what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. :) Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

COMMUNICATE 

You don’t have to share the nitty-gritty of your every day life, like the stories that make your friends cringe (well, then again your friends probably cringe at many of your stories because life with an autistic kid is, well, different)…so I take that back, just don’t share about your relationship with your in-laws. ;)

Most of you have an IEP for your child, but this gets into the every day, moment by moment life of your child. Many times the IEPs don’t get to that, they don’t deal with the day to day changes and individuality of our children.

Here are some ideas of what to mention to your Autistic child’s teacher, aides, paraprofessionals, and therapists before school starts and throughout the year:

  • Communicate what your child is doing at home. The good and not so good. Are they experimenting with new toys? Do they have new sensory needs? What have you noticed that’s different? Are there situations at home that are troublesome, maybe some issues you need help working through?

 

  • Communicate what’s working. Swimming? Trampoline? Rolling in blankets? Is there a special corner your child loves to be in? Could the school recreate this setting in the classroom to help your child calm? Are you using phrases at home that seem to help your child transition (e.g. “FIRST we’ll go to the bathroom, THEN we can color some more.”)?

 

  • Communicate how your child is interacting with others. Are they using new words, signs, or gestures? Are there new sounds or phrases that someone else might not understand? What is your child understanding? As our children develop they understand more of their world, but at the same time other concepts become more misconstrued, so explain what’s going on with your child in this area.

benefits of communicating with teachers

Sharing with the staff about your Autistic child will help in many areas. You will be able to get on the same page, working in the same way both at home and at school. The staff will know what you’re doing at home and be able to incorporate your ideas at school and vise versa, this will bring a cohesiveness to your child’s life, making it more predictable. The teachers can give you ideas on what to do with your child at home to help make life calmer and to help your child develop.

When I say, “teacher,” I’m referring to their teacher, aide, paraprofessional, and therapists. You can talk to each one individually, but that takes up an incredible amount of time, so choose the one who works with and understands your child the most. If you’re able to talk in person with a paraprofessional, you can email the rest of the team regarding what you spoke about.

Be sure to keep everyone in the loop.

You don’t have to monopolize the teacher’s time, this can happen so easily, it especially does for me because our son’s teacher has a teenager with Autism. We could talk for hours. Try to choose a time when the teacher is available and doesn’t seem rushed, and if it’s a pressing matter, she/he will probably have a few moments. If it’s not pressing, you can email or chat on the phone when it’s convenient for them.

Our family has really benefited from conversing with everyone who works with Jeremiah.

We’ve all been able to work together to problem solve and most of the team is willing to take ideas from the other and incorporate what works and what’s best for Jeremiah.

Have you been able to talk with your child’s teaching team? Did it make a difference? If you haven’t been in communication with the teachers before, do you think it would make a difference?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more information and links. Happy school year!

6 tips on taking an Autistic child on vacation

taking an autistic child on vacation
Autism + vacation = more stress than staying home. Well, sometimes. We met family in Ouray, CO this past weekend. We had a great time, but preparations were a forethought to make it so.

When you have a child with Autism, it’s especially important to plan your vacation. Be sure to read through all of the points, as I saved the most important one for last. ;)

Autism abilities differ in each person, so be sure to take into consideration your child and what they understand. Some children with Autism won’t understand when you begin talking about a vacation that’s far into the future, if this is true, you can begin talking about it a couple days before. So, on with the tips:

  1. Try to make your plans as concrete as possible in order to prevent as much unknown as possible. I know, plans fail, but with an Autistic child, routine is essential, so making a plan and sticking to it will help you make it through your vacation.
  2. Talk about what your vacation will be like. Talk about it often and be open to questions. If there are answers you don’t know, admit it and brain storm what you can do IF…
  3. As you approach a destination explain where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. This will help any child with their anxiety about the unknown.
  4. Draw or print out a map of where you’re going. When we take long trips I’ve drawn a map of where we’re going, and labeled the dates when we’re going to be there. I’ve done this for my daughter who doesn’t have Autism, as our son wouldn’t be able to understand something so complex.
  5. Take breaks during your trip. Let your kids get out and move.
  6. Consider your child’s sensory needs. This is a big one! Some children have high sensory needs and need lots of input, some don’t want much at all and avoid sensory stimuli. Even the children who have high sensory needs require time when their world is quiet. Be aware of noises, lights, bedding comfort, and other possible irritants.

