Trauma, Addiction, and Autism: Watching “THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA” with Dr. Gabor Mate.

World Mental Health day is October 10th! I love that we have a day to think about our most important organ, our minds. Zumba decided to dedicate a whole month to this and in regards to what Zumba and Zumba instructors do for the world’s mental health, a month seems more fitting. As a parent of a child living with the label of Autism, Mental Health is a huge interest of mine.

Yesterday kicked off the first day of the “Wisdom of Trauma” movie release and 7 day event of talks and content discussing the unseen epidemic of Trauma in our society. I often talk about the connection I have seen between trauma and Autism in my own life. The generational impacts of trauma, that can dysregulate the body/mind connection have been my focus of recovery for Jace and myself. As I am watching the movie, I open a page to write, so many emotions and connections, that I just have to put them somewhere. As I type this through tears of relief, knowing that I am not alone, that we are all alone, together, that life is pain and the beauty of healing, I am empowered by the ability to share this bc, we don’t have to be alone. I hope this post brings you relief and comfort from your traumas as well. And when all else fails get to a Zumba class, preferably mine lol, and dance it out! Give your brain a break and give it a beat!

Some of my favorite points Dr. Gabor Mate makes:

  1. 2 basic human needs: Attachment and Authenticity; how the need to attach out of a sense of survival as an infant and child shapes our relationship with our authentic selves.

2. Generational Trauma: It’s not your parents fault! Letting go of blame can seem like an impossible task. It goes back, it happened to them and their parents and so on. Generational trauma dissects us into groups experiencing similar traumas ie; genocide, slavery, economic, societal, and racial expectations. For example, when my ancestors moved to America, they had societal expectations to contend with as well as racial expectations put upon them, not to mention what they experienced in their homelands. This shaped the way my ancestors raised their children, and so on until it came to me and even I was raised believing that I had to prove these stereotypes wrong, focusing far too much energy on past ideals rather than my own natural ideals.

3. Addiction- Gabor sees addiction as a response to trauma, treat the trauma not the addiction. No longer are addictions seen solely as drug or alcohol use, addiction is anything that takes us away from our loved ones, harms our health, or suppresses our authentic self. It is a response to the void left by traumatic experiences and a way to self soothe our trauma. It can be anything from a syringe to an iPhone or a pair of designer shoes or even unnecessary late nights at the office. These are considered escapist behaviors in which we engage in behaviors that allow the conditioned mind to get out of the way for a moment of temporary joy, inevitably leaving us dissatisfied and craving the next fix.

4. Perception of reality: Often times, we don’t respond to what happens we respond to our perception of what happens. We are not responding to the present moment, we are responding to the past, a past trauma, and often we are alone in this perspective which creates anger, confusion, and buries the truth and facts.

If this content interest you please click the link below to learn more about “The Wisdom of Trauma” movie and access talks from the worlds leading experts in this field of mental medicine. I do not have any affiliates with this organization nor am I being paid for this, I am just a huge fan of Dr. Gabor Mate and his work.

Click here to register for this 7 day event

“With our thoughts, we make the world.”- Buddha

Learning to Love My Teen the Way He Needs to Be Loved

By Jessica R. Duggins

We all want to be loved, adults and children a like. And when we are loved, when our needs are met, we feel supported, confident, and empowered and all is right in the world. So how does this help when parenting? It reminds us to parent with love first, and responsibility second. Once we are fluent with the way our children respond to love, once we are in tuned with their needs and motivators, we can gain their trust and in turn guide them with cooperation, respect and love to healthy development.

I’m so excited to share one of my favorite visual tools that I use to remind myself of this focus. A simple chart I came across while feeling frustrated in another relationship of importance, my marriage. I found myself feeling resentful, exhausted, over entitled, and unfulfilled. I was in a rut and I put myself there by holding my most loved ones to expectations unbeknownst to them. My expectations. The expectation that they will love me as I expect them too and if they don’t then I will self destruct and hold them all responsible. That’s crazy, right? But all to common, maybe not so dramatic but common. And we deal with it, we live life banging our heads against a padded wall going maybe someday they’ll get it, if I beat it in their heads enough, maybe they will care about the things I care about at my intensity. Why would I really want that anyway? I love these people for who they are and what makes them unique to my heart.

