Monthly Archives: April 2013

Special Abilities

super hero
super hero (Photo credit: demandaj)

Leaping out of tall buildings, shielding the pedestrian from an oncoming bus, elasto-arms that grab babies out of incoming trouble, x-ray vision. Those are some very awesome superpowers to have if we could have them.

As a mom, I believe I have some God-given gifts that allow me to predict when someone will have a meltdown, so I prevent it. I can see behind my head to the trouble  brewing behind (which is me peering to the window to see the reflected image of my daughter about to punch her brother in the face), I can produce a meal before I even hear the “I’m hungry”…also, I have the sudden appearance of fairy wings which allow me to become the Tooth Fairy and flit around their pillows before I deposit that coin. Oh, I have so many special powers. Mommy powers, I call them.

I was invited to a luncheon where I learned more about how a certain organization has helped Albertan parents dream big dreams for their kids with “special abilities” (instead of disabilities) and I liked the term very much. So much so, that I am going to spend the rest of my time telling you what my child’s special abilities include. As a caveat, I think my children, whether they are the ones with challenges or whether they are neurotypical, have some special abilities written into their make up.

J-man has the special ability to make people laugh at a fart joke. Don’t tell him that or he’ll be telling fart jokes all over the place and it will make the special ability not as special. He also has the ability to flap his hands and make strange noises that get him straight outside to do some “heavy work” like jumping on the trampoline. He can also use those abilities to get extra jobs done for mommy as I have him cart heavy baskets of laundry up and down the stairs.

He has another special ability that I like to watch. He collects bugs, cares for them and loves them like family members. Only, bugs don’t have a terribly long life span so this ability can last all summer as he replaces the bugs at an alarming rate.

His other, more amazing ability is the ability to state the obvious. This can come in handy when another sibling is doing something mischievous and he comes in to state the obvious to me because I have glazed over eyes (another of my super powers) and haven’t seen the mischief myself. We can be found with slightly red faces with embarrassment when he states loudly “Why don’t they throw their garbage in the trash where it should go?” He is truly curious why other people don’t follow the rules and says it loud enough that they do.

I love thinking about my children having special abilities. It puts the “having challenges” thing in a different light. The issues are still the same, but we can, as parents look at our “little heroes ” as having qualities that bring light and laughter into our world. Often, these children are the ones that press on in adversity and teach us a few lessons. Lessons on life, and lessons on lightening up when situations seem bleak.

Do you have kids with “special abilities?” I would like to hear about them and celebrate their awesomeness.

Thriving on structure…I’ve got to find ME some of that.

I’ve known for a long time that it was a very real possibility that we would have to pull J-man out of school and home school him full-time. I put off the doing of it because I knew that the decision had implications for the very structure, or lack of it, in our lives. There are other, more important, reasons why we took him out of school but the thought of what it meant for me as a mom to become a teacher and be on top of his education and the structure of it…well, I was happy to leave that up to the teacher at school. I am really distractable so the pressure to segment my time and not have interuptions getting in my way seemed an impossible task.

J-man thrives on structure. Before he could tell time he would ask me “How much longer until…?” or “What time is it?” He would base all of his life around the time on the clock. I just thought of it as a quirky little attribute when he was very young. Being able to tell time has made a world of difference in his world. He no longer has to ask me what time it is but he certainly keeps track of everything in our lives and chats on and on about how much longer it is until…everything. If I have told him something is going to happen, it is very disturbing for him to have that cancelled by weather, sickness or any other reason.

On the very first day of “doing” homeschool, I had him create a schedule for us. We determined what order we would do certain things at. Have we followed it? Ah, some of the time.

The good news is that we are FINISHED Science for the year. Can I have a witness?? Are other moms as excited when they finish a subject in APRIL? So, that leaves us with the other subjects. The subjects that he was doing at school are Math and Language Arts. Oy!  There are the other two reasons we put off Homeschooling until the very last straw. I received the curriculum before Easter Break. I didn’t touch them until after the holiday. I was avoiding it,really . Then the online teacher and I emailed a little discussion about it. Since he was barely passing in school, and it was hard to figure exactly where to start in the books,we decided that it was best to start at the beginning of the courses instead of plunk ourselves somewhere near the end (since it is April). That had me very stressed. The teacher reminded me that it was better for him to actually understand the basic concepts rather than push him ahead of where he was at. I could not argue with it. So, we are starting at the beginning.

I do not like Math and LA, but I am learning right along side my child. I am learning what a subject and predicate are. This is probably a very good thing, since I am writing two books at the moment. I should know the basics of writing too.

My life has not become any more structured in the last few weeks. Our lives are at the very core, scattered. Since my main squeeze is a Pastor, our phone rings at any moment and if I answer it can very well turn our morning into an afternoon. If someone shows up at our house, it sends J-man into an internal panic and his behaviour goes a little nutty. He likes structure, so anything that messes with it can cause him to get in a tizzy. This is an interesting balance to figure out.

We are feeling our way through it. I am relieved to have one subject done, another almost done and then two more that we are starting at the beginning with. Who knows if we will get anywhere near “done” by June. I am trying not to panic about it.

