Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coping with the Holidays

Looking at your child's life in the long term; wouldn't it be better for them to know how to cope with change, rather than having to endure countless meltdowns?

Our children need to be able to find an emotionally comfortable place in a world that is not going to cater to them or their unique needs all the time. Starting to work with your child, as early as possible, on flex routines will make transitioning into holiday and other special events much easier over time. Don't let your precious ones diffuse holiday spirits. Give them the skills they need to enjoy and even anticipate joyful occurrences in their routines. Our children have the ability to anticipate the good things in life. Let’s make it a little easier for them. All they need from us is our patience, lots of repetition and a little ingenuity to smooth out the rough spots.

As you are setting goals for your child, anticipate needs as they grow older and how they will have to navigate themselves in the world, as it presents itself to them

I am grateful for the medical staff that took such good care of my child during his early years. Even though, admittedly I’ve taken their advice with a grain of salt. There are those occasions when you voice a concern and in return you are offered a textbook remedy that just won’t work in the long term. What appears to be just right for the moment ends up causing other developments later, leaving you in a lurch. Don't get me wrong, it’s good to listen to the advice of your child's medical staff and therapists, but add your own knowledge of your child and a dash of common since into the equation.

It troubles me to see children having difficulties adjusting during the holidays, but who can blame them. 

After all, lights are twinkling, music’s playing; people running in and out of the house; pretty things you can’t touch; loads of sugary goodies to munch and then…Santa Clause falls into your house.

My family celebrates the Christmas holiday a little different. Our efforts are not so much to give and receive gifts, but being a gift to others as Jesus is certainly the greatest gift to us. And then, there are some that like to celebrate Christmas focusing more on family traditions, whatever those traditions may be. In any case, there are ways to help our children cope with changes in their routine during the holiday season.  

As a general rule, we have routines that are what I call, "flex routines." 

A flex routine is pretty simple. Have your routines in place, but make changes starting off with 1 or 2 small things and slowly increasing frequency and variety of changes over a period of time. Whatever is comfortable for your child. This will help them develop the skills to find comfort in their structure set while anticipating possible change and adjusting to change more readily.

Allow your child to have a sense of involvement in your day to day and special plans.

My son and I enjoy going out with friends and family; this was something he was accustomed to. But, when it came to having guests over for dinner or just to hangout for awhile; my son was much less receptive. We rarely had company unless it was therapists, friends for play dates or something having to do with my son’s needs. Sometimes friends would stop by unexpectedly for a visit; they were often greeted with a barrage of grunts and little things done to draw all attention to my son. This would sometimes make me and my guests feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to find yourself trapped in a world without social outlets for yourself as well as your child.

I honestly did not consider how my son would feel about my having unexpected guests, knowing that he was used to being center of attention. I had to come up with a way to flex our social routine. How did I do that? Well, I started by making a simple story board that had a picture of our home and pictures of some of the rooms in our home. We cut out pictures of people that we knew and people in general; together we placed the pictures on the story board. It was like a game at first, which was great, it kept him engaged. We would then make up stories about people coming to visit us, with and without children and things that we’d like to do. This practice made the difference in his transition to our new flex routine, enjoying guests in our home; even his ability to share our guest’s attention with me became easier.

Also, with a few simple tweaks, you can modify this practice to include events planning, such as parties or outings. Simply place pictures of people in general, yourselves or your guests, if available, on a wall calendar. Create a dialog about the event and when it will happen. Your child will be able to relate to the visuals which make the event more tangible for them. Now, there are no more surprises. Your child will know what to expect and may look forward to planning future events with you; especially for this up and coming holiday season.

You now have a creative tool to make transitioning from regular routines to the planning of events and the inevitable unplanned events, go a little more smoothly for both you and your child.

Take your time, be creative, enjoy your child and allow your child to enjoy you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grey Scale

When I was a little girl I knew something was different about me, but could not specify what it was. I could tell by how my relatives treated me. Cousins didn’t want to spend time with me or make any attempt to get to know me. I was called stupid and ignorant behind my back because I didn’t fit in socially with pears. My mother, God rest her soul, did her best to make me “normal”. It started by having me abandon being left handed and relearning how to do everything right handed. When I’d get upset or wanted to relax I rocked. I was told to stop doing that. I had to sit a certain way, talk a certain way, be better behaved then my pears. I was not allowed to think for myself and speak on it. My wants and dreams were never validated. I had been demoted from being a family member to becoming a matter of circumstance, a source of shame.
I could not understand what I was doing that was so wrong. Why did everything about me need to be changed? What was so unlovable and even unlikable about me? Why was I born? I should have been that one shot in the dark that misfired.
Over the years my quirkiness grew and my artistic ability along with it, but as my mother combated my many quirks, my ability to see life in full color spectrum dissolved. I could only see life in grey scale. With each step towards normalcy I lost a little bit more of myself. It was subtle at first but became increasingly noticeable as I grew older. Things that I loved and was good at, I could no longer do. I had become the obedient, dutiful go getter drone that my parents trained me to be; forever striving to please those who could never be pleased. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I was a constant reminder of what they didn’t ask for. I was lost and had also lost the battle. Too tired to continue fighting I gave in and ignored the fear of never being found again.
Today I’m a 46 years old proud mom to my beautiful son, who has many quirks some of which resemble my past self; blessed to survive burying my problems and free to express exactly who I am. It is only now that I speak of those things that lie dormant for so many years. It’s been a long time coming and a long road towards regaining, but the greater reward is how good it feels to finally be free and to see full spectrum again.
Take me back to the merry band of misfits where I belong.
There is where no judgments found.
 Quirkiness, giggles and stemming embraced.
 I’m back in the bosom of happiness and grace.
That which was wrong, finally made right.
Showing my son how to stand in the light.
Keep running and giggling and stemming with glee.
As for the rest of the world…simply let it be.