learn as we go. So most of my suggested book list is probably outdated! However, they still worked for us so that is why I’m sharing them. If and when I come across some new material, I’ll let you know! 

Here are a list of books and programs we have used and love:

The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome written by Jennifer O’Toole. This book is written for your child to read themselves. They have to be able to comprehend it and it is a bit on the challenging side. It was too complicated for G to read so I read it myself and explained some of it to her in a way she would understand. It’s a great way to really understand where our kids are coming from and how they see the world. It was written by a woman with Aspergers. Who better to learn from than from someone who has lived with this struggle!

More Than Words: Helping Parents Promote Communication and Social Skills by Fern Sussman. This book was given to us at a workshop for parents. It was suggested for parents whose children were non-verbal. It was a good program, especially to meet and connect with other parents. Ask your speech pathologist for a course near you. (If they still run them)!

I am a huge fan of the Pivotal Response Treatment manuals from the Koegel Autism Consultants. They have books and manuals on their website that I highly recommend.

Pivotal Response Treatment® is a highly acclaimed research-based intervention for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). PRT® is a naturalistic intervention model derived from Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) *

Space Travellers: An Interactive Program for Developing Social Understanding, Social Competence and Social Skills for Students with Asperger Syndrome, Autism and  Other Cognitive Challenges: Space Guide Manual. This is a program that can be done in school with their classmates in a fun space theme.

The Circles Program teaches social boundaries. Your school or school board should have a copy of this program. Ask your Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) if they have one available and if they can incorporate it into their school program.

The American Girls Care and Keeping of You Books are great for teaching hygiene and body changes, etc. Let’s face it, hygiene is a big factor in whether or not our kids make and keep friendships! The Feelings Book is also another great one to check out!

The Greenspan Floortime Approach website has a free online course and resources for parents. It’s been years since we incorporated this method in our home or with some of the children I’ve worked with and what I remember is putting myself in “their world”. If a child was spinning in a circle, I would join them. If they were flapping their hands and making noises, I would join them. If they were lining cars up, you guessed it, I joined them. This allowed the child to see that I was interested in what they were doing. I was amazed at the eye contact I received and the smiles because I was joining their play instead of trying to direct their play. We connected which eventually led to trust. I could then add to their play. It was incredible! And very rewarding.

Throughout the years, we have met some pretty incredible people and families. Especially in our autism community. If you ever get the chance to go to any social groups through Autism Ontario or other programs, take the leap and go! Even if you have hesitations. I promise you it will be worth it! The parents get it! They will support you and offer assistance. You won’t get the stares (even if it is just out of curiosity and not judgement), and you and your children will connect with other parents and siblings and friends that can possibly last a lifetime!

We have gone on some overnight trips through Autism Ontario and they have been some of my favourite moments that provided some of my favourite memories. If you are in the Georgian Bay area, check out the Kinark Outdoor Centre. Look under Autism and see their family respite weekends (definitely one of my favourites) and family camp programs. We attended the Family Respite Weekend and it was incredible! Hubby and I got about 2-3 hours a day to ourselves to do what we wanted while G was with a one on one worker and her siblings were off with a group doing activities with other siblings. It was amazing!!

Again, this is just a small list of books/sites and I could go on and on but each child is different and only you will know what works best for them. This will hopefully get you started! If you need more specific strategies, send me an email. We’ll help each other out!

 

*Koegel Autism: Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) Training and Services.

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Dating?!? Oh boy…

GG’s biggest struggle with her peers is not making friends, it’s keeping them. She is a very popular girl at school! Everyone knows her and is extremely kind to her. Yet she never gets invited to hang out with them outside of school. Like I said before, this would be complicated to arrange making sure she had the supervision she needs, but we’ve never really had to worry about it because she doesn’t get invited.

She is starting to see that as she gets older, the gaps are getting larger. She is realizing that the kids in her special ed department are pretty cool and she feels so much more comfortable with them. They understand. They accept her for who she is. Being “cool” isn’t what’s important now (sometimes). It’s having friends that genuinely like her.

The only problem now is, most of her friends are all in the same boat. They all want friendships or a partner so badly they go from meeting each other one day, being best friends within 5 minutes, to either dating or hating each other the next.

With the dating comes holding hands, kissing and you know the rest of the stages of a relationship. The problem with our kiddos is they go from 0-10 in a nanosecond. And don’t quite understand the boundaries and privacy. We are trying to explain that she  needs to learn how to keep a friend before she starts a dating relationship. Again, this is why it’s so important she still have supervision so they can help her navigate this part of her life. I’d do it if I could, but I don’t think she’d want her mama following her to school everyday!

With hating each other, it’s usually due to a misunderstanding. Someone could be giving her a compliment but she takes it as an insult. Or if she wants someone to like her so badly, she gets extremely anxious and her coping strategies come out. She laughs hysterically, blurts out words (usually in someone’s face), asks a gazillion questions and in all honesty, just annoys the heck out of them. Some of her peers have sensory issues too, so you can imagine how this goes.

We’re just going to take things as they come. Keep talking and working through it. Role play if needed and keep teaching. All I wish is for her to find a lasting friendship. I know it will happen. We just keep hoping it happens sooner, rather than later.

If you’re at the same stage as we are, feel free to connect! We can help each other out!

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