I just want to figure out how to draw boundaries that will ensure our structure a little more predictably.

Life without the Personal Space Bubble

Bent over the white paper of his assignment booklet he grasps his pencil as if his life depended on it. Furrowed brow, mouth hanging open he concentrates on the words he writes, erasing the occasional misspelled word. At school, one of the major issues he faced was with focusing in the classroom setting. At home, he concentrates like a champ in our structured times.

Then, there are the unstructured times. Following me every step of my day is a boy who has no real sense of boundaries and social graces when he is just looking for a friend. During the school day that friend would be, no one else but….me. I am his teacher in those teacher moments, I am his buddy in those non-school moments and I am his mother all those times and the times in between. Being the only child in our Home School of One is a lonely gig, when he’s used to children being everywhere, whether he’s at school or at home. This whole transition of being at home alone all day has been an “interesting” experiment for us both.

I like personal space and boundaries. If there were personal space bubbles that could bounce people out of my personal space when they get too close, I would buy a lifetime’s supply of them. I, without being aware of it, gave up my bubble for the closeness of two children who don’t seem to care that I need a buffer zone. My other two children love affection but they don’t follow me around the house the way the other two do. My oldest and youngest (the ones with challenges) follow me around closer than a shadow. I have to watch that I don’t turn around too fast or I may swing my arm and elbow into them. If I don’t look as I turn, I may trip over them or full-on body check them. Backing up can be tricky, depending on how many are standing in my personal space behind me without me knowing.

personal space
personal space (Photo credit: frankh)

Hugging, touching and wrestling with my children are activities which I look forward to. I love to have them close…for a time. Then, I like them to step back into their personal bubbles and have some time to themselves. Or, at the very least, follow me from a  two foot radius around me.

You can find me snuggling any number of children on my lap or beside me during the day. I’ll play with my girls’ hair or rub another child’s back if they are sitting near me. I don’t mind them being close at all, most of the time.

There was a time last week when I was shopping and I was trying to compare prices and products. It’s one of those situations where I may have to change my direction with my body unpredictably as I move back and forth from product to product or aisle to aisle. I became aware of J-man’s penchant for shadowing me in situations like this. I would tell him “Please, just stay by the cart” but there would be something he HAD to tell me that required him coming inches in front of me while I was trying to read a box and he could not wait for one more second to tell me his important news, such as “Mom, did you see that guy over there? He was wearing a green shirt.” Important stuff here. Glad you told me son. Now, I have to reread the box’s tiny list of ingredients so I can find if any offensive artificial coloring is in it. At which point he is desperate to talk to me about a thing that happened last week when one of his siblings said something or other to him. Speaking to me right in the face is how he makes sure I am paying attention. Not a bad strategy, though it gets rather tiresome for me when he has something to say every 10 seconds.

It started to drive me a bit batty. Especially since he’s been shadowing me at home too. I didn’t notice it when he was in school. But now that he’s home all day, it seems that I need a personal space bubble for me so that he can figure out that he just can’t come up behind me and start talking. It could give his poor momma a heart attack!

I miss my little personal time, as limited as it was. Oh did I ever have any? Really?

He’s not the only one that pops that imaginary bubble of personal space. My little gal does it too.  “Mom, UP!” My five-yr-old cries. Yes, she’s five. Yes, she still requires a lot of Momma’s time and a bucketfull of cuddles everyday.  My sweet child is as big as an 8 yr old giant. Snuggling includes sitting down with her, and not carrying her around like you can do with a small 5 yr old. She also has no awareness of personal boundaries and has been known to hug and kiss her friends at school. Yee haw!  Teachers probably wonder at what I do to make these kids so free of personal space rules.

Since homeschooling J-man I have come to value “me” time. Value? Heck, if I could grab some I would pay a pretty penny for it.

I’m not sure if any other momma’s to special needs kids feel the same way but I need a Personal Space Bubble. If anyone is selling, I’ll buy.

A bubble.
A bubble. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Autism Awareness Day

How do you tell a high-functioning child he has Autism? How do you tell a child that wants to be like everyone else that he is different? How do you say those words without crushing his spirit?

My son knows he has a vague thing called “Aspergers Syndrome” and we’ve talked about how it affects him (sensory and learning, a bit about social issues), but never about how it looks to other people. He can pass as a neuro-typical most days and unless you look hard he could be just any other kid with all the hopes and dreams of every other boy.

He has noticed kids with disabilities around him and will say “that kid that acts weird” or  “Why do they do stupid stuff” not realizing that what that other kid is doing is exactly what he does. How do you tell him?

People with Aspergers tend to be very black and white type people. What is true is true and there is little to change their mind about it. If I tell him that he is just like “that kid” or that he has the same thing called “Autism/Aspergers” then that would really mess with him…to compare him.

So, in his mind, if that kid is weird then that kid is weird. I can do all the sensitivity training I can, and we do …and he kind of gets that we need to be kind to everyone and that everyone has value no matter how unique they are.  We try to give him a script of what to say and what not to say.

