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!

Continue Reading

Waiting For the First Day of School

Every year our G goes through a bit of a rough time a week or two before school starts. This year we got her school supplies at the beginning of August and she thanked me because she had been worrying about that for a month (which would be the beginning of July) but she knew I would say that was way too soon to worry! lol I had know idea she was worrying for that long. And I guarantee you she has worried like this every year of her life! She just didn’t show it until a week or two before school. Or maybe she did show it. Looking back, our summers were a big struggle. She would have meltdowns ALL the time! I remember going camping in Ottawa over the July 1st weekend. I  had to put her in the car and drive around while she screamed and kicked the windows so she wouldn’t disrupt the other campers trying to enjoy a relaxing time. We used to think it was the change in routine. And maybe it was. But now I think we can add in the unknown of the following school year for her. Not seeing her “people”, her teachers and peers everyday. For a child with adoption issues, this can be traumatizing in itself. People coming and going in her life.

This year has been one of huge success! Instead of crying and screaming and laughing, she has directed all of her anxieties into singing and playing her guitar. She makes up songs as she “plays” (she strums incredibly well so we’re going to start guitar lessons in the fall). Her songs are all about her starting school, who her EAs and teachers might be, and how she would like the year to go. Right now, she’s singing about how it will be ok. She had a good year last year and this year will be the same. She is singing whatever she needs to in order to feel better about it. The guitar is going non-stop, ALL DAY LONG. I wanted to take it away yesterday, but that is when I realized, she is directing her anxious fears in a healthy way. I can’t take that away from her. I would much prefer to hear her playing the guitar and singing, rather than screaming and laughing hysterically. And when I can’t take it anymore, I leave. I go for a walk or a drive. Some might think she should do something else in her day. Wonder how I can let her do this all day long. Well, for G, she needs to let all of this “out” before she gets to school, otherwise, it will all come out AT school. She told me she had her big cry yesterday too. She’s like a volcano ready to erupt and she will. I would just prefer she do it at home instead of at school where she would be embarrassed. A couple of days playing guitar in her room is the healthiest thing for her at this moment.

So whatever your child needs to do to prepare themselves for their new school year, especially if they are starting a new school such as high school, let them do it. In a safe and loving environment. Trust that they know what they need. If it’s still aggressive behaviour like it used to be for us, it will pass. You will get through it just like you did the last meltdown. And the one before that. And the one before that. You just need to do what you need to do to keep them safe.

You aren’t alone. Several families are going through similar situations as you are reading this.

So to you, I am sending a big hug, strength and love! You’ve got this!!

 

Mel

Continue Reading

It’s Common Sense, Right? Wrong.

I was at a conference a few years back and heard a woman speak about living with autism. Some of the things she said that I found so interesting revolved around her perception of things. She had told us that the first time she came to present at this conference, she was asked to put her speech on a disk or USB stick. She had no idea how to do that so she threw the computer across the room. She wasn’t trying to be defiant. She wasn’t trying to be aggressive. She just felt that if the computer was broken she wouldn’t have to do what she didn’t know how to do. Completely innocent in her mind. Completely unacceptable to everyone else around her.

She also mentioned that while she was looking out the window high up from her hotel room, she saw something across the street she wanted. In her mind, the quickest way to get there was to go out the window. Luckily she had people to stop her, but this was her way of thinking.

This was an adult who was capable of standing in front of hundreds of people explaining why she does what she does, even letting us know that she is obsessed with skating or gymnastics and trampoline so if she goes off topic, make sure one of us let her know, yet the most common sense things were not so common to her. As she stated, what makes the most common sense to us, are the hardest for our kiddos to learn. The more common sense it is, the more you have to teach it.

I’m not saying putting a speech or document on a USB is common sense, or even easy to do for some people. But what would come naturally to us is asking for help. Whether it’s with words, body language, gestures, sign language, etc. Communication is extremely important. In whatever way your child communicates. Did you know that 80% of communication is body language. So don’t get discouraged if your child doesn’t speak. We can still teach them what they need to know.

This holds very true for our G. When she was a toddler and not yet speaking, she would throw her plate across the room. Right off the high chair just missing someone’s head with her bowl and spraying us, the floor and walls with food. We did end up putting some food directly on her tray but that wasn’t teaching her anything. We started catching her just as she was taking that last bite and showing her the sign “All Done” and removing her bowl. It took a while but she got it! No more food baths for the rest of us! 🙂 Was she being difficult? No! She just knew that when she was done, she would remove her plate the way she knew how. Or more likely, that was her way of communicating to us that she was done.

This is just one of many examples of how it may seem like your child is being defiant, rude or aggressive, when in reality, this is far from the truth.  With a little love, understanding and investigating (mixed in with your confusion and frustration), your child will soar.

Really think of what you do in a day, and how many steps it takes to complete one thing. Even if your child is just in the room watching and listening to you do it, they are learning. Model, model, model. There is a great book by Jennifer O’Toole on helping to teach your children some basic life skills. She has AwEsOmE ideas and great tips and tricks! Check it out here.

 

Continue Reading

IEP – Individual Education Plan

An IEP – Individual Education Plan is a LEGAL document that states what your child’s needs are and how the school will address these needs. This document has to be completed within 30 school days and developed with the input of parents and students if they are 16 years or older. Here is a link to our government website that explains the legalities of it.

I very rarely am invited to help develop the IEP. Some teachers have sent it home with the request of a signature only. When that happens, I read the entire document and pencil in where I would like changes or additions made. I DO NOT sign it! I leave a note saying I will sign it once the changes have been made. Sometimes, I get it sent home to me asking to review it, make changes and sign it. I still DO NOT sign it until I have the original hard copy.