On our last vacation a considerable amount of time was spent with family. I feel a tad bit bad, but we made our plans and anyone could join us if they wanted. We have to vacation this way or NO one will have fun. Jeremiah has high sensory needs, so we had to meet those needs each day if we wanted any calm (meaning avoiding crying, screaming, and intense jumping – yeah, we were on the third floor). About that jumping, I asked that we be put on the lower floor because I knew Jeremiah’s tendency to jump would irritate others, but the managements response was, “The floors are well insulated.” Well then, if you get a call at 6:30am, don’t complain to me.

There are certain activities that our family enjoys doing together, and take care of Jeremiah’s sensory needs. A couple of those are four-wheeling and swimming.

doodleAs for four-wheeling, I can only speak for our immediate family and the big smiles on my parents faces, but we had a BLAST! In this photo Jeremiah is doodling, it’s his “thing”. Some kids with Autism play with string, Jeremiah doodles on his magna doodle. It goes everywhere – obviously.

 

We travel to Ouray fairly often, so we know where the playsets are. Jeremiah loves swinging, so we spent time in between activities doing this while others were shopping downtown. Jeremiah was able to spend a little time walking the old-town Main Street, but not much, so this gave him another outlet to meet those sensory needs. Yes, he has HIGH sensory needs, and even more when in a new and different environment.

We also went swimming, which Jeremiah loves. Swimming meets many jeremiah swimmingsensory needs for our children, and the more you can get them in the pool the quicker they’ll learn how to swim. Here you can read my post on 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim.

 

 

Jeremiah comfy

 

We took Jeremiah’s blankets and the movies he likes to help the condo feel more like home.

 

Overall we had a great time, but much planning went into making it an enjoyable vacation. We also try to be aware of what Jeremiah needs and what makes him comfortable. I hope this gives you ideas on what you can do on your next vacation.

What special things have you done for vacation to help your child adjust? How do vacations go with your Autistic child? Any other advice on vacationing you’d offer to parents?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Happy vacationing!

 

foster care today & a look at Lisa Ling’s report on foster care for the Oprah Winfrey Network

foster care today
Foster Care. It dredges up memories for me, it heaves horrible statistics, it heals children, it hurts children, it gives them hope, it scars them for life, it’s temporary, or it’s supposed to be.

As part of Our America with Lisa Ling, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) focused on foster care the past couple weeks. I wish I could have seen the entirety of the episodes, but we don’t get the OWN. I first read about the series in this Huffington Post article.

I got teary eyed watching as the social worker walked out of the police station with an infant car seat. No child should have to wait hours in a police station for someone to come get them, and that someone isn’t even family.

Yet, there are far more hellish atrocities happening to children all over our country today.

I became emotional as the baby was carried out of the police station because I remembered how my sweet Payton sat in the Department of Human Services (DHS) building with a social worker as they waited for a foster family to pick her up. We weren’t that family, she lived in four homes before coming to us. It’s hard to recall her waiting there, waiting for a family, someone, just

someone to care for her.

I hopped over to the OWN and found another short clip that’s part of Lisa Ling’s report, Giving Back to the Foster System.

It interests me that in this video Ling says infants are the most difficult to place. It’s been my experience, in hearing from many other potential foster parents, that they want an infant placed with them. Most often they want a child who is under two-years-old. There are some exceptions, but it’s the most common, but I guess that isn’t so in Los Angeles where this documentary takes place. Maybe it’s a good thing in the end, it must mean that older children (older, as in three-years or over) are not being overlooked as much.

The family Ling interviewed is better than me, when Ling asks, “Do you ever think about not only the last twenty-four hours, but what ultimately led to [the baby’s] parents losing custody?” The foster father replies, “We don’t judge, we focus on providing the best care she can have. And, then from there, we help with their reunification. Our goal is always to help the families get their babies back.”