I have explained disabilities but never used the word for him. I don’t see him as disabled. But he certainly is different from the regular joe.

The gap between he and his peers is getting wider. I hate to see it, but it is.

Ironically, as an Aspie with social skill issues, he values his friendships extremely highly. Too much so, at times. He loves his friends and wants to be with them often. Taking him out of school was hard that way. His friends are starting to see the gap widen as well. I can see that perhaps there will be a thinning of the crowd, a testing of who is truly a friend or not. I also see that this could be very painful for my boy.

Having an “Invisible Disability” is challenging. I am often thankful that he is as high functioning as he is. He has a lot of potential. I secretly wish, at times, that his “disability” was more visible. He doesn’t have to have crutches or a wheelchair, which automatically identifies a person with challenges and affords them some understanding. No, he has no outward physical characteristics that he is challenged in some way.

Actually, I think there are physical characteristics that he shares with other Aspies, but it’s just a theory and I haven’t researched if I am correct or not. I’ll have to share this in another post.

His siblings also know that J-man is different and has “Aspergers”, which we don’t really emphasize at all. Yesterday was “Autism Awareness Day” and they were supposed to wear blue in support. They all wore blue but I’m pretty sure they didn’t know that they were wearing in support of their own brother.

I am really confused about how to handle these things.

How do you say “YOU have Autism.”

Anyone have experience or words of wisdom?

 

Insomnia and Mental health

We’ve dealt with insomnia for a very long time here.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I have had troubles sleeping since I was but a wee child. Ironically, I married a man who also has trouble sleeping. He has tossed, turned, talked in his sleep and has been a very active “sleeper” since before I married him. I suspect we both suffered with loss of sleep for much of our lives.

Then, more ironically, we adopted our sweet son, who also has severe issues with sleeping.

What is the common thread here? Anxiety. There, I said it. We all suffer from some of that, plus a good dose of unique issues that we were born with. For our J-man, he had night terrors from early on. He slept relatively well for the first year. Then sometime, around two years of age, he would wake up screaming. He would not settle unless I yelled over his screaming, woke him up, consoled him and laid him back in bed. Poor guy. I would feel so guilty yelling at my little fella, but it was the only way. The other way he would stay calm is if we let him sleep in our room, which he did many nights, on the floor. It seemed that he was more peaceful when he fell asleep beside us. I did not relate it to anxiety back then.

Then there was school. Oh my. School has been a source of unbridled stress for him. I didn’t know that his nightmares were related to stress until well into the first grade. Not only did he have nightmares, but would often walk in his sleep. We could predict exactly what time at night it would be, too. We had some very serious issues arise that year that led us to seek Mental Health help. We still did not have a formal diagnosis, which didn’t help at all. We all just realized he was dealing with social issues at school that were causing deep anxiety and depression. He was only 6 then. I thought that was much too young to be dealing with these kind of things. The therapist was a lovely lady, but unfortunately she ended up with serious health issues of her own, which ended her career and left us wondering where to go next.

We discovered Melatonin some time in the second grade. It was a miracle worker!  It seemed to help him fall asleep when NOTHING else could. He was responding so much better to stress, over all, because he was getting sleep. Who knew that sleep was so important?

Eventually, we got a diagnosis, which I knew from early on. It was helpful having it on paper and getting more serious help for our boy. Finding the people to support us has been an ongoing challenge. We have had to drive hours for a trained child psychologist, who has been a blessing. We have found a psychiatrist, who is wonderful, in the city near us. We are so thankful that she is a balanced (and “normal”) Dr. who prescribes only when all other alternatives have been exhausted. She has been helpful in dealing with specific issues and encourages the strategies I have found and tried. She has suggested several minerals and vitamins over the years which have been helpful. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about health alternatives but have not met that many Doctors who readily talk about vitamins with me as remedies. It is refreshing!

Having the right support at the right time is crucial. I wish I had more in the first years we were here. It has been like banging my head against a wall with several organizations around the area. We live in a rural area that has only one small city near it. Otherwise we have to drive, drive, drive. The small city, itself, has had challenges in providing services due to a lack of specialists, therapists etc. It is getting a bit better but there are other issues at play as well. The school itself deals with not having readily available services for their special needs kids. I won’t go into that as it could start me on a rant. Also, I need to write some letters to tell the school board of the inefficiencies before I go on about it here.

For kids with special needs, and especially high functioning children on the ASD spectrum, a good Mental Health support is necessary. Often, when a special need is “invisible” it’s easy to forget the needs the child may have. If I don’t pay attention to our J-man’s specific needs I see the effects spill into all areas of our lives. It’s important for the family’s health to be mindful and aware.

I am thankful that God has been so clear when it seems that we come to the end of our knowledge. He is infinitely knowledgeable and loving. He loves and cares for our “Aspie” in ways we can’t. I am blessed to know that our boy has a relationship with Him. We have seen God answer prayers for healing, help and health by providing us with what we need when we need it. Sometimes we feel like we are floundering around. Even then, His hand is in our lives.

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