How to Teach Your Kids about Children with Autism

I was reading a post about a mom who encountered a child with Autism trying to integrate and learn how to play appropriately at a park with other children. The child with Autism hit her child and she wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I appreciated her willingness to ask how to handle the situation and it showed compassion and empathy. The responses from other moms was heartbreaking. “I would tell my kid to stay away from kids like that” and “I would tell that mom to get her child under control.” However, there was a lot of moms who were compassionate and really just wanted to know how to teach their kids about other kids with Autism. Hence my blog today.

I am going to tell you what we told our son Tucker (5) when trying to explain to him why Wyatt acts differently then other kids and has Autism.

  • Autism is when a child has a hard time processing things and make take a little longer to respond or do something you want him to do. (I keep it very simple for kids to understand)
  • Wyatt can be very hyper and excited when playing with other kids and has a hard time with following rules or having boundaries and might stand to close to you. He might scream really loudly because he is very excited your playing with him and just doesn’t realize how loud he is.
  • When out in public, he can become overwhelmed with sounds and lights and has a hard time focusing. So if you ask him to stop doing something and he keeps doing it, it is because he mind is overwhelmed with noises. You might need to ask a few times to get their attention.
  • A child with Autism can have a hard time processing their words and being able to express themselves. For example, he might be upset because he really wants a turn on the slide but instead of telling you, he can get upset or scream.
  • Wyatt can be very physical and like to bounce of couches, or tackle you because it makes his body feel good. He doesn’t have a sense of where his body is so his body has to be always touching something and the more pressure he puts on his body, the better.
  • Some children with Autism don’t like to be touched at all and might get upset if you try and hug them or touch them.
  • Children with Autism don’t understand if you are happy, sad, laughing, or mad. So, if you are running around playing tag and touch them on the shoulder, he might think you are hitting him and not playing.

Most importantly that we tell our kids that children with Autism have feelings and being compassionate and empathetic towards them if key. That they work hard with therapists to work on their symptoms and they can be great friends.

I get asked a lot the best ways to teach their children about other kids with Autism, so I hope this blog helped. Remember that these are very general items and that every child with Autism is different.  I love it when parents or kids ask me about Wyatt to better understand him, so please reach out to the parents. We will tell you with pride, everything about our Wyatt.

 

 

Autism Awareness Month

Today is Autism Awareness Day and I couldn’t be more proud to be this guys mama. This year he started Kindergarten, learned to swim, played on a team sport, learned to drive a golf cart and a go cart, braved getting on a bike, learned how to read facial expressions and know how people feel, started giving hugs, started giving kisses, greets me at the door and asks how my day was. He has made friends all on his own, loves to crack jokes, bother his brother, and cuddle with mama and dada. He has learned how to be flexible and not have melt downs, he loves to be tickled, and his laugh is infectious. He earned his first award at school, and had his first “girlfriend.” He is so much more then a boy with Autism, he is a boy who is kicking Autism in the ass and doing everything the doctors told us he might never do. He has given our family so much pride and every accomplishment was achieved with his pure determination. I used to struggle with his diagnosis because I feared his future, know I embrace it because he won’t let anything get on his way. His path might be different, but the end result is what we make of it and the end result is determined by us. This boy is everything and has my heart. ❤️FullSizeRender

I Don’t Have My Shit Together When it Comes to Me…..

As a mother, I spend the majority of my time taking care of everyone else. The picture shows a prescription on the left for a Mammogram dated 9/2016 and on the right is a prescription for lab work for my thyroid from seven months ago. Obviously neither has been done. I am also a year overdue for my teeth cleaning and has cancelled her cavity fillings appointment two different times. I finally got my hair done after someone commented that they like me as a brunette. Considering I am blonde, it went over as well as someone in my office telling me I looked tired, when I actually had slept thru the night.

