Getting to Know You

How well do you know your child?

As a parent, I’d like to think I know my kids pretty well, but my assessment was recently put into question. As I’ve shared, my youngest son is on the autism spectrum. After meeting with a specialist, my husband and I were provided with suggested readings to help us better understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There were several books that were recommended, along with a workbook. I ordered all the material in hopes that they would be useful. Some were intended for my son. Some were intended for my husband and I (and my son’s teachers). I wasn’t sure how my son would react when I showed him the material. Would he be upset? Or relieved? Or something else?

When the first couple of books came, I showed them to him. Because my son’s biggest challenge is picking up on social cues, we started with You are a Social Detective! Explaining Social Thinking to Kids by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke. My son and I read through the book. It was very insightful, but I wasn’t sure how much he really was following and retaining. It’s a great reference book that we’ll need to read and re-read to ensure it sinks in. The next book I shared with him was Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder. My son really liked this book. “Wow! Sir Isaac Newton had autism? Albert Einstein?” he said. You could tell he felt that instead of being deficient for being on the spectrum he was in elite company with some of history’s most famous people. Then we came upon Asperger’s…What Does It Mean to Me? A workbook explaining self-awareness and life lessons to the child or youth with high functioning autism or Asperger’s by Catherine Faherty. This book was a godsend. My son and I started reading the workbook together. It walks through different topics explaining how children on the autism spectrum may think, feel or look at situations differently than someone who is not. Then it asks the child to self-assess and answer what is true from them. Talk about getting to know your child. My son started having lightbulb moments–understanding how others without autism may experience something versus how he does–he was gaining clarity around his autism and so were my husband and I. As we read through the workbook together, our son learned more about himself, my husband and I learned more about ASD, and more about our son and how he experiences the world. It was (and is) priceless. Assumptions we had made were dispelled and unknowns were replaced with information about our son. After completing the workbook I believe I understand my son and ASD much better. It was so insightful, we talked to our son and asked if he would be willing to share the workbook with his teachers and staff who work with him so they can better understand him as well. He agreed. “What about grandma and grandpa? Or your aunts and uncles? Can we share it with them?” I asked. “Sure!,” he said. I loved his enthusiasm and willingness to share with those who love and care about him.

We are excited about finding this workbook and the other wonderful material that is helping us better understand our son. There is no greater feeling, in my opinion, then having knowledge to help you navigate life. It’s challenging enough. Having this information feels like blinders have been lifted and we can better take on this new(er) terrain.

How well do you know your child? What material (book, course, etc.) have you come across that has helped you better understand them?

Rock Around the Clock

Springing forward always reminds me how precious time is. When my sons were born, time went from normal spend to slow-motion. Sleepless nights, feeding, clothing and changing seemed like an endless cycle. I couldn’t wait for time to get back to “normal” speed again. What I’ve noticed is the more independent your child becomes, the faster time seems to go. You don’t have to hover over them to get them ready or be beside them each second to know where they are and what they are up to.  My husband and I made this observation the other day, while the kids were busy playing with their toys by themselves and we were having a conversation in the other room. It’s nice, I thought, they are able to do more on their own. And the more they are able to do on their own, the less they will need my assistance. It made me momentarily sad. It reminded me of the precious time I have left with them before they go out and live life on their own.

This realization made for a great ‘live-in-the-moment’ opportunity. As a family, we watched a movie together. During the credits, music played that we couldn’t help, but dance to. It was silly, but exhilarating. While my boys are still relatively young, I won’t always get to do this. It made dancing with them in that moment that much more special. I could have danced all night like that.

How has time changed for you as your child grows? What event(s) helped you to pause and appreciate what was going on in a moment of time?

The Great Pumpkin

Many of us have watched the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween special before. It’s been an annual tradition in our family through the years. The show took on a new meaning for me this year.

My youngest son had returned from a trip to a local pumpkin patch with some classmates and had just sit down to watch some Halloween cartoons when I arrived to pick him up. He was not happy with my timing. This has happened before in the past, when I seem to show up at the wrong time (meaning I’ve shown up when he is in the middle of an activity he is enjoying, or getting ready to start one). I typically allow him a few minutes to finish the activity or do the new activity ever-so-briefly, and assumed my strategy would work with my son on this particular day. It didn’t. Instead my son had a meltdown of volcanic proportions. He became very vocal (loud) in front of the room of kids saying, “I want to watch the movie. I will NOT go, you cannot make me go.” His other classmates saw what was going on, and tried to console him, reminding him there would be other opportunities to watch the film, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. “NO, NO, NO!” was his reaction. He stood up and ran away from me. I was a little taken aback and was quickly reassessing how to best handle the situation. I was in a room full of people (adults and kids) and my son had taken the spotlight away from the movie and had become the show. My inner critic was creeping in (if you were a better parent, this wouldn’t have happened…why aren’t you able to calm your son down?). I asked my son to step into the director’s office (where they normally send kids to calm down) and had to take a few deep breaths. I was partly mortified at his behavior, disappointed in myself for not being able to address the situation without it getting to the point that it had, and frustrated that any of this had occurred. After a stressful week of work, it was the last thing I needed.

It was one of those moments where I really had to pause. My emotions were high. I wanted to handle this in a positive way (though there didn’t seem to be anything positive going on in the present). I had to really think, how do I help my son through this situation? After a few moments it dawned on me. This wasn’t about watching the movie (he could watch it anytime), but not having control over the situation and not liking that–and that, I could understand.

I was able to get my son out to the car (though I did have to carry him), and eventually calm him down. I’m not sure he really understood why he got so upset, but we both knew we didn’t want it to happen again. My son and I made a deal, when we are upset or disappointed about something it’s okay to have the feeling, but we have to talk about it in a way that helps you get what you want or need. He’s young, he’s learning. I’m learning too.

I have a greater appreciation for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as a result. It’s a story about wanting something to happen (you want to see the Great Pumpkin) and the disappointment that comes when it doesn’t happen as you’d hoped. I’ll remember my son’s disappointment and how he (and I) will grow from it.

What holiday show has taken on new meaning for you and your family as you raised your child?