What’s the hard part for me in his equation? Well Ling’s question was specifically asking if he thinks about what led to this child’s removal. Umm, for me, YES, I think about what led to my children’s removal. It’s not a constant, far from it, and the farther I’m removed from the foster care scene, the more it slips back into the recesses of my mind. But, I write about adoption, I remember what my daughter’s been through because of her past, I write about what other children are going through because of trauma, so I do think about it.

I took the best care of Payton and Jeremiah as I could before we adopted them (and afterwards too), we worked with the Department and did exactly what we were asked by taking them to visits with their bio parents as they worked on reunification. It was painful. Because we didn’t see bonding, care, a shared love, it was impossible for me to say, “I want reunification to take place.”

Here are some statistics on foster care. The most recent numbers to be found were for the year 2012.

On any given day, there are approximately 397,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States. (childrensrights.org)

Here are shocking numbers from the Children’s Bureau AFCARS report:

  • 397,122 children were in foster care at a given time in 2012
  • 101,666: Number of children waiting to be adopted.
  • 7: The average age of children in foster care.
  • 23,822: Number of children who go to a group home each year.
  • 34,179: Number of children who go to an institution each year.
  • 93,094: Number of children adopted from foster care in 2012.
  • 23% or an average of 85,846 children spend 30 months or more in foster care.
    foster care statistics

That last statistic (23% of foster children will spend 30 months or more in the system) bothers me the most, all though they all poke holes at my heart. I thought there was supposed to be an Expedited Permanency Plan. I’ve asked this of friends across the nation, who have children in their care for several months, while the officials do nothing to move toward termination. This wasn’t our case, but then the system in our county was changing drastically as we stepped out after Jeremiah’s adoption was complete.

I know there is an Expedited Permanency Plan for Colorado, which was enacted in 2002. In short, the House Bill made a ruling that children have permanency by the age of six, whether it be with the biological family, relatives, or adoption by a non-relative. They did this to reduce the risk of a child being emotionally damaged by not having close connections with a caregiver.

The Expedited Permanency Plan House Bill says, “…almost all children are now achieving permanency within the 18 months time frame required nationally as determined by the Adoption and Safe Families Act.” I strongly disagree with this statement, as you can see the numbers; 23% of children placed in foster care spend 30 or more months there.

In the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, it says, “…States to initiate court proceedings to free a child for adoption once that child had been waiting in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months, unless there was an exception.” It also says, “Required States to initiate termination of parental rights proceedings after the child has been in foster care 15 of the previous 22 months, except if not in the best interest of the child, or if the child is in the care of a relative.”

This means the 30+ months children are spending in foster care is far beyond the set standard of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Why seventeen years later are we still falling extremely short of the target for permanency? It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still angers me.

When we’re considering a nation of 318,400,000 (am I the only one bewildered by that number?), the foster care numbers aren’t extremely high, but they are rising, more rapidly, even when considering population growth.
change the foster care systemWhat can we do to help children in foster care? If we know of children who are languishing in foster care, we can talk to their case worker, and if she/he won’t listen, their supervisor. We can write letters to government officials. You can find the number for the commissioner over foster care in your county and talk with them.

Most importantly, you can become a foster parent. Quality foster parents are needed in every county, some more desperately than others. Sometimes counties don’t have foster homes to place children in so they’re placed hours away (and for older children this means not only loss of family and friends, but a different school).

You can help foster children by donating items to your local Child Protective Services. They will take new clothing, and sometimes gently used items such as books, bikes, and toys. As school approaches consider putting together backpacks full of school supplies for foster children.

Some of the ideas in my post, 8 Ways to Help Foster Youth Who are Aging Out of the System, are applicable to any foster children. Go check it out, and share with others.

Another post on foster care:
4 reasons why the foster system is STILL failing

What are some other ways you can help foster children?

