Archive | December, 2010

My New Years Resolution

Today is New Years Eve which means we all think back on the year, think ahead to the year to come and “resolve” to improve something somehow.. ourselves, our lives, the world…

The problem with New Years Resolutions is that most people only make them once a year. Really, we should be dedicating our lives to improving ourselves every single day. But that’s a whole other story.

Those of us with a child that’s been diagnosed with Autism know that we’ve been making resolutions with every therapy session, every IEP meeting… with every milestone that’s been missed.

Then New Years Eve rolls around and as we watch friends and family gather to ring in the new year, we’re “stuck” at home because there’s no one we’d trust with our children that aren’t old enough to be out partying for the big night.  The neighbourhood babysitter just isn’t going to cut it on these nights.

While we sit and wonder if everyone’s talking about how “stuffy” or “over protective” we are while they’re drinking it up, we are content with our decision… here’s why.

People celebrate the turning of the year over to a new one but really, is tomorrow really going to be different from yesterday? Not likely. You may write the wrong year on your rent check tomorrow. Otherwise, chances are you won’t feel any different.

When you have a child with Autism that’s missed so many milestones over those short few years between 2 and 5 years of age, you not only learn to really appreciate the little things but you learn what’s really important.

Pulling down the calendar off the wall to put up a new one is not cause for celebration.. your child saying “I love you” is. Your child using a toilet for the first time is. Your child looking you in the eye, giving you a hug… kissing you! Now that’s cause for celebration!

There’s nothing wrong with resolving to make your life better in the coming year but don’t ever think that I’m missing out on any celebrating when I’m at home with my boys on New Years Eve.

I’ve made my resolutions already… many times. I’ve had my celebrations and they meant the world to me.

It’s because I’m not out partying that I’m not missing a single thing.

So what is my “New Years Resolution” then? The same as it is every day:

To strive to be the person that I would like my children to grow up to be.

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“I don’t like to lose!” – A tough lesson to learn

While sitting here at my computer working, my son and his older cousin are in the living room playing Mario Party 8. Normally, this game is a wonderful tool for him to develop his motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and even problem solving skills. However, as he gets better at it, he’s finding that he has a much harder lesson to learn… that he can’t win all the time.

I could hear it building until finally he stomped his feet off into the kitchen screaming “I don’t like to lose!” with tears streaming down his face.

At this point, I got up, went into the living room and looked at him. Again, he looked at me and screamed “I don’t like to lose!” so I said “well then, if you can’t lose at it, you can’t play it” and turned off his game.

At this point, I expected a much larger meltdown so I had to move quick while I had his attention.

Before he could even open his mouth, I said “do you want to play this game again?” and he yelled “YES!”

So I said “well, you’re not going to unless you can lose.”

I continued “do you like to play the new Donkey Kong game?” and he said “yes” and I said “well, you’re going to lose.”

I said “do you like to go bowling?” and he said “yes” and I said “well, you’re going to lose.”

At this point he came back in and sat on the couch… knees up under his chin.

I said “Let me ask you Cameron, if you win… who loses?” to which he replied “Emily” (his cousin).

I said “Do you think she likes to lose every single time?” and he said “no.” I said “well, if you win every single time, she loses every single time. I bet she doesn’t like losing either. It wouldn’t be much fun if she got mad and stormed off into the kitchen, would it?” and he said “no.”

I said “Do you think that Emily wins every single time when she goes bowling?” and he said “no.”

I explained to him that he has to lose sometimes, Emily has to lose sometimes… even I lose sometimes. But when you lose, you get better at it until eventually you will win.

He felt better about it, but there’s no quick fix for this. 10 minutes later, he was right back into the game and getting mad that he was losing. Some people never grow out of it. We all know people that get really mad about losing.

And trying to teach a 5 year old with Autism that you have to lose in order to learn how to win is quite a tricky task to be sure, but it’s one of the fun parts of parenting. I like to think that a little bit of what I said sunk in… and next time a little more.

For this talk, I lose. But I’ll keep at it until I win… because when I do, so will he.

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Wow, my boy is just full of great surprises!

So the Christmas holidays are officially over, I couldn’t be happier with how well my boys handled all the late nights, long visits with family they don’t know and everything else.

What truly impressed me were the little moments in between.

We gave Cameron (my 5yr old with Autism) a Nintendo DS Lite and gave Tyler (3yr old without Autism) a Leapfrog, both are handheld video game systems… this way they have something to do when they do have long visits with family, or long drives.

What was truly amazing was when Tyler picked up his brother’s Ninentdo DS, which was clearly too complicated for him. At first, I expected Cameron to tell him to stop playing with it, to take it away from him but to my surprise, he instead showed Tyler how to turn it on and play with it!

The next day, I was doing dishes and asked Cameron and his older cousin to find all of the dishes around the house for me. Again, he did as asked and for his reward, he received a kinder egg (chocolate egg with a toy inside). His cousin, jokingly, said “where’s mine?” and without a moment of hesitation, Cameron split the egg in half and gave half of it to his cousin!