This year, G is in high school and this process is new to me. I have had to send a few (several) emails to the SERT and/or teachers regarding different things and I hope that once the IEP is done, my emails will decrease. All staff have been so great with me and have been encouraging me to email or call anytime with any questions or concerns! I am so grateful for this!!

Gracie had a quiz or test in religion before any IEP was mentioned. Now I certainly don’t expect the teacher to hold off on doing any tests until our IEP is complete, but I had to share with her how she learns, how she may need someone to scribe the test for her (if she isn’t being tested on her printing skills) and how the language of what was being represented had to be simpler in order for her to understand. This test was on the 10 Commandments and the original language that this is written in doesn’t make any sense to my daughter! I’ve had to rewrite the notes she has taken in class into a way that she will understand it. I shared this with the teacher and she was very understanding! She sent me a sample test with the original word box (it was fill in the blank) so Gracie could study at home. Working together is what makes our children successful.

So my advice to you is, communicate with the school in the nicest way possible! Be honest. Be kind. Let them know you would like to work together. Ask to have a meeting to help develop the IEP. And go to that meeting with a list of strategies that you know work for you child and explain how it will help them at school as well to avoid any meltdowns and anxiety. Know your legal rights by reading the information on our government website. Until then, if your child is starting a new school, and/or starting high school where she will have more than one teacher or EA, send her to school with a little cue card for each teacher and EA that has some quick information on it about her that she can give them.

Here is a sample of Gracie’s card:

Feel free to put your child’s name and/or picture on it! You can also put your contact info. on it so they can text, call or email you with any questions they might have.

I hope some of this information helps you. If you need more guidance, please feel free to email me!

Continue Reading

Behaviour or Symptoms?

The definition of behaviour in the dictionary is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others” and “the way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus.”

The key phrase that makes “behaviour” so challenging is the part that says ‘especially toward others.’ It makes things so hard for parents, siblings, caregivers, teachers, EAs, peers etc. because we feel that it is directed at us. But imagine being the child or adult who is losing control! No one wants to feel that way.  Nobody wants to feel out of control!

I love the way Jeff Noble from FASD Forever puts it…FASD (or insert diagnosis here) is forever. Frustration is not. He also opens our eyes to the fact that behaviour is a SYMPTOM. Just changing the word BEHAVIOUR TO SYMPTOM will help you be a little more understanding and less frustrated. Because ultimately, that’s what it is! A symptom of being over stimulated, tired, challenged, unable to communicate desires, etc.

There are many reasons why a person acts out either verbally or physically. And it’s not easy. But if you are able to figure out what is causing it, you may be able to prevent it. And remember, as your child grows, they may grow out of it. With your help of course. For others, it may be a lifelong challenge, but hopefully with growth and learning different strategies over the years, it will get somewhat easier.

Here is information on what an ABC chart is.  There are links to an example of one and a blank one for you to document the Antecedent (what happened right before the “behaviour”) Behaviour (what was the behaviour) and Consequence (what happened right after). Documenting allows you to see whether the cause is ESCAPE/AVOIDANCE/ATTENTION SEEKING OR SENSORY.

There are different strategies for different symptoms. It is important to be proactive as much as possible instead of being reactive.

  1. The number one place to start is the ENVIRONMENT. What can you do right now in your home or class to avoid any outbursts. How can you make your place a safe and calming area. Can you get rid of clutter in the room and on the walls, paint your rooms a calming colour, put sharp objects out of sight, make a “calming area” with lights, bean bags, weighted blankets, noise reduction headphones, soft music/sounds, books, fidget toys, etc. For small children a box, tent, or sitting under a table with curtains to close off the world might help. A small room for older kids and adults or even a corner of a room with a divider can be a great place of comfort.
  2. The second thing I like to do with my daughter and my students (no matter how young or old) is INTERVIEW THEM. If they are able to communicate, ask them…What makes you angry?  What makes you happy? What is hard for you? What is easy for you? What do you like? What do you dislike? How can I help you be successful? What kind of activities or treats do you like? What helps to calm you down? I can’t believe how much information I receive! They know what helps them or hurts them! So why try and guess when the best information you can get is right at your fingertips? Knowing that my student just needs 5 minutes to sit quietly or needs to go for a walk to get a drink or even just go to the washroom and put cold water on his face to calm himself down makes the day so much easier than him yelling and hitting and running out of the room. You can gain so many strategies with this information! And you’re teaching your child/student to advocate for themselves. It gets them thinking about what they need. And it shows them that they matter to you. Their thoughts and feelings are important.
  3. Using the answers from your interview or observations, you can develop visuals, choice boards, reward charts, schedules, etc. to use at home and school. Communication (or lack of communication) is one of the main reasons for challenging behaviour. So visuals around the home and school are very important! There are software programs such as Boardmaker that you can purchase (ask your speech pathologist about it) or even just using Google Images. You can get photos of just about anything! Place pictures around your home. Put pictures of food on your fridge so your child can point to what he/she wants. Make a board that says MORE and ALL DONE on it so your child can point to one or the other instead of throwing their finished plate across the room. Use a visual timer to show them how much time they have left for an activity. A time timer is great because it visually shows them with colour, but you can also buy the timers at the dollar store or use an app on your phone. There are so many strategies for every challenge. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works and what doesn’t through trial and error.

If you have specific questions or are in need of help, send me an email! I’ll do my best to guide you in the right direction 🙂

And remember, the calmer you are, the easier to it is to diffuse a situation. Take deep breaths, tell yourself this isn’t personal. This behaviour/symptom is based out of fear, frustration, anxiety, needing attention, etc.

Together we will get through it! xo

 

Continue Reading