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You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

 

how to teach Autistic children to swim

how to teach autistic children to swim
Last week I wrote a post about the importance of teaching our children with Autism to swim. That post, 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim, has been shared over 3,000 times! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check it out. The number one reason is to prevent drownings, go find out why.

In that post I promised that today I would share some ideas on how to teach an Autistic child to swim. So here we go.

Our son Jeremiah (nonverbal and doesn’t understand directions unless it’s part of his every day life) is learning to swim. He’s almost five, and I wish he could take off across the pool by himself, but he isn’t. We expose Jeremiah to water as much as we can. Whenever we stay at hotels, we make sure they have a pool to meet his sensory needs, we put him in swim lessons the last couple years, we visit pools in town when we can, and we’ve been swimming in the lake a couple times.

It’s really important for children with Autism to be exposed to water.

This is to help them become comfortable in it and don’t freak out when they fall in. Because they’re so interested in water, they’re much more likely to drown than the average child, and the first step is getting them familiar with water.

You might want to do this without a life jacket at first. It depends on how old your child is, their activity level, and your ability to be constantly holding them up in the water. If you do use a life jacket, be sure to go without it sometimes (making sure you’re always within reach, preferably holding them up, until they can float or tread water on their own).

When Jeremiah was younger we didn’t use a life vest, but as he got older and wanted to explore more, we put a life vest on him. We’ve now worked into him having it off more than on. Many swim teachers would disagree with the use of a life vest, as this can teach the child to rely on the vest, and the child does not  have a healthy fear of the water. They can come to depend on the flotation and not realize they can go under and not bounce back up. We found that alternating, going with and without the life vest, worked well for Jeremiah.

I talked a little about this in the post on why you should teach your Autistic child to swim, but we never taught Jeremiah how to close his mouth and hold his breath when he went under the water.

Every child with Autism is different, they all have differing abilities.

With Jeremiah, he doesn’t understand directions that aren’t a part of his every day life, and even those were difficult for many years (i.e. only in the past few months has he understood how to hand us something when we request it – anything besides his PECS pictures has been difficult for him). So, we weren’t able to explain, “Hold your breath,” or “Close your mouth,” or “Don’t breathe in your nose.” How do you teach a child not to suck in a nose-full of chlorinated water? Surprisingly, Jeremiah’s done much better at learning to keep his mouth closed, and not choke when going under, than many other “typical” children. He learned VERY quickly what not to do. He’s only coughed up water a couple times.

This is the same with kicking his legs and moving his arms in the pool, we didn’t move Jeremiah’s legs, but it’s the first swimming movement he caught onto, second was the movement of his arms. We can now place our hand under his tummy and he will “swim”. Not enough to keep himself afloat, but he’s getting there.
Drowning is the leading cause of death in Autism

You may be wondering if we’ve had Jeremiah in swim lessons, we did, he’s been through two classes. However, I don’t really feel they were extremely beneficial. I believe if we had a better instructor (as the one in the video below), Jeremiah may have progressed more, but in the end, he seems to do most things at his speed anyway. I do feel the swim teacher was helpful in that it was someone he didn’t know, touching him and talking to him twice a week. It’s important for children with Autism to be around others and in new environments, working with their comfort level in mind.

The concept of “First/Then” works really well when helping a child learnt swim. (Okay, it works well in all areas of the Autism life.) First/Then is done best when taught in the home environment before introducing it in a new and unfamiliar one.

In Jeremiah’s classroom and at home, we use First/Then to let Jeremiah know what’s going to happen in his world, to prepare him. It’s also used if he doesn’t like a particular activity that he has to do. So, if your child doesn’t like to go to the bathroom, you can say, “First we’ll go to the bathroom, then we’ll jump on the trampoline.” You can start with shorter sentences, depending on how much your child understands. When swimming, you can ascertain what your child’s favorite activity is, whether it’s jumping in the pool, splashing, or going under the water, and then use the First/Then concept; “First we’ll kick our legs, then we’ll jump off the side of the pool.” (You can see the use of this in the video below.)

