Special Needs

5 Ways to Build Bonding Experiences with Your Special Needs Child

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Not another temper tantrum! That’s the tenth one today. Amidst my own tears, I was at my wits end. Having a child with autism proved too much for me. I didn’t think I had the strength to do it.

The day-to-day care of a child with special needs requires much more of a parent than seems possible. The extra therapies, doctor appointments, and at-home treatments can sap all of our energy. And, behavior challenges can be the tipping point for us.

A pervasive sense of hopelessness can settle in. We think, “Is this ever going to get easier?”

Looking back, the day I had a change in my perspective was the day it did get easier.

Read more here.

Children's Picture Books, Life Skills, Special Needs, Teen

Having an Almost-Teen With Autism|13 Ways He’s Like Any Other Teen #WorldAutismAwarenessDay #AutismAcceptance

Parenthood flies by in a blink of an eye. A preemie, my firstborn daughter weighed in at only 4 lbs. 14 oz.

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After six days, she was released from the hospital. I brought her to my grandfather’s 90th birthday party to show her to the family.

Setting her down on an upstairs room carpet, I stepped away to grab a diaper from my bag.

My aunt stood in the doorway and gasped. “I thought there was a doll on the floor, but she moved.”

So small, so delicate, I didn’t know if she’d ever catch up to the regular developmental milestones of most children.

But then.

Blink. My baby girl could walk.

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Blink again. She’s studying for her driver’s permit.

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Blink away the tears. I only have 2 years left with my baby!

My oldest daughter is now sixteen. And my have the years flown by.

In only one month, my next-born, my only son, will be turning from tween to teen, the rite of passage year of thirteen. In some cultures, this would be the year he becomes a man.

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The thing is, he has autism. Picture 008

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Does that mean he can’t be a regular teen?

So, far he’s been like any other almost-teen in many ways.

1. The boy loves to eat.

Some of his favorite foods are not super healthy, but isn’t that like any other kid? If I let him, he’d eat yogurt and Life cereal for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner everyday. Veggies are not at the top of the list, but he’ll eat a good salad and a bowl full of broccoli cheddar soup.

2. The boy loves tech.

Video gaming, time on the tablet, the phone, the TV. Anything with a flickering screen.

3. The boy loves books.

Being a book-loving mama, this is what makes me most proud of him. Reading a-loud to him and audio books started my boy on liking stories (those not on a screen). He learned how to make a movie of what he was hearing in his mind. Now he reads books on his own. Recently, I peeked over his shoulder and recognized the book he was reading. A classic we listened to on audio book this year—Farmer Boy.

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4. The boy loves LEGOs.

Grown men play with LEGOs. So, it’s okay that he asks for a new set every week (but, I tell him to use the blocks he already has!)

5. The boy loves classical education.

Latin, history, science, English grammar, geography and more, the classical style of learning fits my boy’s way of thinking. This year, we studied U.S. history and all we’ve been through as a nation. It’s opened his eyes to a world that is bigger than the four walls of our own home. And that he is a part of the great timeline of history that still goes on.

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6. The boy loves people.

He may have trouble meeting new people and making and keeping friends, but his heart is full of compassion for human beings made in the image of God. Every time we see a homeless person, he prays for him. When we studied September 11, 2001 and the destruction of the World Trade Center, he cried for all the lives lost. He has wept after realizing he’s the only boy out of our family of four children because his brother lived only a short life.

7.  The boy loves truth.

The Internet can be a scary thing. No telling what our kids can stumble onto. We have clear rules in our family about not getting on the computer when Mom and Dad have not given permission. Our boy couldn’t keep it a secret that he watched something without asking. I’m thankful it was only a kids’ show and that he told us the truth.

8. The boy loves God.

Throughout his childhood, we’ve read the Bible to him, prayed with him, have taken him to church, but I didn’t know if he could grasp spiritual things. Then one day, as I folded laundry, he sat next to me and blurted out, “Mom, I want to become a follower of Jesus Christ.” Stunned, I said, “Okay.” Then my heart overflowed with joy. By the grace of God, he got it! I prayed with him and have seen the fruit of his faith.

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9. The boy loves goodness.

Like any other almost-teen, my boy doesn’t get why anyone would want to harm another human being. He now knows there are people out there who completely lack empathy and do very evil things. He’s learning that we must overcome evil with good. To see change, we must be the gift, the miracle, and the one who changes first. To do right, to be merciful, and not think you’re better than anyone else will change the world. Having three sisters, and a tendency for brotherly teasing, he gets to practice at apologizing everyday.

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10. The boy loves beauty.

He tells me, “Mom, you look beautiful today,” which makes me smile.

Watching films with epic scenery and music are one of his favorite things to do. We listen to John Williams’ soundtracks on family trips.

On our visit to the Morse Museum to view the Louis Comfort Tiffany art collection, he stood in awe at the way stained glass could depict life with such beauty and light.