What if instead we empathized, one of my favorite words when it comes to parenting. What makes my kiddo happy, what puts a smile on his face, what lifts his heart? Not mine, not what makes me feel safe and cozy and cared for but from his perspective.

I am a physical lover, I love hugs and cuddles, and spooning, and nuzzles.  And although I may enjoy that and maybe my two year old does also but my teen on the spectrum not so much. Physical contact makes him visibly uncomfortable. That’s not to say he doesn’t return it, but that’s because he knows its my love language, it makes my heart rise when he hugs me on his own, my smile cracks from ear to ear when he kisses me on his own, and he knows it, he’s so smart.

So how do you figure out how your child loves, when they have challenges communicating simple daily needs, or any words at all? Observe and learn. try some different approaches. The chart below is printed out over my computer because that is the place I tend to get most frustrated with my children because I am not trying to focus on them but myself.

5 languages of love- children

This moms site has some great printbles to get you started for free, after a simple email subscription, and I do suggest you print it out and put it somewhere your kids seem to get your goat most, maybe the bathroom, or kitchen. The visual concrete reference will help to create this process of rethinking your approach when parenting and hopefully ease frustration. I did not invent the Five Languages of love, no, just lucky enough to stumble upon Dr. Gary Chapman’s ideas in my research to better my communication and understanding skills in my nuclear family.

True love, unconditional love, is not easy, it does not just happen. You have to do the work and commit to change no matter how uncomfortable it may feel in the beginning. You have to make the effort to see another way of life, of love. As with all new habits, it has to be habitual for results, but when we falter we have to be kind enough to forgive ourselves and start over. Good luck guys, please comment below and share if this chart helped you out or even if  it didn’t.

-JRED

Spreading Awareness of the World of Autism- Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA

If you’re a parent of a child with Autism you have probably heard the term ABA, an acronym for Applied Behavioral Analysis. If you’ve wondered exactly what therapies are available to help people with Autism, this is one of them. It is a form of therapy that is highly repetitive and firmly structured something most of our kids respond well to, but my wonder is how much comprehension is being communicated through these flash card download sessions? ABA has been considered a very successful form of therapy for children on the spectrum and unlike many forms of therapy for Autism it is scientifically supported.

With the documentation of its success I like most parents, wanted to see my son in a program that offered ABA. When my son was 3 this was not easy to find. I was warned it was very intense and I may not want my child involved in such a severe form of therapy. After hearing that I imagined how intense it could be, was he strapped to a chair and forced to look at images? Was medication involved? What were the adverse reactions if any? I began to imagine ABA as a form of Aversion Therapy similar to the kind Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange receives.

Although ABA is intense and repetitive it is not as torturous as it was depicted to me. I think I was discouraged because of the lack of trained specialist and programs available at that time. Now, ten years later, every special education program claims to use the ABA method. They say it is “built into” the curriculum. As someone who used my own version of this method during our home school sessions, I can’t see how it could be. It is a method done one on one with minimal distraction. The information is delivered at a rapid, repetitive pace. I found the ABA method most useful during math drills as repetition with mathematics seems to work better than a slow research and discovery process, used for other subjects that require more comprehension than memorization like reading.

I noticed that J was memorizing these math equations but very rarely comprehending the results such as the value or quantity, and he couldn’t discuss it outside of the ABA sessions, which made me wonder is ABA the most effective method or is it a way to cram information into our kids brains so they can perform like parakeets? What do you think? Please respond in the comment area with your own experiences with ABA, would love to hear from Board Certified therapist on this as well.

-JRED

Website about ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis

“Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior“ -As defined by Baer,Wolf, & Risley.