In this video, the swim instructor, Tara, uses some really great techniques with Daniel: PECS (the pictures on the boards are a Picture
Exchange Communication System – also best if learned in the school and home environment first), and First/Then as a reward.

A few things I love about this video are:

  • Daniel is nonverbal like my son and so many of your children.
  • The progress Daniel has made since the first lesson is inspiring.
  • Tara uses PECS, which Daniel is familiar with, to help him understand what’s coming next, which is paramount to the Autism brain.
  • Tara incorporates regular learning in her lessons (talking about the color of rings).
  • Tara’s consistent, each class is ended with the same three elements.
  • And this part is cool! – She says that once they teach a child to blow their nose UNDER the water, the child can then BLOW their nose when they’re out of the water. :)
  • Tara teaches Daniel how to jump into the pool. In the video, Tara explains why this is so important.

Really makes me wish we lived in Maryland!

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can teach your Autistic child to swim. Some of you can’t afford lessons, and I believe you can try this on your own if that’s the case. And, if you don’t have access to exceptional swim instructors these are some ideas you can take to your child’s teacher if they are in swim school.

Have you taught your child to swim? Do you have any tips to share with us? have you struggled with teaching your child to swim? What were they? I love comments, so please share!

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You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. For more helpful information and links, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Happy swimming!

questions about birth family

when birth family questions arise
Conversations have been interesting in our house recently. Conversations can be interesting when you adopt your child from foster care, or adopt in general. They can be even more so when your child obsesses about their past (okay she obsesses about everything).

Lots of questions have risen about Payton’s birth family, and we’re answering several and adding more than we’d like at this time in her little life. We have a six year old who’s easily going on sixteen. Yes, I’m confident if given a set of wheels, and pedals she could reach, she could drive into town, pick up items from the grocery store, and return in one piece. However, she would definitely be stopped for speeding. (You can read more about how we handle the birth family situation here.)

We hadn’t told Payton her birth mom’s name. No specific reason really, maybe somewhere in my mind I thought that she’d go searching for her as soon as she could, but then how could she do that with only a first name? The other hurdle was that she has an aunt with the same first name, so that could get confusing for her, especially since she’s never met her aunt, You know, it’s all those unanswered questions in a child’s mind.

It’s those unanswered questions that keep Payton wondering, and creating. Adopted and foster children can create great imagined stories in their minds about what living with their biological families was like. Usually it’s pretty rosy. And that’s where we run into problems.

It wasn’t rosy, and it wasn’t better than where she is now.

I suggest reading the post I linked to above that explains where we’re coming from in sharing with Payton about her birth family, it will make things a lot clearer. So, we talk about adoption a lot in our house, both of our kids are adopted, I write about adoption, and we’re fans of adoption, so it’s no secret that Payton and her brother are adopted. We’ve talked about her “tummy mommy.” but like I said, never gave her a name.

So, the wondering popped up one day in an interesting conversation. Jeremiah’s Developmental Interventionist was at our house and Payton said, “When I was with that other lady, I didn’t have a brother or sister.” WHAT??? I just stared at Payton, thinking, “What are you talking about???”

The answer took a little while to settle in, and I was surprised. So I asked, “What are you talking about?”

She said, “You know, when I was with the other lady…”

I said, “Oh, you mean your tummy mommy?” Meanwhile the Developmental Therapist is trying to pretend she’s not in the middle of this awkward discussion.

“Yeah.” Payton replied, “Her name’s Laura.”

Shocked again, because that’s not her name, I ask, “Who told you that?”

“Grandma Jane.”

“Well, honey that’s not her name.”

“Yes it is, Grandma told me.”

“I’m sorry, but I know her name and that’s not it. We’ll talk about this later.” Since that wasn’t a time for birth family conversations in front of a therapist, I put it off. I still wondered if we should tell her.

The next weekend she went to spend a few days with my parents (Nana & Bompa to her). She had never been away from us this long, so it was something new and kind of dreadful for us. Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, but I was concerned about the behavior we’d have when she returned. I also thought we’d get a crying phone call while she was there and we’d make a trip to pick her up. We did not get a phone call, she had a blast being the center of attention. But, when we met my parents to pick Payton up, my mom whispered to me,

“She asked if we knew her tummy mommy’s name, she said you knew but wouldn’t tell her.” Oh boy.

