Thursday, December 8, 2016

Parenting the Night of the Program

The night is here. It’s time for the program. If possible, mom and dad should go separately if there are other children in the family participating in the program. Why? Let’s explore the reasons.

1) It is important to be sitting near an aisle toward the front of the auditorium. This enables a quick retrieval, if necessary. This will take one parent getting to the church/school early to secure this seating. Believe me, lots of parents want to be right up front and will be there early with cameras in hand.

2 It is best if the child with learning differences doesn’t have to get there early. This program can cause sensory overload, no reason to make him (or you) endure it any longer than necessary. On the way to school/church, go over the schedule, the behavior expectations and anything else you might think of. It’s important to go over the “what if this happens?” There are always unexpected things that happen. Do your best to help your child mentally prepare for them. I might add, read the social story(many times) you’ve written in the week preceding the concert.

Be willing to “exit stage right, if it’s just not going well. With learning differences, there’s always next year.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Social Story for School Concert

On Thursday night, December _____, John will be in the school Christmas Concert with his class.

John will go to school all day that day. During the day, John and his class will go to the gym and practice for the program. The teacher will tell the class all the things that will happen during the program. After program practice John and his class will go back to the classroom and do school work.

When school is dismissed, mom will pick John up from class. They will drive home. John will watch one episode of Scooby Doo. When the show is over, John will take a shower. After the shower, John will eat some food with his family. After eating, it will be time for John to change into his dress up clothes mom has laid on his bed. When it is 5:30, mom, dad and John will leave to go to school for the program.

Dad will get a seat in the gym while mom waits with John outside the gym doors. When John’s class comes by John he will get in line where his teacher tell him. Mom will go into the gym and sit with dad. John will walk with his class and stand on the risers just like in practice. John will look out at the crowd and watch the music teacher and follow her directions. The songs that he and his class will sing are

At the end of the song, the class will walk off the risers and John’s teacher will help him find his parents. John and his parents will leave the concert and go home.

Mom and Dad are so excited to see and hear John in the concert.

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Advocating: The School Program

The Christmas season has so many special moments. One place this is seen is the local school. I know it’s the winter program or the holiday concert but for most of us…’s the Christmas season. Since my son struggled with change or things that were different, I have always needed to think through any accommodations he might need during this time.
Here are some things that may cause anxiety to a learning different child during the month of December.

1. The elementary music program. There is a lot of standing, requirements of uncomfortable dress up clothes, long waits, following directions and touching of others (even if it’s an accident) during the program.
2. Even attending a school program can cause problems. A jazz concert may be soooo loud for a child with auditory sensitivities. The concert may last a long time and postpone the child’s bedtime causing behavior difficulties.
3. A child’s sense of routine may be “ruined” by a party or special program. “We HAVE to have recess today…..that’s the rule!
4. Special activities in class such as building gingerbread houses or crafts for parent gifts may cause a huge amount of anxiety.
5. The more events that are “out of the normal” routine, the more thought will be needed for accommodations.

Over the next few days, it may be good to look at your child’s schedule at school this month. If it looks a little too stressful, then a plan should be formulated to help him handle December a little better. Tomorrow’s post will cover possible accommodations for school.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mixed Emotions

A few weeks ago I wrote about the process of letting go! My son left today to go back to college and I certainly have some conflicting emotions. My emotions are different than many of my fellow mom friends who have children living outside the home. Honestly, I've only been on this road for a few months so I'm still figuring out how I feel. Anyone who knows me could say, "Ruth, what are you talking about? This is your third time around sending a child off to college!" This is true and I have to say that I have seen homesickness, roommate problems and lots of frustration with children flying out of the nest.

Through the years, my role has been one of mom, counselor, packer, shopper and academic/ relational consultant. Launching children out of the nest has taken some pushing and compassion. It was sometimes well received but not always. Conflicting emotions has always been part of the process. This was the story of my high achieving ready for college daughters.


When it came to launching to my son to college, it was a slow process. He sort of had a gap year taking one class per semester that first year of community college. Adapting to this new world had a lot of ups and downs. I mean a LOT! It was a learning curve for me and an even bigger one for him. He spent three years at this small campus. I advocated less than when he was younger but I still had that role.


Our son has gone away to college this year. From my husband and my point of view, it has been wonderful. He is growing as a person so much. There is a lot of ground to still cover but believing he is in the right place brings a lot of peace. He is in a program to support students with autism. There is so much relief knowing he has the support he needs to be successful. So much of the last 20 years has been about being his advocate. I still advocate a little but a lot of that role has been given to others. Do I miss it? NO! It is wonderful not needing to do it! That means that I have a child diagnosed on the autism spectrum who is not sitting in the basement playing video games. Talk to any parent of a teenager diagnosed with autism. A life of video games is a real fear!