7 Ways to Discipline Your Child By Discipling Yourself: Attitude, It’s Learned From Somewhere Even in Autism

Big J Teaching Little J Basketball
Big J Teaching Little J Basketball

I don’t think I realized my temper was an issue until I moved to the country. I guess that’s because everyone around me also had tempers and although most were very nice people we all reacted similarly when pushed, fight over flight. City life will do that to you. Unfortunately for a parent of a child with autism a temper is one of the worst things I could have modeled.

During one of J’s tantrums, at the height of his rebellious behavior, I caught a glimpse of myself arguing with him. I was trying to rationalize with him but my face said otherwise. I looked like I was arguing with a stranger who threatened my personal space, not my child. My tone was cold, detached from kindness and fairness just straight attitude. My face was so full of anger, eyebrows furrowed, jaw clenched, nostrils flaring. I just looked overall menacing. In my eyes, I was a monster towering over this cowering little innocent who just couldn’t find the words to express himself. And how could he with me scaring the life out of him. Mom, the one person who sort of understood him in this world turning into Mrs. Hyde right before his big frightened eyes, all because he refused to go to school. I knew in that moment that if I saw myself as a monster I’m sure J saw me similarly or worse. I never wanted to be that to him again. I had to find another way to discipline J rather than intimidation and empty threats or I wouldn’t be the only monster, I’d have a mini monster and no one to blame but myself.

Puberty has been a rough transition for J as it is for most teens especially those with special needs. I decided not to medicate him since his behaviors are manageable as of now and he does not pose a threat to himself or others. I was also seeing this new-found awareness of life around him and I did not want to squelch any progress. He still lacked the verbal skills to express himself but J understood what we were saying about him. He also knew when we were annoyed with him even if it was through something as subtle as an eye roll. I could see it affected him like it never did in the past. We had to change just as much as J was. We had to acknowledge him as a young person growing into an adult and not a child that the world had no expectations for. He was creating his own expectations of what he wanted out of life now. He wanted to be treated like an adult, like most teenagers do, he wanted responsibility and the negotiation of compromise. He wanted to be included in the planning of his day and have his choices discussed with him.

Here’s how I discipline my child with mutual respect to foster a relationship of understanding and trust:

  1. I pay attention to his emotions and try my best to acknowledge them so he feels understood and validated. That doesn’t mean I give into them.
  2. I give him good reasons for my actions, simple reasons but usually fair.
  3. I fight the urge to physically dominate him when he resists, I let him go through it and then try to state my needs at an eye level distance, not towering over him.
  4. I check my ego and let go of the feeling that since I am the parent my child must yield to my every demand. Instead I take deep breaths, check myself to make sure I’m not projecting my issues on him and empathize before I act.
  5. I inform J of the rules for every situation be it house, school or bus rules. I inform him of any new ones that may be part of a new experience or place we are headed.
  6. I always give J a warning before handing down a punishment to allow J to redirect himself.
  7. Punishments are given calmly, sternly and fairly. The punishment fits the crime and he is aware of it before it is dealt. Ex: if he is misusing his tech, he will lose time on it. If he is misbehaving somewhere he will lose TV privileges when we get home.

It sounds simple but keeping calm when J is not, can be a challenge of my own discipline. Once I had these options for myself I found that I could redirect my own frustrations, stay focused on the facts rather than my own feelings, follow through and be a calmer mom for him. It’s not always smooth sailing but we get back on course quickly sans casualties. Hope this helps anyone out there dealing with discipline troubles. Please share if this works for you or if you have any ideas you may want to share.

-JRED

Spreading Awareness of the World of Autism- What is Stimming?