So, we told her.
birth parent questions

Then came the comments, “She loved me even though she didn’t take care of me.” Now, I think this started with me. In the adoption circles it’s the proper thing to tell your adopted or foster child, “Your birth parents love you, they just couldn’t take care of you.” But really, when my daughter said this, a big check mark popped up in front of my little eyeballs over her words. It didn’t sound right.

Now that Payton has these words she can fling them at me when she’s mad, and that’s exactly what she did. She thought her birth mom loved her more, and at that moment she was unhappy with me so obviously I love her less (in her mind). I’m wondering if we do a disservice to ourselves and our children when we spout that a birth parent loved the child they abused and neglected to the point of someone else coming in a removing them.

I know each persons definition of love is different. That’s why some parents walk away from children and some stick through the extremely ugly. That’s why I wrote a post asking if love is enough when helping a child with a traumatic past heal. If I go by that definition of love in that post, then no, Payton’s birth family didn’t love her.

I don’t know what to say. Some would argue and say that all birth parents love their children, but because someone gives birth does that mean they love the child? I think we honestly want to say it to make the child and the birth parent feel better. I think we also say it because the child won’t feel worthy if they believe their birth parents didn’t love them. They’ll ask questions like, “Why didn’t they love me, was I not lovable, not good enough, not worthy, too ugly, too disruptive?”

After we told Payton her birth mom’s name, several other questions came up, and lots of answers to unasked questions, because we don’t want her living in this imaginary world, thinking it would be better with her bio dad (who scared her to death, and is the ONLY man she’s ever been afraid of). She has a tremendous memory, and I’m sure that there are several memories of her time with them and afterwards while she visited them in foster care.

This girl has a superb memory. When she was about four, she was standing on the back of my chair while I looked through photos on the computer. She said, “I wasn’t happy when I was one.” I asked her about it and she said, “I was really sad.” Wow! That was the year DHS was trying to reuinify her with her biological parents. She was right, she wasn’t happy that year!

We’ve had to explain things that I didn’t want to have to tell her until she was much older. It’s not pretty, but she says things like, “My dad loved me.” We’ve said, “Payton, this is your Daddy and he loves you very much.” We don’t want her living in that imaginary world. We aren’t happy with all these conversations taking place at her age, no kid should have to deal with this at age six. But then no child should ever be removed from their parents at nine months, or any age. This is our life, and we deal with it as it comes. It’s what we’ve been doing and will continue to do with God’s help and His answers.

After writing this post I chatted with Jeremiah’s Developmental Therapist (yeah, the one who was here for that awkward conversation, that conversation that will always be known as “the awkward conversation”) about Payton and her questions about her birth family and my conundrum about telling her they love her. Her suggestion was that when Payton throws it at me, which many adopted children will at some point, I say, “Yes, your mom (point to myself) loves you very much.” A light went on, and I was like, “That’s it! Perfect.” Then I went back and read what I had written for this post. And behold, I had written something very similar. Well, there you go.

Another post that may be helpful is Birth Family Relationships.

Have you had conversations about birth family with your children? What were those conversations like?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. For more helpful information and links, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

4 reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim

4 reasons why you should teach your child to swim
Drowning is the number one cause of death for children with Autism. Parents whose children have died from drowning probably regret that their child didn’t learn to swim. Not all Autistic children will learn how to swim with ease, and panic can set in when someone (Autistic or not) falls into water, so even knowing how to swim won’t save everyone. But, let’s not live with regret, let’s do our best to help our children learn to swim.