Granted, that’s only 2 wonderfully amazing things over the course of close to a full week, but I’ll gladly take 2 over none… and certainly take 2 over meltdowns.

You have to understand, I got some great Christmas presents myself but not much ranks as high as seeing my boy do so very well. By the way, his chocolate sharing didn’t go unrewarded. I made sure to share some of my Christmas chocolate with him as a reward for being such a good kid.

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Teaching Children About Inclusion

Starting a conversation with “Please don’t take this the wrong way” or “I hope this doesn’t upset you” doesn’t mean that you can then go on to be cruel, insensitive or intolerant.  It just means that really you know you are about to make a wrong decision but haven’t bothered to find an alternative.

Now it is likely that I am preaching to the choir.  I am not writing this for the other parents of children with special needs who have seen their children be politely excluded from play dates and apologetically not invited to birthday parties.  I am writing to those other parents.  The ones who seem to have forgotten that their job is to teach their childen about diversity, tolerance and problem solving skills.

So for those parents, let me make a few suggestions.

If your child says  “I don’t want Bobby coming to my party because I don’t want to worry about him acting weird”, try to find out what the actual concern is.  Is there a specific triggering behavior that you could prepare Bobby for?  Maybe you could suggest that Bobby’s mother stay nearby in case there is a problem.  Maybe you could remind your child that there will be plenty of other children at the party and not to focus on Bobby.  Maybe you could remind your child of the positive characteristics of Bobby and that the world is made up of all types of people.  We don’t have to like them all but we need to be tolerant of them.  If this is a child that you would otherwise invite, a family friend’s child, a neighbor or a classmate, then you should expect your child to include this one.  The best way to teach your child tolerance is to model it yourself.  Help them problem solve a way to make the party work for all the kids invited as well as your own guest if honor.

If your child says I don’t want to play with Sally anymore, again try to find out why.  Does your daughter think that Sally is boring, stupid, selfish, or some other characteristic that may be challenging because of Sally’s disability?  Help her to see that this behavior is not intended to be malicious but rather that Sally may need help learning to be a good friend.  Maybe you could suggest alternate activities that they could enjoy.  Try taking them to a neutral place such as a park or a movie.  Maybe in a new environment Sally might be interested in new ideas or  possibly in a neutral territory you could consider a situation where she doesn’t have to share.

Ultimately if you want your child to grow up being not only tolerant but inclusive then you need to expect that from the very beginning.  Don’t expect them to learn these values as adults if you haven’t encouraged it of them as children.

Here are a few more suggestions for encouraging tolerance and inclusion:

1.  Encourage your child to include children with disabilities, to play. If the child cannot play the same as other kids, come up with creative ways to accommodate the child’s challenges. Making up games can be lots of fun

2.  Teach the golden rule; Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

3.  Help your child find commonality — a hobby or interest — between him and this child with disabilities.

4.  Don’t label the child with special needs.  Referring to other child as “that child with hearing aids” or “the girl who stutters” only points out differences, issues that may not even concern your child.  Use “people first” language.

5.  Empower your child.  Let them know that they are allowed to feel safe and valued in a friendship as well.  They should not accept being physically or emotionally attacked by a child with special needs just because the child has a disability.  Nor should they feel like they always have to do what the other child wants if it is not a mutual choice.

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The excitement is building and I’m not sure I can take it anymore!!

I’m so conflicted.. I mean, on the one hand, it’s so wonderful and amazing that my boys actually “get it” this year. They’re genuinely excited for Christmas, for toys, for Santa, for opening presents… with 9 days left, I told Cameron that there were 9 “sleeps” left until Christmas and ever since then, I get wake up calls each and every morning reporting to me how many sleeps are left. This morning, it’s 2 sleeps left.

The problem is that the morning reports are coming earlier and earlier. It started at 7am. This morning was 4:45am!

Christmas CrazyIf that wasn’t bad enough (bad on Christmas??), their excitement level doesn’t taper off through out the day… and it certainly doesn’t fade or stay constant as we get closer to the big day either.

The boys seem to hurt themselves more, become more and more defiant and just all around wild with every passing day as we draw closer and closer to Christmas.

This morning Cameron climbed up on the rocking recliner that spins… long winded description but necessary, you see.. he stands on it. Something that rocks and spins is not something an unwieldy 5 year old should be standing on. He’s fallen several times and this morning was no exception. Now he has a nice purple line down his rib cage where he hit the coffee table.

Have no fear though, he’s fine… they’re quite resilient.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that when you want your kids to get excited, just remember that you asked for it.

It’s the 23rd today, and I may be jumping the gun on this one, but I’m fairly confident in saying that in less than 2 days, when the boys wake me up earlier than ever, excited about what they find under the tree…  it will have all been worth it.

Especially if I get to sleep in the next day.

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