11. The boy loves creating.

Since he was old enough to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He’s always said the same thing, “Inventor.” I bought him The Way Things Work, The Way We Work, and The New Way Things Work to hopefully help him generate ideas on which to build.

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12. The boy loves to argue.

Arguing is not a bad thing as long as he’s respectful. It means he’s forming his own ideas about how the world works. It means he’s growing up.

13. The boy loves his friends.

He’s had friends when he was younger. Usually one really good friend for a few years, but then that friend would move away. But lately, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to find friends his own age. Thankfully, he’s made friends in his weekly Social Thinking group at 3 C’s Therapy who all have autism like him.

The point is, he’s growing from being a boy to a man. It may not look totally like other almost-teens, but I’m still proud of him. My heart overflows with motherly love for my boy. I know he’s growing into the man God created him to be. And that’s enough for me.

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Blog, Life Skills, Special Needs, Uncategorized

How ‘Georgisms’ Can Help our Kids Succeed|The Importance of Executive Functioning #historyrocks #adulting

Have you ever witnessed a living miracle unfold before your very eyes?

To me, my middle school aged son on the autism spectrum, giving his very first speech in his Classical Conversations class a few weeks ago was miracle enough. His speech was short and he had trouble looking at the audience, but I didn’t care. He overcame his social anxiety, and I beamed at this huge step in his development.

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In class yesterday, he did something that made my jaw drop.

The opening to his speech went like this:

“Do you know how my mom is like our first president? (three second pause) Because she’s always washing a ton!”

His whole class—the kids, the teacher, the other mothers—all laughed.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand.

Then he turned serious and shared how as a boy, Washington accidentally killed his mother’s favorite colt.

All eyes were on my son as he projected his voice, stood confidently, and shared for a minute and a half about the trials and triumphs of our first president.

I sat mesmerized, in awe at my son’s transformation.

My only regret is that I forgot to get out my phone and take a video!

He’s learning. He’s growing. I think he’s going to do all right in life. He may not be president of the United States when he grows up, but I believe by the grace of God, he’ll do something to make a difference in our world.

Have you ever wondered how George Washington became our first president, trusted by the colonists who shed their blood, sweat and tears to create a whole new country set apart from the rule of the King of England?

From historical accounts of his life, we can know that George Washington was a man in control of his words, his body, and his actions.

When he was fourteen years old, Washington wrote out 110 rules to live by.

These rules laid a foundation or framework for him to advance to the highest position in the United States of America. They helped him to be dignifieddiplomatic and wise beyond his years.

Nowadays, we call this executive functioning.

Washington was singled out for a job that men much older than himself usually did. In 1749, at the age seventeen, he became a surveyor and mapped out land for his employers.

From there, in 1755, Washington had moved up the ranks in the military and was awarded the position of Colonel of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War (also called the Seven Years War, 1754-1758).

From years serving in the military, Washington gained leadership skills. He understood British military strategies which would help him later when he became the General of the Continental Army.

America had had enough of England’s “taxation without representation” and the colonial patriots were gaining more support to rebel against English rule and become their own independent country, The United States of America.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Continental Army formed. George Washington was appointed General of the Continental Army and Commander-in-Chief.

As General of the Continental Army, Washington’s first great victory was against the Hessian army (German soldiers hired by the British). Washington chose to execute a sneak attack on the night of Christmas 1776. He crossed the Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey and captured nearly 1,000 Hessians.

By 1777, The Continental Army had grown to 11,000 men. During the winter at Valley Forge, north of Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, about 2,000-3,000 men died from the harsh winter and lack of supplies. Washington stayed with his men, suffering along with them and used this time to train them with the help of Inspector General von Steuben.

With the help of French troops, supplies and naval forces, in 1781, British General Cornwallis was trapped and surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, ending any further hostilities from England.

When choosing the first leader of the United States, our founding fathers knew that Washington was the best man for the job.


On April 30, 1789, George Washington was voted by 100% of the electoral college to be the first president of the United States of America. He did not desire to be called “your majesty,” like King George III of England. He wanted The United States of America to be a democracy through and through and to be simply called, Mr. President.

Throughout his life, Washington relied on the rules of leadership that he learned at a young age. As he gained knowledge from both victory and failure, he matured and became the kind of leader our country needed, one who was both strong and reasonable.

In order to be successful adults, children need to learn the same skills that our first President learned. Attaining life skills, including proper etiquette, improve their executive function, which is a crucial element in allowing a person to mature and become a productive member of society. Even George Washington did not possess these skills on his own. He studied them, copied them and lived them out.

What We Can Learn from George Washington:

Developing a well-trained mind is crucial for making the best life decisions.

Focusing on the things that are important and organizing them in a step-by-step, systematic way to be used again later is the foundation of having good executive function. Washington did this with learning his 110 rules so well, he knew them by memory and was able to use this knowledge at the proper time. Learning the general rules of manners can be useful in understanding how to act in any given situation. And, then we must make the choice to follow those rules.