Ever crack your knuckles or your neck? Maybe you rub your hands when your thinking or nervous. We do these things to self soothe and feel more comfortable. Some times we do it without even noticing because it just feels good. Well that’s basically the purpose of stimming in a person living with Autism. Unlike most people who have self stimulating habits, someone on the spectrum may have no control over this. Some common stimms I’ve seen in my son J are humming, hand clapping, jumping, rocking and visual/audio stimulants. Here are some of his favorite stimm videos, he will watch these over an over, rewinding and fast forwarding to achieve the visual or audio stimulation he enjoys:

It’s a form of self soothing but can be unproductive, socially inappropriate and further detaches J from us so I try to limit this kind of stimm with redirection. I even point out to him that he is stimming so he can become aware of this behavior and eventually redirect himself toward something more enriching and socially engaging. I will usually suggest a new activity, for example if he is stimming on YouTube I will suggest going to a more interactive site like PBS Kids so we can play a game together. If he is humming or rocking while we are out I will try to apply deep pressure to his shoulders and arms, here’s an example of what I mean:

Stimming- (as defined by North Shore Pediatric Therapy ) – Stereotypy or self-stimulatory behavior refers to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. These movements are used solely to stimulate one’s own senses. This behavior is common in many individuals with developmental disabilities; it appears to be most common in children and adults with autism. It is important to note that not all self-injurious behaviors are considered to be self- stimulatory. Self-injurious behavior can also be communicative.

If you have any stimming stories or recommendations please share below and share to spread the awareness of why people with Autism stimm. Thanks.

-JRED

When Things Don’t Go Well, We Dust Ourselves Off and Try Again

We had an outing with J’s team mates this weekend and I basically set this event up for disaster. First mistake, I scheduled a visit with grandma and grandpa Saturday night. He stayed up pretty late hanging out with his grandparents and I didn’t state the importance of getting him to bed at a specific time either.  It had been a while since he slept over so I forgot how out of sorts the transition back makes him. I didn’t even stop to think that it would have an effect on his behavior for the outing.

Before we left for the party we had dinner and I gave J an ice cream cone for dessert, mistake number 2. The event was on a Sunday evening normally I like to be home by 6:00P.M. on Sunday nights to give J time to settle before he starts the week. His behavior had been so good lately that I thought it would be ok. Mistake number 3. The party was at one of his favorite places so I thought it would be awesome for him to experience it with his buddies and didn’t want him to miss the opportunity even though it didn’t coincide with his routine.

When we go to this place as a family we tend to go late at night towards closing when most young kids aren’t there, since small kids are J’s biggest trigger. Being that this was an event for kids on the spectrum I figured it was private and closed to the public, but I didn’t ask, and it wasn’t. Mistake number 4. There were little kids everywhere and the noise level was up there, something I didn’t prep J about. It was definitely too much for J. His dilated eyes darted everywhere and he couldn’t keep still. He was clearly over stimulated and very uncomfortable. We decided it best to go.

As we were heading over to the area where our party was congregating to say our goodbyes, J’s behavior spiked and he started to gear up for an outburst. Within seconds he honed in on this one little kid and lunged to grab him, something he will do when he has reached his max. He usually just squeezes the person wherever he grabs them, but sometimes the squeeze is very hard and definitely scary to a small child, as my boy is 5’9″, 130lbs. I stopped him just in time, looked at the kids father and mouthed “I’m so sorry” as I escorted J outside. I told him “you do not grab little kids.” I followed it up with a punishment of no iPad for the rest of the evening and took him home.

It had been such a long time since we’ve seen this behavior from J, so long since we’ve had to leave some place because he was overwhelmed. The place was too loud for him, his triggers over ruled his ability to cope. On the ride home J went on crying and repeating his usual “remorse script”. To those of you who don’t know what scripting is in terms of Autism, it’s a phrase a child with autism will repeat over and over, sometimes they learn it from a movie or overhearing someone say it. To someone unfamiliar with them it would sound irrelevant or like nonsense, but I knew this particular one’s meaning having heard it similarly used before. It meant “I’m upset that I messed up, I’m upset.”

As I drove I tried to tune him out and began to dissect what just happened. Unfortunately when it comes to J, I’m a dweller, tend to over analyze, and I am my toughest critic. Besides the 4 mistakes I listed above, I found several more things I could have done differently as I replayed the last 20 minutes over in my mind. It took every ounce of my hormonal second trimester self not to cry about it in the car. When we got home I asked Big J to get little J ready for bed, I needed a moment to just cry it out and deal with the emotion away from J. I was feeling so disappointed. Disappointed because he grabbed a little kid, because he couldn’t enjoy himself with his buddies, because I couldn’t do anything about it and I felt like I failed him, like I let him down.