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Meanwhile, Tucker and Wyatt are signed up for OCGym, skateboarding lessons, T-Ball, and Camp James. They are well dressed, hair is combed, and relatively clean….depends on the time of day you see them. They make all of their doctor appointments and the paperwork is even filled out ahead of time. After searching 7 different ABA therapy companies for Wyatt, he is signed up and the 2 hours worth of paperwork completed. I even completed the additional 2 hours of paperwork for Wyatt’s school evaluation and yearly IEP meeting. Every therapy appointment is booked and attended. The bills are paid, stove repaired, and fence fixed. Property taxes are paid, yearly tax workbook is filled out and includes all the necessary paperwork is attached. At work, my budget has been submitted and approved, 500 page Business Plan is being worked on and every Action Item is submitted on time. The three business trips over the last two months, have been attended by me and successful. The one week work retreat I am hosting starting tomorrow is ready and am looking forward to working on our Business Plan.

Yet, I have my hair in a mom bun, no makeup on and I am pretty sure I didn’t shower. I am wearing the same outfit that I wore to dinner last night, because I was to tired to come up with a new outfit. I am pretty sure my nails have the remnants of a New Years Eve polish and quite frankly I think the last time I shaved my legs was because I was getting a pedicure. Why do we make ourselves the last priority? Why do we make sure everyone’s needs are meet before ours?

I think my biggest challenge as a full time working mom is TIME. I just don’t have it. People say, “you just need to schedule time.” When?? I am up at 7 am getting kids ready for school, then work from 8-5 pm and then home with kids doing our nightly routine. I don’t sit down until they go to bed and by them I am exhausted. This also include my husband helping with the kids. We then eat dinner and try to take a break before falling asleep. I used to read 100 pages a night of a good book, now I am pretty sure I am asleep before my head hits the pillow.

I hope you didn’t read this blog hoping I would have the answers…LOL

I would love to hear from other moms and dads, how do you make the time to take care of yourself? How do you carve out the time? What special things do you do to make yourself a priority?

Adulting is hard.

Thanks,

H

Lack of Empathy and Compassion

We have entered a world where people can post whatever the want on message boards, Facebook posts, and blogs without any accountability or consequence. We have entered a world where people judge other people and don’t have any empathy for the people they judge. When my son was diagnosed with Autism, we entered a world where my husband and I have been accused of being lazy parents, parents who don’t enforce rules, and whose child is out of control due to our lack of parenting.

We have entered a world when a little boy with Autism is having a meltdown due to sensory overload in a parking lot and somebody videotapes it and posts in on Facebook. We have entered a world where instead of showing empathy and compassion for the parent or child there are comments about the child being retarded, should be beaten, the parents shouldn’t procreate, the child shouldn’t be let out of the house, the child is spoiled, the child will be the guy who kills kids in a school shooting, or my favorite, the parents are lazy and have no parenting skills.

We have entered a world where there have been numerous times I have come home in tears because my son was having a meltdown and people judged me as a bad parent because they were uneducated as to what Autism is. It took me a few years to not give a shit and realize that my number one focus was my son and if they weren’t educated about Autism then that was on them. What is scary is that with all the Autism Awareness and education, there are still people who lack understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Please see the attached photos, which are actual comments that were posted below the video of a child with Autism having a meltdown. In the post it states that the child has Autism, yet the comments show no empathy and compassion. They blame the parents even though they have never meet them or understand their struggles.

Now imagine that your child has Autism and you are reading these posts.

We live in a world were children are cruel and bullies are abundant and we wonder why? We live in a world with hate and school shootings and we wonder why? We live in a world where children commit suicide and we wonder why? We live in a world where people who love people of the same gender are killed solely based on their sexual preferences and we wonder why? We live in a world where people will riot and hurt others based on their political preference and we wonder why?

Everybody has issues and nobody is perfect. Why do we all try so hard to present this perfect image? Aren’t we creating more problems and issues trying to keep our problems and issues quiet?