Having control over one’s emotions, body, and words is another level of executive function.

It is hard to follow the rules, when we let strong emotions control us.

Washington was remembered as a man of reason. He did not allow strong emotions to take control. He used his words to encourage others and not to hurt or belittle them. He faced battles with bravery and did not allow fear to affect his decisions. Choosing to use coping strategies and keep our feelings under control is another way to develop good executive function.

Learning from our successes and failures is one of the final steps in developing good executive function.

Washington was considered mature at a young age. He used his knowledge of math and skill in drawing to his advantage when he became a surveyor. He learned in his years in the military the strategies that worked to win battles. He was flexible and willing to learn new things and try them in different ways. He chose to do things the best way rather than the easy way.

Children can start young by making choices to develop good executive function. Having a well-trained mind, good self-control and flexiblity is important in gaining the life skills needed to be successful in life.

Books about George Washington:

 

GEORGE-isms: Rules George Washington Lived  by George Washington

George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster

George Washington by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire

Who was George Washington? by Roberta Edwards

George Washington Games and Videos:

 

Apples for the Teacher has George Washington coloring pages, puzzles and games

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has a mystery game

The History Channel’s website has a short documentary about George Washington here.

*Images of George Washington, flag, and map courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blog, Children's Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12), Special Needs

8 Kids Books to Teach Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Everywhere I go, it seems, I spot a child who appears to have autism. Maybe having a child of my own on the spectrum makes me more in tune to the signs and symptoms. At the same time, my observations could be a reflection of the new normal for neurodiversity. According to the CDC, in only sixteen years the amount of children being diagnosed has significantly grown from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016.

Thankfully, with more children on the spectrum, there are more therapies, resources, and supports for our kids to succeed than ever before. Books, TV shows, and even movies now highlight people with autism, creating an atmosphere for acceptance.

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With April being Autism Awareness Month, here are eight books that will help teach kids to have greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those on the spectrum.

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Smokey the cat after his annual summer shave

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman

Our Maine Coon cat, Smokey, doesn’t like to be touched, on the tummy especially! He hears every little noise and loves to squeeze under things (like my bed). Wait, do cats have autism? Could be… The amazon.com best selling book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome compares cats to kids on the spectrum and the funny thing is, there are a ton of similarities.

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My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete

Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, both singer and actress, Peete now adds author to her list of credentials. Having a son with autism inspired her to write about the power of the sibling bond. A sister who has a twin brother with autism recognizes his struggles along with his unique talents and strengths.

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Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas

This book, written in the first look at disabilities series, introduces children to those growing up with special needs. But that’s the thing, being “special” means being singled out. Highlighting the things all kids have in common can be a positive way to help them relate to kids who have physical or learning differences.

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Sensitive Sam: Sam’s Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending! by Marla Roth-Fisch

Sam’s sensory sensitivities cause him all sorts of trouble. Witty and engaging, this story is sure to build understanding about the sensory issues involved in having autism.

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Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder

This book takes a look at different people throughout history who had learning differences that lead to amazing discoveries and lasting impacts on the world. Included are Temple Grandin, Lewis Carrol, and Albert Einstein.

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 Art by my fifteen-year-old, April Griese

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This National Book Award winner tells the story of Caitlin, whose sensory sensitivities and difficulties communicating affects her ability to grieve the loss of her brother. Dealing with both the challenges of being a tween on the spectrum and the tragedy of losing her brother through a school shooting, this middle grade novel brings up some heavy realities with grace.

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Styrofoam found in a box helps my son with autism look at the camera

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Children try to figure out the world through observation, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. Catherine keeps a list of rules for her brother with autism to help him to be more normal, but she also keeps unwritten rules for herself. How do you really define what’s normal and what’s not? And, depending on how you look at it, maybe out-of-the-ordinary could mean extraordinary.

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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

If you’re looking for a pictorial biography of Temple Grandin, look no further. This book shares how a simple girl with autism grew up to change the world. It may inspire both parents and children to reach for the stars.

 

Blog, Special Needs

Finding Hope in Autism

 

 

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Feather mobile from Brent Forsyth, Sunsetdriftwood on Etsy
When you have a baby, I’ve been told, life becomes like a fast-spinning mobile hanging above the crib. At first, it spins off balance, slows to a wobble and then balances out.
Having a child with autism has made the mobile of life be out-of-balance for longer than I would have anticipated.
It was nerve-wracking when our baby started talking, saying “mama” and “dada,” but then stopped by the time he turned one.
All the classic signs of autism appeared: gaze aversion, hand flapping, temper tantrums up to ten times a day…read more here

 

Blog, Special Needs

8 Ways My Son With Autism Helped Me Grow

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Miracles happen every day when we least expect them. And this summer was no exception.

Out on the soccer field, my boy kicked around the ball with his friends, as they all tried to follow the coach’s directions.

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While making a turn, his teammate crashed into the turf. He held his knee and grimaced in pain. Read more here.