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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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.

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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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Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

A New Year of Adulting Part 1: 10 Ways to Release Stress|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #adulting #2018Resolution

“I don’t wanna grow up ’cause I’m a Toys R Us Kid!” chimed the TV as I wasted away the Saturdays of my childhood watching cartoons with my brothers in front of the flickering magic screen. I had no idea what I was missing out on by not spending more time reading.

Books can really help us grow up. I learned much of how to live on my own while attending college and later about being a mother from reading books as a teen.

Some of the first real full-length chapter books I read were the classic Anne of Green Gables series. I fell in love with Anne’s life in Avonlea, where the roads were red and walking or taking a carriage ride were the common ways to travel.

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With each book in the series, Anne grew from an insecure, precocious tween to a college graduate (unusual for a woman of her time), to a happily married adult with half-a-dozen children.

Anne learned all the life skills she needed to know from her adoptive mother, Marilla. This fundamental knowledge was passed from adult to child.

Though we live in the age of information and globalization, the method of transferring knowledge is no different. Yet, it seems like we, as parents, have less time and know-how ourselves on how to help our children launch.

So, this has motivated me to search, to learn myself, what does a teen need to learn before turning 18.

In previous posts, I’ve shared these resources:

10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 2: Kitchen Essentials

With the start of 2018, it’s back to schoolwork, chores, and responsibilities that cannot be ignored by our teens. Which means stress! Now more than ever, teen anxiety has been on the rise. Maybe life since the times of Anne of Green Gables has quickened at the pace of the high-speed Internet.

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My teen daughter and I both have utilized the following methods to deal with the anxiety that accompanies stress.

10 Ways to Cope With Stress

  • Listen to instrumental music or play an easy instrument like the ukulele
  • Consider getting a pet dog, cat, or fish for your teen’s room and open the blinds for letting in the sun and watching birds outside
  • Think of at least three things daily that you are thankful for (Ann Voscamp’s blog has free resources on living a life of gratitude)

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  • Explore a park or nature preserve with many shade trees—something about trees calms our nerves

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  • Try “star-breathing,” which means take a deep breath in and draw a line down each finger slowly as you breathe out. It really helps! 
  • Pray—talk to Jesus, your best friend beside you and/or journal your feelings
  • Sing an uplifting song
  • Meditate on a Bible verse you know by heart or think about an inspiring quote you’ve read or heard
  • Read a classic book you love (like Anne of Green Gables!)

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  • Rest in a quiet, comfortable spot until you feel less stressed

This year, let’s resolve to make time for our teens and teach them what they need to know to grow into successful adults.

My son on the autism spectrum will be turning 13 this year, so I will also to be sharing more resources specifically for teen boys, coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Blog, Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #Adulting

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By the time a teen turns eighteen, what sort of things should she know in the world of #adulting? Making a great score on the SAT’s is all fine and good for getting into college, but what about real life skills? We want to give our teens roots, but also wings that they may fly to new heights in their next stage of life called adulthood.

Interpersonal skills are a gift that some naturally possess and others have to learn or constantly suffer the consequences for committing embarrassing social faux pas. As an adult, this skill will translate into pragmatics, networking, or building relational capital.

Unwritten rules of our society are not easily deciphered, but here’s some tips I’ve learned that I’m passing along to my own teen. And going to parties is a great way to learn to apply social graces.

18 Things to Share When Teaching Teens Social Graces

  • When you receive an invitation, RSVP by the deadline. If you cannot attend, try to refrain from saying a plain “no,” but politely reply with the other plans you had made.
  • When you go to a party, stay at least 30 minutes. It’s considered rude to show up for snacks and then leave before making any real conversations with other guests.
  • At a larger get-together, try to talk to at least three different groups of people.
  • Whether at a birthday, wedding, or graduation party, it’s important to know how to speak and act as to not offend others. There are many rules when it comes to learning social graces. If you do end up saying the wrong thing, it’s best to simply apologize. Most people are sympathetic and forgiving.
  • A simple rule for introductions is to remember The “Six S’s”:

1. Smile.

2. See their eyes (make eye contact).

3. Say, “Hi.”

4. Shake hands.

5.  Say, “My name is            . What’s your name?”

6. Say, “Nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs.            .”  

  • Try not to look insecure, even you feel like the simple country mouse visiting the extravagant city mouse. Give affirming smiles to others and add to conversations.
  • As a last resort, if it’s difficult to join in other ongoing conversations, try standing in a line of people, like the bathroom line or the buffet line. Strike up a conversation with others who are also waiting and maybe you’ll make a friend.
  • If there are no more chairs available, give up your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman, or those with disabilities.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not talk about another person’s body or your own. Even if you’re hot, cold, or recovering from some sort of illness. It’s just not the stuff good conversations are made of and will lead to even more awkwardness.
  • It’s better to comment on what a person is, rather than what they do. For instance, “Sally is such a creative person.” sounds more affirming than “Sally likes to draw.”
  • Figure out your talking points. Try brainstorming about things you are good at talking about before a party.
  • Inquiring minds want to know, but please don’t share others’ personal information that you know they wouldn’t want others to know about.
  • Also, don’t gossip. Just avoid saying negative things about others, even if you add, “and we should pray for this person.”
  • In my writer’s group, Word Weavers Int’l., I learned the “sandwich method” of critique. When saying something that could be upsetting to someone, but it still needs to be said, first say something positive, then the hard truth, and follow up with something encouraging. For example when in a conversation with someone who is gossiping try, “You seem like a caring person, but maybe we shouldn’t talk about Kayla’s boyfriend troubles. Hey, she’s sitting on a chair in the corner by herself. Let’s invite her to sit with us.”
  • Nobody likes to listen to a one-sided conversation. Keep the flow going by asking others about what is going on in their lives.
  • Learn the art of wrapping up a conversation. Steer what you are talking about to lighter subjects, like “Wow, this was a fun party.” Then end with something positive like, “It was so nice to meet you, Mrs./Mrs.            . I really enjoyed our conversation.”
  • When you need to leave, simply tell the host/hostess, “I do wish I could stay, but I really have to go.” No need to explain why.
  • Write a thank you card to your host/hostess. A simple message of thanks for a great party let’s them know that their hard work of hospitality paid off.

Whatever the occasion, applying common rules of interpersonal communication can lay the groundwork on which relationships are built. Doors may open in the way of making a new friends, growing in empathy, or a building connections for a future career. So let’s start those conversations with our teens about what it means to have social graces.

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