I ask that as you wake up each morning and try and live a life not judging others and teach your children as well. I want to live in a world were we teach our children they don’t have to be perfect; not the best at sports or school but they always try their hardest. I want to be part of a world that teaches empathy and compassion. I want to live in a world where if a parent is struggling, we step up and help. I want to live in a world where we support and encourage each other. Help each other thru struggles and challenges. I want to live in a world where before you are able to post a comment on a message board, Facebook post, or blog, you ask yourself if you would say the same thing to your mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son.

Just my random thoughts for the day.

xx H

Encouraging Positive Behavior

I am sure if you read my blog, you will see numerous posts that are titled, “Encouraging Positive Behavior” because it is truly the most important aspect in your parenting to avoid meltdowns and to give your children the tools they need to be successful in life. Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s coach; you’re coaching them thru life and helping them make good choices and avoid bad ones.

This last weekend we were at the park. I bring cars, buckets, bubbles and basically any highly desired toy and lay them all out in the sand where we are sitting. I do this to encourage kids to come over to my children and play. I am essentially forcing social interaction to help my kids to interact with other kids and promote positive play.

While I was sitting and playing with a bunch of kids, I am watching this little boy running around the playground with his mom following him around. She was catering to his every need and anytime something didn’t go his way, he started throwing a fit. His mom would then let him do whatever he wanted, so he would stop crying. At one point, he tried to steal a kids toy and when the kid started crying, he hit the boy. The mother looked horrified, however she didn’t force the child to apologize and there was no consequence for his behavior. She apologized to the child and parent and moved on.

A few minutes later the little boy came running over to our group and wanted to play. The mom looked overwhelmed and I offered the boy a seat next to me. We started talking and she was voicing her frustrating with her child’s behavior. I told her that my son has Autism and I have been trained in ABA therapy and would she mind if I used some of my methods to see what happens. She agreed and we started playing.

A couple of basic tools/rules that I used included the following:

  1. If you want to borrow a toy from someone else, you need to ask permission and say please. The other child can say yes or no, however if they say no, they have 5 minutes to play with that toy and then they give the toy to the child who asked to borrow it. By doing this, you are giving each child a choice, and the 5 minutes is consistent for every child so now they have an expectation of when they are getting the toy.
  2. Every time a child agrees to share a toy or gives up the toy at the 5 minute mark, you high five them and say, “I like that you shared your toy, what a great choice.” This is encouraging positive behavior and children love praise. They will repeat the behavior over and over to get positive praise from a parent.
  3. If a child doesn’t want to share or doesn’t give the toy up at the 5 minute mark, you simply tell the child, “What a bummer that you didn’t give the toy to Billy, hopefully you will make a better choice next time” and take the toy away. This will teach the child that by sharing their toy they get rewarded and by not sharing their toys, they do not get rewarded.

After about ten minutes we had 6 children all playing with the toys together and sharing with one another. We even had one child offer to share his car before anyone asked to borrow it, because he wanted positive praise.

I then told all the kids we had to go home and it was time to help us clean up. The mom started panicking and trying to calm him down before he had any reaction. She nervously said, “he will have a meltdown because he wants to take a car home.” I responded that he was going to have a meltdown because you just gave him permission to. I knew that this sounded a bit harsh, but I really wanted to help her, and she was asking for my help, so I felt that being straight forward and honest was the best way I could help her.

I distracted the child and told all of the kids it was time to cleanup and to please pick up the cars and put in my bag. As soon as the first child put a car in the bag, I loudly said, “what a great choice you made by putting the car in the bag, thank you” and gave a big high five. Like clockwork, the kids started lining up eagerly trying to put the cars in the bag, even her son. Soon we were all cleaned up, nobody was crying, and everyone had fun.

