Special Needs

5 Ways to Build Bonding Experiences with Your Special Needs Child

DSC01861

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.

Image (46)

Image (47)

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.

000_0235

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

AprilFilm (2)

 

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.

Easter

The thing is, he has autism. Picture 008

DSC00251

DSC01631

DSC01015

DSC02746

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.

DSC02783 - Copy

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.

AndrewLatin

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.

Bible

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.

Andrewkiss

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.

Andrewinventor

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.

Andrewandsisters

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

8 Kids Books to Teach Autism Awareness and Acceptance

aj3 (1) (1)

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.

TEMPLE3

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.

cat2

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.

Lucy and Andrew

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.

060

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.

AJ

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.

AJ2

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.

BLICK ART CONTEST PAINTING

 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.

Rules

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.

Temple2

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

 

 

hope
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

son6

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.

son2

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