Parenting is a roller coaster of emotions. Autism parenting is a very fast, very high, very intense roller coaster of emotions. The kind of roller coaster you find in Bush Gardens. The kind I never get on. But I am riding this one, everyday. For the most part this ride involves a lot of screaming and holding on for dear life, but there are also times when the roller coaster crests for a minute and I get a chance to breath and feel something else … thankful. This thanksgiving weekend seems like a good time to talk about that emotion.
I am thankful for my children, all their strengths, quirks, needs, stims, talents, special interests, everything. Every bit that makes them special and makes them mine.
I am thankful for other ASD parents who ride the roller coaster with me and are there to discuss the ride, whether it be over wine or over the internet, they have my undying gratitude. Thank you!
I am thankful for social stories (thank you Carol Grey) and visuals and schedules and power cards and reward charts and all the things that make the lives of the many children I love easier.
I am thankful for the waitress/ store clerk/ flight attendant/ hair dresser/ etc that I randomly cross paths with, who instantly get it and are kind to my children with out being patronizing. Those people are gems.
I am thankful for ipads, OMG I am so thankful for the ipad. Although I have guilt about the amount of time my child spends on it I value it for its calming and entertainment powers.
I am thankful for the teachers and doctors and other professionals that have come into my children’s’ lives and have been such a tremendous support to them and to me. You know who you are because I would have told you over and over and over. Well I am telling you again, Thank You!
I am thankful for trampolines, puzzles, swings, clothes that have no tags, Dominion’s gluten free section, Rainbow Riders, fidgets toys, Disney, Shakespeare, yoga pants (for both Hayley and I ☺ ) supportive family, deep breathing and wine (that one is all me).
Thank you my lovely blog followers, I am thankful for you. I hope your roller coaster crests long enough this weekend for you to feel thankful too. If not, know that I will be holding tight and screaming along with you.
This week little Johnny/Joanie/Hayley is going back to school (even though I am in denial).
This makes me feel a little nervous (I have been having school nightmares for weeks and I think my hair may be falling out)
I can be brave about Johnny/Joanie/ Hayley going back to school (wine can help).
I can prepare the teachers with a little write up (plus multiple meetings, emails, and a bribe if necessary)
I can prepare by purchasing school supplies (and cutting the tags off all the most comfortable clothes I could find, laminating visuals, purchasing sensory equipment, preparing multiple social stories and upping my medications).
My friends and family will be so proud that I am coping with this (when and if that day ever comes, right now they are barely tolerating my rantings).
My child will be so proud that I am coping with this (my child couldn’t care less and really has enough concerns about going back of his or her own to worry about).
I will be so proud of myself for coping (if I manage to let go of the back of my child’s coat with out school staff having to intervene I will reward myself with a martini and a whole cake).
It is going to be a great year (it probably will be but I will still be like this again next September ☺ ).
Well it is nearly that time of year again. The time when our children have to take off their pyjamas, put down their iPads and face the outside world again. At least that’s what going back to school means in my house. This transition can be riddled with anxiety and fear, but enough about us parents, it’s not easy for our kids either. So what can we do to make the transition easier?
Some of the things I have tried I’m sure you guys are trying too. In the two weeks leading up to school I start to adjust bedtime and wake time bit by bit until it resembles the school year schedule. We schedule things like haircuts, outing to pick out a new book bag and the like to make it feel celebratory. For some of my really reluctant little students I have even recommended a “next grade” party. Something that celebrates the move to a higher grade complete with a present and of course cake. Social stories are a staple in this house and going back to school requires a good one. Last year’s story focused on the idea that going to school was Hayley’s job just like my job was to look after her and work so I could buy her treats. This year’s will focus on the move to high school and the importance of working hard to learn about the various subjects. My social story this year will be about not drinking martinis in the school parking lot and then storming the office shouting “I’m not ready for high school”. I am thinking I may need a more intense intervention.
For the people who know me they know there is one word that comes up often in program planning. That word is advent calendar. That’s right, they are not just for Christmas anymore. I use advent calendars for everything. Potty training? Make an advent calendar. Going on a trip? You need an advent calendar for sure. For those who don’t know me so well you may be thinking "what kind of foolishness is this, has this woman spent too much time with the Christmas Wishbook" (for the record … yes!). The advent calendar idea is simply a way to count down to an event, especially an event that may have associated anxiety. For school I usually start about 5 days before but you know your own children best and may choose to have more days or less in the countdown. I have little gifts that will prepare the child for the event. In this case school, so school supplies (fun ones) are a good choice. You can use numbered gift bags or little boxes, some families go all in and make little doors in a cardboard box that their child can open each day. No matter what way you do it the idea is that your child will open a small gift each day as a way to count down to the first day of school. This pairs a positive feeling with the idea of returning to school and helps your child slowly adjust to the idea of the transition. For those parents who feel they need an advent calendar too may I suggest you get your inspiration from the inside of a mini bar. But that is a whole other blog post.