At the end of the day, she was very appreciative of the new tools she had learned and was excited to use them with her son. As parents, there isn’t a class on how to deal with our children’s different behaviors or personalities. We kind of fly by the seat of our pants, do a lot of research online, talk to our mom friends, and do the best job we can. I was so happy that I could share what I had learned and now she saw first hand that her son is capable of playing nicely with other children, she just needed the right tools as his coach to show him how to do it.

Positive Behavior Reward Chart

With twin 5 year old boys and one with Autism, we were encountering some negative behaviors which were making our lives as parents more difficult. These negative behaviors are typical behaviors all kids do; not listening to mom or dad, hitting their sibling, not sharing, and the “I wants.”  The “I wants” are when you are trying to run an errand at the grocery store and they want everything. I want this car, I want this cereal, the I want EVERYTHING that will frustrate you as a parent and make you dream of grocery shopping alone.

I spoke with Ms. Kelli, who is Wyatt’s teacher and specializes in ABA therapy. She gave me a brilliant solution which has worked for us. It is the Positive Behavior Rewards Chart using stickers and it is awesome!

Each child has a Reward Chart, which you can Google for different styles of charts, that will work for your family. For every positive behavior they do, they get a sticker.We then sit down with the kids and talk about positive behaviors and examples of them. We talk about how every positive behavior gets a sticker and once they fill up all the boxes, they get a predetermined award. After explaining the reward chart, we take them to Target and they get to 1) pick out their own stickers and 2) pick out their reward. You do not buy the reward, you have them leave the store without their desired toy. Talk about motivation!!! We use the chart on the left, however you can use the one on the right for more specific goals.

Some key rules to follow to help ensure your success:

  1. It is very important that you allow them to put the sticker in the square and celebrate the positive behavior at the time they are putting the sticker on the chart.
  2. Do not threaten to remove stickers for negative behaviors, this is positive reinforcement only. If they exhibit a negative behavior I would say, “What a bummer that you decided to hit your brother, you missed a great opportunity to add a sticker to your rewards chart, and closer to getting that Star Wars figure.”
  3. DO NOT BUY them anything unless they have earned enough stickers to fill up all the boxes. If you do, their motivation is gone.
  4. If you have multiple children, always point out the good behaviors of another sibling. Example:  Susie is making good choices and sharing with her brother but little Johnny doesn’t want to share. I wouldn’t acknowledge Johnny’s bad behavior, I would tell Susie how she is making good choices by sharing with her brother and playing nicely and she gets to add a sticker to her chart.

I hope this information is helpful for you and your family and helps eliminate bad behaviors!

xo

H

Autism and Sleep Issues

For those of you who know about our struggle having Wyatt sleep thru the night, I am ecstatic to report that he has slept thru the night two nights in a row! WooHoo!

For those who are new to our story, Wyatt doesn’t sleep well at night. He wakes up 4-6 times a night. I think it was his way to pay us back for all the times we told him he couldn’t do something he wanted to do. LOL I work full time so this was a huge challenge and quite frankly not working out well for my husband and I. I posted about our struggle on Facebook and had a lot of great ideas from friends. I researched everything and bought every product that might help him sleep, we were desperate.

He has been on Melatonin for 2 years and it works in the beginning and the effect slowly wears off. The problem with Melatonin is that it will put you to sleep, however it doesn’t keep you asleep. Our doctor recommended we put him on Melatonin ER (extended release) which is supposed to keep him asleep. It worked great the first night, however hasn’t worked well since.

I have heard a lot about Essential Oils, however I honestly didn’t think they would work and it was a waste of money. I am happy to report I was wrong! A friend recommended Lavender Oil and told me to rub on the bottom of his feet and also to put in a diffuser in his room. I have done both the last two nights and he has slept thru the night!

Through out our Autism journey we have had to try different supplements, therapies, medicines and now oils to see what will help Wyatt. If one doesn’t work, try the next one. This can get very expensive and can feel frustrating at times. So when you find something that works and helps your child, it is very rewarding. It solidifies they fact that all the time and energy you are putting into helping your child is worth it.

xo

H