It still might have gone the same way no matter what preparations I would have made, the thing is, I would have felt better about it personally. It would have just been something J couldn’t do and I would have been OK with that, but when he falters because I didn’t prepare him enough, I feel like a failure. Although it may have been something I have zero control over, when I don’t prep well, I feel like it’s completely my fault.

When I do this to myself my husband tells me “nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback”, it’s his cheeky way of telling me it’s over, it happened, just do better next time. And he’s right, I can spend so much time beating myself up, listing my mistakes, that I miss the fact that we tried! We tried to get J together with his buddies, so what if it didn’t go perfectly, we took him out.

“Nobody Likes a Monday morning Quarterback”

He made a mistake grabbing the kid, but everyone is OK and it was an opportunity for him to learn from that mistake. All kids make mistakes and so do parents. Things won’t always run smooth, it’s what we do afterwards that defines us. It was a learning moment, for both of us, as parenting a child living with Autism tends to be. A moment to see our mistakes, deal with the consequences, forgive ourselves and hopefully do better next time.

-JRED

Getting Outside with Autism

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J and Grandma @ Times Square, NYC

J had this project over spring break that was clearly to get us parents out of the house and more engaged with our kids. I never mind assignments like this, anymore, because it’s something I kind of assign to myself. It’s not always easy to go out with J but I always feel better after I brave the unknown and conquer. There was a time during my son’s diagnosis when I did not want to leave the house. It was right around the time when his tantrums were becoming out of control, around nine years old. He was no longer small enough for society to disregard and he wasn’t obviously a special needs kid since his physical development was above percentile. Which meant I got a lot of dirty looks and judging eye rolls from strangers who all too quickly summed us up as a young mother and her ill-behaved brat. I felt so much pressure and stress every time we walked out the house. What if something set him off? What if I couldn’t control him? What if he hurt himself or others, or me?

After several very intense, exhausting tantrums in public, I was done. I imagined people thinking “why doesn’t she just keep him home?” So I did. I did all my errands during the day while J was at school so I wouldn’t have to venture out with him. I figured this was just the way my life was going to have to be now. Luckily I was working part-time when all this started happening so I had some weekdays off to take care of everything without having to drag J along with me. Although life was less stressful for me I realized his tantrums were becoming worse. I was now having difficulties at family gatherings and little things like neighborhood walks. He began to show signs of his now infamous sensory trigger, young kids and their loud high pitched yells.

I hated the path we were going down, he was only nine, I couldn’t really keep him inside forever, he wasn’t Bruce Wayne living in a mansion with all he needed and I couldn’t afford an Alfred to look after him. I wasn’t doing him any favors. He had to learn how to function in society. What would he do as a an adult when he needed to eat, or go to work, or visit a friend? I had to give him these skills no matter how terrifying the task seemed.

I went through a long process to get to the place we are currently at and although it is not perfect , we still have some difficulties, I have the tools to handle most situations. It’s what I imagine being on the bomb squad must be like, your still terrified that this explosive device will go off and obliterate you and everything in a 10 mile radius but the knowledge of how to handle it gives the feeling of control that allows for the confidence to finish the job successfully. Once I knew the triggers that set off J, I knew how to strategize for them. My confidence and preparedness not only calmed me but it made J less anxious as well. He could see I was going to work with him, we were going to get through this together as a team. I understood he needed my help and that was a comforting thing for him.