These are just some of the ideas I have tried. I’d love to hear yours. Write me quick, first day of school is coming.
A magazine I read occasionally had a feature where they would ask celebrities to fill in the blank to the sentence “ I love my __________ life”. Every time I saw it I would try to fill in the blank myself. I love my complicated life? I love my awesome life? I love my dysfunctional/ fun/ in crisis/ unexpected/ @#$%&/ amazing life?
One thing I never put in the blank was the word typical. Now I do often wonder if there is anyone living a so-called typical life out there. But if they are, I surely am not. I am a mom. It is perhaps the thing that most defines me. I have a daughter. A beautiful, vivacious, horse riding, puzzle mastering, optimist. She is going into grade ten and has Autism and OCD. I also have a son. He is our resident poet, Shakespeare authority, singer, actor and university student. His complexities come with the labels OCD, ADHD and very mild Asperger’s. I am a wife to a busy man I have been with since I was fifteen, and if I were to own up to the age on my drivers license that’s a long time. On the surface we look like a pretty regular family, one mom, one dad, a boy and a girl and a cat. As well, to fill out the group, we have a grandmother and grandfather living above the garage. That is kind of where the regular stops. Well that’s not really true, the cat is the picture of stability. But our normal is a new kind of normal that includes the daily use of words like sensory seeking, dysregulation, meltdown, and stress tolerance. In my family’s “normal” our activities are carefully planned around therapy, health, and sensory overload as apposed to social schedules.
My main job is educating, advocating for, nurturing and loving this unique family of mine. But on the side I also get the privilege of looking after some other awesome families as well. I work with families as they navigate the world of having a child with complex needs. I get to become part of their family, meet their pets, and cuddle their children. I have an awesome job!
Some days my life is riding high, perhaps one of my children or one of my “work children” accomplishes something amazing. Some days my life is a little lower, a school meltdown or a funny look from a stranger. And many days my life feels wonderful because we had a pretty ordinary day, and in a special needs family those days are treasures. All in all I’ll take the lows with the highs and all the in between. So I guess I would have to say I love my WHOLE life, even if some days a piece of cake and a sugar rimmed martini is needed to give me the strength to live another day. Tell me about your life. How would you fill in the blank?
Well here I am, about to embark on a new adventure … blogging. This may be my first time writing a blog but it is not my first time thinking about it. I have sat many times, paralyzed by lack of confidence, writers block and mostly the fear that someone will say something mean to me. My hand is forced, however, by a space on my new website that is labeled blog and looks funny with no words in it. So here goes. Now don’t get me wrong I am no stranger to the Facebook status... and I can write a comment with out breaking a sweat. But this feels more personal and yet public at the same time. My children do brave, unfamiliar things all the time so I will learn from their example and take the plunge.
The first thing I needed to do was to choose a name. Again the paralysis sets in. What if the name is already being used, is too cute, is not cute enough? I thought of all kinds of variations using my last name, Moore Madness, Moore Memories, Muddled Moores. But those titles left me feeling Mooretified (sorry, sometimes I can’t be stopped). Besides if I was only going to focus on my own family I’d call it, “and this is why I drink” and be done with it.
So I reflected on my purpose for writing a blog, other than to fill up that space on my website. It will be a space, I hope, to share some ideas that I have tried with my children and my clients over the years. Ideas and programs I have tried in the areas of Autism, Asperger’s, OCD, ADHD, anxiety, and all kinds of challenging words that start with a vowel. Some of these ideas worked first go, many took lots of tweaking to get it right. Each idea had to be individualized for each new individual but they often gave me a place to start. Many times, just like this blog, I didn’t know where to start and had to take a leap of faith. Sometimes it is just a matter of trying something, and if that doesn’t work trying something else. So with that as my inspiration I decided to call my blog, “So then I tried …” . I hope my efforts help you as you generate your own ideas. If you too have found something that has worked feel free to share it. I might try it next.
Paulette Moore is a mother of two, wife of one, and autism consultant of many.