On the other hand, it is so hard to see the fear and anxiety that my son shows dealing with leaving home to go back to college. Home is a good life! The demands for work, independence and socialization are much lower at home. It is so hard to watch this kind of emotion well up in my son as he has had a lot of real world "firsts" in the last three months. I know he would love for us to let him live the life of "easy" at home. My husband and I have gently pushed him (he hasn't always seen it as gentle) to conquer the "next hill" so he could become all that God has for him. At times, it would be easy to just let him be "happy" but he would cease to grow. It is hard on my emotions to watch and deal with the struggle but the happiness and joy I see in him as he grows, keeps me in this uncomfortable spot.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oh No, the Family Gatherings are Coming

Thanksgiving is the beginning of a month of family gatherings.Since there is not enough time to deal with what an aunt thinks. Don't worry about that cousin's opinion who has a child the same age who sits at the table and colors with crayons for hours. This is not the time to tackle all of those relationships. Honestly, most moms with a child with learning differences just wants to survive. I know, thriving would be better but sometimes surviving is good enough!

But how do I survive? How can my child do well with this whole holiday thing? Here are a few ideas.
Talk to the host of each gathering. Share your need for a schedule with times that the meal will be served and what will be on the menu. Bring food for this child if you need her to stay on a specific diet. Ask the hostess/host for a place she can eat that is quieter and not over stimulating.
Make the visit short, if possible. This will give a better chance for success.
Prepare your child for the things you are aware. Try to think of possible scenarios that “could” occur. Come up with a plan for those situations. Go over all of these with your child several times.
Take a sensory kit or familiar toys that your child can play. Ahead of time, ask the host/hostess for a space that your child can use to nap or calm down if things become overwhelming.
Take some visual supports to the event that can be used in lieu of verbal communication especially if your child is over stimulated
Concentrate on your child, don’t worry about what other opinions are. There is no perfect way to parent so don’t let any of your relatives get “under your skin.” Save your emotional energy to parent your child/ren.
Remember, every year is a learning experience for everyone involved. This isn’t a social situation that can be practiced often. Often, it takes several years of practice before things get easier. Realize this and try to relax and allow your family celebration to happen. Join in as much as you can but manage your stress. It will help your child.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Letting Go

As a special needs parent, letting go sounds strange. A child with learning differences needs a parent for so many things. He needs that parent to help him in more ways than his siblings or classmates. He requires this kind of support for a lot longer than others. So how does letting go look with a child diagnosed with a disability?

Letting go is allowing a child to do things on his own as much as possible. I only can share what that has meant in my life as a mom. I remember sending my son to summer Bible camp. I wrote a book (that's a little exaggerated) for the camp personnel. I went early to drop him off to meet with counselors and nursing staff. I talked to the nurses several times that first week. It would of been easier to go and stay at the camp for the week. It did not go beautifully that first summer. It was only for five days but it was hard for everyone involved. The second summer and all those after went much better. It was important to leave him at camp that first summer. It was part of letting go as the hovering protective mother that I was in those days.

Recently, my son went away to college. He is 22 and receives some extra supports to manage this transition. He attended a community college part-time for three years and lived at home. He went off to college later than his high school friends but I know that many little steps along the way over many years enabled this to happen. Letting go was something I needed to do in steps over a lot of years. My son had to let go of the comfort he finds in being at home. He has taken smaller steps over the last several years to let go and take new steps.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to Comparison Shop

Shopping is like like a game of intrigue for me. I LOVE finding a deal! Not everyone in my family share the thrill I get from this. In fact my son, has never understood this. When it came to purchases, he thought it was my job to make sure he had what he needed. That meant I did the shopping. Sometimes he would let me know if he needed something and ask me to stop and get it. Other times, I said, "Come on, let's go get it." If we were going to pick up a video game, he was ready to get in the car and go! Now, if we were going to replace his worn out shoes, he wasn't excited.

For the most part, shopping was a non preferred activity. And finding a good deal was a real NON-PREFERRED activity. There were so many things to teach him about shopping for the right option for the best price. The internet has been a good tool. In the beginning of teaching this skill, I would make my son sit with me and I would look up an item and find out where it was sold. There are so many ways to compare prices using the Internet or comparison apps. Once we did that, there were buying choices.

1. We (I ) could purchase online. At this stage, I filled out the information that Amazon, WalMart or Target required and ordered it.

2. We could go to the store where the item was sold and look for it.

3. After a while, I asked him to use his phone. Before going to many places, I asked my son son to call the store and see if it had the item in stock. This was a SUPER NON-PREFERRED activity. It took a lot of encouragement as well as making the phone call a prerequisite for preferred purchases and activities. I did a lot of modeling and prompting to teach my son how to ask for the information over the phone.

4. Next steps were making purchases himself. As there are so many ways to make purchases: cash, debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, reloadable debit and online. There were a lot of skills he needed before he could make a purchase. Every card reader is different. He had to practice how to use different ones at a variety of stores. He had to learn how to get points for purchases at Walgreens and CVS. He also needed to be taught how to order things by himself online. I will speak honestly here, this was a long and tedious process.

A few weeks ago, my son called from college. He didn't want to ride the bus to WalMart (no surprise) but he wanted some Pepsi for his dorm room. He had gone to a convenience store on campus and checked the price. He called me and asked if it was too expensive. I said it was a little higher than WalMart but not a lot. I told him it was probably worth it to spend a few more cents to save an hour of time. In the past, I had directed the price comparison. This time, he was! That was a great day for this mom!