I’m happy to be speaking at Momstown Guelph on June 26th from 10am – 11am. I’ll be speaking about what to do when you believe there is something different with your child, and how to support a mom-friend who has a child with special needs.
I went to a moms group this morning that meets twice a month. This morning’s speaker (who is absolutely fantastic and an amazing woman!) spoke about picky eaters. Needless to say, the room was filled with more moms than usual. It’s obviously a huge issue. There were some great ideas and suggestions, including replacing the terms “like” and “dislikes” with “I’m hungry enough” or “not hungry enough” when asking for snacks, etc. The speaker suggested telling your kids to try new foods by saying “someday you may like that food, and today could be that day”. Expect your children to at least try a taste of whatever food so they can determine if today is that day.
We started the meeting with brainstorming what the “go to” meals are for families. I even asked the questions on my Facebook Page. I looked at the list when the room was finished and just shook my head. I WISH my kids would eat even half of the meals people listed. I can list off why my son or daughter would or would not eat most of these meals.
During the presentation, I thought they were all great ideas…however, how do I translate the suggestions to my kiddos, both of which have sensory issues? My son needs all food to be specific shapes EXCEPT for when it’s crazy processed foods like chips…of course that’s when shapes don’t seem to come into play at all. My daughter can’t handle ANY kind of spices or herbs. Even salt, pepper or italiano herb mixture is too much for her. She says pizza sauce hurts her so she eats garlic bread/Crazy Bread while her brother and I eat pizza. If I eat something with lemon pepper or other spices in it, she complains that it hurts her nose and one of us has to move across the room.
It wasn’t until my man started cooking for us that I actually realized that the 3 of us eat different versions or completely different foods for each meal. It stressed him out because his son will eat everything he makes (and sometimes bigger quantities depending on growth-spurt status!)…but it was just “normal” for me to make different things for each meal.
When the kids were really young, I mentioned my concern about my kids’ restrictive diets, especially my son’s. He spent about 2 years eating only fruit, rice cakes and pizza. That was it. The fruit didn’t bother me obviously, but rice cakes are really high in sodium, especially that my son would only eat the basil & tomato kind. The pizza wasn’t so bad because I could hide spinach and vegetables in the tomato sauce but still had pepperoni on it. The doctor wasn’t concerned because my son was healthy and growing fast so his diet wasn’t restricting his growth. I met with the dietitian at my doctor’s office too, and she was surprised to find a huge blackhole in the nutrition field specific to kids with special needs. As a parent, I know the Canadian Food Guide and I told her that before out meeting. Her research discovered that it’s not a nutrition thing, it’s a behavioural and desensitizing thing for our kids on the Autism Spectrum.
So my question still remains though…how do I incorporate some of the great ideas I heard today to increase the diet for my sensory sensitive kids?
I’m happy to be writing for a relatively new online magazine called Autism Parenting Magazine. They publish on iPad newstands, and soon will be available on Kindle and Android. This month’s magazine theme is “all things related to therapy”. My article:
I attended the local monthly autism support group this week. Normally, there has been two or three families but this week, there were nine different families; some of us who have been on the journey for a while, and two who just received diagnosis (last month!), and one who has been fighting for diagnosis for seven years (SEVEN YEARS!!) and is still fighting. There were lots of tears. Tears of being overwhelmed by the “newbies”; tears of understanding from us “veterans.”
One of the newbies is a grandmother to the little one who has been diagnosed. She has been a superstar and went through everything to get diagnosis for her grandson, while her daughter (the child’s mother) is still in denial that there’s anything “wrong” with her son. The child lives with his mom, and grandmother is very involved. Superstar grandmother!
While shedding tears, grandmother confided in the group that she’s worried about doing something “wrong” with her grandson but she refuses to keep him hidden from the world. He still needs to experience everything…grocery shopping, park, playing with other kids, etc. She asked the group what the best thing is to help support her grandson. I spoke up…love him, and get support for yourself, too.
As parents (grandparents/caregivers), we are so good at searching out for the newest and “best” therapies, tools and strategies for our children. I argue there’s something different we need to ensure is in place in all parenting plans for all parents’ of kids with special needs: Look after yourself too!
Subscribe through your iPad Newstand or click here to read the rest of the article (pages 17 and 18).
I had the honour of speaking at #MomsMeTimeTO last Friday, sharing my story of parenting 7yo boy/girl twins with special needs, and being part of my stepdaughter’s support network as well. The message for the conference was to remind moms that we need to take time for ourselves as well.
The message I hoped to get across was to remind moms to “put your oxygen mask on first”. We all get overwhelmed and stressed but it’s how you deal with that stress that is key to how well you can parent your children. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out…far from it, I am constantly working on balancing my stress levels. Keys to managing my stress levels include my weekly yoga class, journaling, meditating, knitting, meeting with my counsellor once a month, spending time with my man and friends, and gasp, disconnecting from social media. I don’t do each of these things daily, but I do know that when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to go out and interact with others, that’s the most important time for me to get out, and spend time with people. I’m an extrovert…I get my energy by spending time with people…I refill my emotional tank, so to speak.
Most of the attendees were fellow bloggers so it was kind of fun seeing everyone looking at their smart phones, or typing away on their laptops. Later that evening, I checked Twitter to find that people had been tweeting during my talk…and I was honoured by what they were saying!