Anytime we go into “uncharted territory” this is how I prepare:

  1. I explain to J simply WHERE we are going, WHAT we will be doing, WHO will be there, and WHEN we are coming home, if necessary and time allows, I will write it out for him on a dry erase board the night before and add it to his calendar ahead of time.
  2. Noise cancelling headphones that attach to his iPad, fully charged and loaded up with all his favorite apps, songs, and videos so he can block out sounds that cause him distress.
  3. A good night sleep so he has the energy to handle his sensory challenges better.
  4. Back up tech like an iPod or cell phone with some songs or games on it and extra batteries for his headphones.
  5. Chewing gum. In the past I would also bring clay dough, or Theraputty to help relax him. Theraputty Link
  6. Keep the sugar intake down and give him lots of water.
  7. Research the place for my own knowledge where it is, what it looks like, what we can expect.
  8. Know and respect his limits, if it wasn’t part of the original plan don’t push it.
  9. Ignore judgmental people, easier said than done but self explanatory

When I can do all these things J usually keeps calm and even enjoys himself most of the time. Planning is a big part of our lives as you may have noticed from previous blogs. A little planning goes a long way for J and for my confidence as well. What are some strategies you have adapted to help with your special needs child’s triggers? If you have any questions or just want to share your success stories on getting outside with Autism please comment below.

-JRED

Getting Back on Track After Spring Break- Positive Reinforcment Plan

Today was J’s first day back to school and although I always hope for the best I always prepare for the worst. J has a hard time with transitions which can be pretty typical for kids on the spectrum. Usually, I can prepare him with schedules and notes on the calendar, but when it’s something he dreads like school, the prep just brings on anxiety and prolongs the behavior. He started last night.

As soon as I said to him “J, it’s time to get ready for bed”, his happy mood quickly became the foreboding rumble of thunder that is heard before a thunder-storm. To the untrained ear, they would just be sounds and grunts but I know what those exact sounds mean, “I am not happy and you are about to incur my wrath!” I quickly felt my blood pressure elevate and my heartbeat quicken, “fight or flight” kicks in on a hair-trigger,  but I took several deep breaths and did my best to remain calm, “if I lose it so does he”, I thought to myself. J began imitating me inhaling and exhaling, which made me laugh and reminded me how much I love this kid and how special he can be.

With my mind a little clearer I focused on redirection, reminding J of his “stars”. Since J has such a difficult time going places or doing things that challenge his sensory comfort zone, I came up with a Positive Reinforcement Plan(PRP). He wasn’t a big fan of stickers until I found these gold stars. They meant something to him and he wanted to earn them, especially since earning a specified amount resulted in a prize of his choosing. This method of positive reinforcement was a huge help when J returned to school after home instruction and to this day it still keeps him motivated. It also keeps his aggressive behavior down. He knows if he acts out at school or on the bus it will affect his star for the day and take him longer to earn his prize.

I call this method “The Star Student”. Like the five points of a star there are five characteristics of a “Star Student” and to earn a star sticker, J has to embody them in some way, breaking a rule like yelling or hitting will make him lose his star for the day. Although he gave me a hard time this morning and complained up until the moment he got on the bus, he redeemed himself by being a “Star Student”, so he received his star for the day. star

The behavior I saw last night and this morning had to have consequences or else I’m sure I’d see them again. So his TV time before bedtime was lessened, and it seemed that he understood why. I gently explained to him that he can not yell and scream at mommy in the morning, and if he does a better job tomorrow he will get his normal TV time back tomorrow night. He took his punishment like a big boy and went right to sleep, ahhh, is there anything better than when you get them down on time.

Here’s what I do to keep Jace motivated with his PRP:

  1. Identify an inexpensive but highly sought after motivator for your child, this shouldn’t cost much more than $5-$20, depending on your child’s level of maturity and your budget. The cheaper the better as this will be a weekly prize. You can also do a daily reward that is either an activity or something
  2. small as well to promote daily good behavior. For example- J works daily for TV time and a cup of ice cream when he gets home from school

Autism or not boys need structure and discipline, a boy with Autism needs it even more. It’s hard to be a drill sergeant mom sometimes, especially when your tired and all you want to do is cuddle them up, hopefully, he’ll thank me for it someday.