Of course, with a room with lots of bloggers, the blogs are starting to be shared now so here are some of them:
A new post I wrote for SpecialNeeds.com:
Until now, my kids have only attended classes or groups if they are offered by groups that can manage my son’s needs. My daughter has bugged me for years about joining swimming, gymnastics, knitting, etc classes. Each time, I would tell her that I would look into it, and hope the topic didn’t come up again. I grew up doing A LOT of extra-curricular activities: ballet, skating, soccer, band, orchestra, etc. I was never home directly after school other than to grab my skates.
In reality, so many thoughts went through my head each time she asked about extra curricular activities:
- How can I afford extra curricular activities on my single income?
- What other costs will be needed (uniforms, team snacks, etc)?
- Are you going to stop growing for a couple of months so we can maybe get through one season in the same pair of footwear/clothing?
- Who can I trust with my wonderful child?
The biggest barrier though was: What will I do with my son…
Read the rest of my post here: SpecialNeeds.com/GuiltofExtraCurriculars
Borrowed from Single Mothers Who Have Children With Autism‘s Facebook Page. I absolutely love this! My daughter will tell people “My brother doesn’t talk. He has Autism” when people we don’t know ask him questions and he doesn’t answer. I do have to remind her though that if we give him enough time, he will answer. People always smile at this interaction.
I could see the finger pointing from a lady and a man.
My little boy was stimming, flapping like a bird.
I suppose to those unknowledged it really seems absurd.
‘What’s wrong with your Son?’ they eventually asked.
I was taken aback but my Daughter answered fast.
‘Nothing’, she said, ‘he’s Autistic that’s all,
he’s unique, he is perfect he will never be cruel.’
‘Come on little brother, let’s have some fun,
let’s stim together,’ she said to my Son.
Then they both flapped their arms and jumped really high.
I honestly thought they were going to fly!
I was overwhelmed with pride as I watched them both stim.
I hadn’t realized just how much she loved him.
Relief flooded through me as I know when I’m gone
My beautiful Daughter will protect my amazing Son.
The whispering stopped and they quickly walked away.
Looking very guilty and embarrassed I would say.
The lesson I learnt as I stood in that line
is be proud of your children and all will be fine.”
~ Written by Karen Martin
♥ ~ Autism Night Before Christmas ~ ♥
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
… Yes, even the mouse
We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract
The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head
Did I get the right gift
The right color and style
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?
Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.
“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent…”
And on goes the attack
We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side
We know what it’s like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
But what they don’t know
And what they don’t see
Is the joy that we feel
He said “hello”
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!
He peed on the potty
Who cares if he’s ten,
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!
Others don’t realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope
But what they don’t see
Is the joy we can’t hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride
We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,
But what they don’t know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
We don’t get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings
Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.
They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky
So to those who don’t get it
Or can’t get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I’ll assure you
That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You’ll look at me
With respect, even shock.
You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you
That you won’t say a thing
You’ll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned…….
By Cindy Waeltermann
My post on SpecialNeeds.com:
For the first time in the 5 or so years I’ve been attending Autism-specific Support Groups, I attended one recently where I actually felt supported and understood when I left…and what’s even more amazing is that both my man AND my ex-hubby were there (awkward, and completely unplanned). I used to attend a Support Group that was for all special needs that was supportive and, ironically, the only families who attended all ended up having at least a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum.
My experience with Support Groups for the Autism community prior to this meeting is that primarily parents of teenagers/adults with diagnosis are able to attend. I found myself sitting in a room filled with parents complaining about how little support they received 15/20/25+ years ago. Needless to say, as a parent of newly diagnosed child with Autism, this wasn’t very supportive, and hadn’t been my experience thus far.
See the rest of my post here: SpecialNeeds.com/SupportGroupWhereIFeltSupported
My other posts on SpecialNeeds.com: SpecialNeeds.com/Meghan
With the return to school, our kids have started with new teachers and potentially new classmates, so it’s our time once again to help the new teachers and classmates understand our special children. This year, I’ve been hearing more parents talk about whether or not to tell the school, teachers and friends about their child’s diagnosis or special needs. Personally, my belief is to tell…tell everyone! The more people who know about your child’s needs, the better they can help support you and your child.
My son is “fortunate” to have just one diagnosis: Autism. Although Autism is trying and testing some days, it’s a very simple and relatively understood diagnosis, and one that has a lot of supports in place in the school system, and the medical community. Don’t get me wrong, I need to stay on top of everything to ensure he gets the support he needs to succeed in school, and later in life.
Friends of mine are constantly searching for a diagnosis for their child and they are frustrated. Every new specialist they see offers a new diagnosis, which negates the diagnosis they received from the previous one. As a result, they can’t get the appropriate external support for their child.
I’ve heard others recently whose children are at the age of starting school and they have an Autism or Aspergers diagnosis for their child, and are really wrestling with whether or not to tell the school and the new teacher of the diagnosis. When they ask me, I give them a very simple answer: TELL THEM!
Others wrestle with whether to tell their own family and friends, fearing those friends and family will treat them and/or their child differently. My harsh opinion is to cut those friends and family. Being a parent is stressful enough, let alone a parent to a child with special needs. Having friends around who aren’t willing to understand your child isn’t helpful to anyone involved.