-JRED

4:30 AM wake up calls from Autism

SunriseWell it’s Easter Sunday and I thought for sure J would sleep in today. We we’re up late last night watching HOP, but once again the unpredictable spice of life that is Autism has awaken him at 4:30 AM. He woke up yelling and screaming, I figured he must have had a bad dream, maybe a bad cramp. Trying to reason with J when he is awake is its own task, add the delirium of being half asleep and it’s a whole other beast. I brought him a glass of water along with my “A game” of patience and went to investigate.

Apparently his anxiety about leaving his iPad charger at grandma and grandpa’s house woke him up. I know he gets anxious about family gatherings so it made perfect sense. We have a big, vociferous family, so the escape of having his iPad and headphones when he needs a break is a great comfort to him. I had the bright idea to teach J about being more responsible with his belongings. So instead of going back out later in the evening to retrieve it, my parents live in the same town, I told him I would get it in the morning and enforced it with”remember your things next time”.

At 4:30 AM he made it very clear this was the source of his anxiety. He needed me to reassure him that I would get the wire several times before his emotions finally simmered. I was tempted to go out right then and there but I chose to teach him about responsibility and there was no backing out now. After about an hour of moaning and groaning he finally went back to sleep, and so did Big J.

I never rediscovered the comfort of my bed so I figured I’d make the best of it and wish you all a Happy Easter or Passover, which ever you celebrate. Hopefully the Easter bunny leaves me a pillow for a nap since I’ve already given myself the lesson of learning when to pick my battles, especially when a good night’s sleep is at stake.

-JRED

Schedules + Routine = Peace

Hi Everyone,

It’s J’s first day of spring break vacation, exciting and daunting because it raises the question: what will I do to keep him busy and engaged all day?

J walking

Luckily for me I learned during home school that a little planning goes a long way and a lot of planning saves the day. So the first thing we did today after breakfast was make a loose schedule. I could see J relax as soon as I started to write-up the familiar template. Schedules saved us during home school and made me realize how much calmer J was when he knew what was happening, when it would end, and what was expected of him. Sounds simple enough right? Even I like having that knowledge but I don’t need to have it written down nor do I need to refer to it as often. I came to accept that this was one of those things that made J, J.

Once I started using schedules with J I became addicted! The results were undeniable. He was so much calmer and looked forward to writing them up with me. It showed me he cared about having a choice, he enjoyed sharing his opinion, and that he cared about being acknowledged.  He was present, he was awake, although no one else seemed to notice, but I was beginning to and he was so happy to see me working with him instead of around him.

This became our morning routine. Every morning we would have breakfast and after we would write-up the schedule for the day.  I like to use a dry erase board because it allows us to switch things up in case anything needs to be altered, here is an example of what a schedule during home school would look like: Sample of a Daily Home School Schedule

He was not always in a cooperative mood especially with subjects that challenged him more. It definitely helped him to know there was an end point to the torture known as “math”. This also kept him focused and although he needed to check the schedule every so often it also helped him learn more about telling time.

I started using this format outside of home school since it was working so well. Whenever I knew J might have a hard time with the task at hand be it going to the doctors, a family function, or a trip to the supermarket, I implemented the schedule. It was usually much simpler and looked like this: Quick Schedule using First and Then

Now J is at the point that I can use this format on a verbal level. I can tell him first we are going to the supermarket, then we are visiting grandma, and then we will go home. He usually repeats it to make sure he got it. He even says it on his own sometimes if we are doing something he doesn’t want to, like if he has school, he will say “first school then come home and free time”. It’s a great comfort for him to know he has a say in what his day looks like. If we are going somewhere new or I think an activity maybe challenging I will try to have this ready but if I don’t I will write it up on the fly with a pen and pad I always carry on me.

If you are finding your child is having a hard time cooperating even if they are not on the spectrum I encourage you to give schedules a try. Allow your kids to help construct them with your pre picked options. I hope the routine of schedules brings peace and organization to your house as well. Please comment and let me know how your attempt went or if you have any questions or stories to share about schedules.

-JRED

j walking 2

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