So, here are reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim:

  1. Autistic children LOVE water. They will do anything they can to get to the source; pond, bathtub, lake, swimming pool, open ditch, river, stream, or a water trough for horses or other animals.
    Know what’s around your home (you will find out more of why you need to know in the next point). Are there horses or animals that require a water trough? Does a neighbor have a pool, and is there a secure gate so your child can’t get in? Is there a pond nearby, maybe in someone’s front or side yard? Teaching your child to swim will help prevent drowning in case they go in search of water or fall into water while exploring with curiosity.
  2. When wandering a child may find a source of water and could drown if they don’t know how to swim. You can just about guarantee a child who has Autism won’t be content to simply stare at a pool of water, they’re going to want to PLAY. They see a playground when they see water.
    The National Autism Association says, “According to recent data, 49% of children have wandered away from safe environments, such as homes, schools, public places, and day camps.” Our son has wandered several times. You can read more about that here. He’s never gotten farther than our garage when he’s walked out of our house (one of the benefits of a small house and ears attuned to each movement our son makes).
    The National Autism Association lists these instances at a higher risk for a child to wander:
    - During warmer months
    - During holidays such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s   Day, Fourth of July,  Labor Day, and other warm-climate holidays
    - During family gatherings, other gatherings, or outdoor activities
    - Camping & hiking outings
    - Visits to non-home settings, such as a friend’s home or vacation setting
    - After a family moves to a new home
    - When adjustments have been made to a home to accommodate warmer weather, especially window screens, window fan units, A/C units and screen doors.
    - During classroom transitions from one classroom to another, or during other transitions.
    - During times of stress or when escalation triggers arise (typically the child/adult will bolt)We live just outside the city limits, and there’s a DEEP (like fifteen feet deep) open ditch at the end of our street. This is a recipe for disaster, and I can’t believe they haven’t piped it and filled it in yet. If a child goes wandering, any child (they don’t even have to have Autism), it could be extremely dangerous. I regret to say I haven’t made a phone call to the city yet, I’ll be doing that a little later. We have to be aware of what’s around our homes. If we know what the dangers are we may be more attentive to keeping safety precautions in place and IF, in the worst case scenario, our children escape, we know where to look.
    A child can either have the intent to find water when they wander, or in their wandering come upon water, both being equally dangerous and a good reason to teach your child to swim.
  3. Swimming provides sensory stimulation for sensory seekers, and may be helpful to those who avoid sensory.
    When Jeremiah swims he talks more! Really exciting for us. Well, when I say “talk” I mean more of a jabber, but lots of it, and you can tell he’s trying to make specific sounds. He loves it, his face lights up and a big smile adorns his face when he’s swimming. The happiest we ever see him is in a pool or lake.
    We think he enjoys it so much because of the sensory aspect. Take a float through a pool and you’ll get a little glimpse of how it feels, it’s relaxing. When the Autistic child goes under water, the whole world is shut out, no sounds, no light if their eyes are closed, and there’s the constant of the water surrounding their body.
    For the sensory seeker like Jeremiah, splashing, going under and coming back up, jumping off the board, or sitting next to water jets gives them an awesome sensory experience that is almost impossible to find elsewhere.
    In this video, you will see Jeremiah swimming. The first star of the video is his sister, Payton and her Grandpa (sorry I don’t have editing tools on my computer to cut the video), about 14 seconds in you will see Jeremiah and Justin. Jeremiah’s been in swim lessons, but really the teacher wasn’t that great, and didn’t really help to teach him, but did help him enjoy swimming. No one moved Jeremiah’s legs to teach him how to kick, nor did anyone move his arms, yet you can see that with Justin’s hand supporting his stomach, he can almost swim. :) Jeremiah wasn’t taught to close his mouth and not breathe in under water, it came naturally, in fact I can only remember one time that he coughed up water. In the video you can see how much he loves swimming and jumping in. Jeremiah is nonverbal and doesn’t understand instructions that aren’t part of his everyday life. Jeremiah is almost 5.
  4. Swimming gets them out in public, in a different environment. As the parent of an Autistic child, there are many times we don’t want to go out to dinner, the mall, the carnival, the park, on vacation. It can be work, and we never know what the outcome will be. We can tend to avoid public places, and this doesn’t help our Autistic kids. (I definitely think taking our children into public needs to be done by considering their preferences, and not forcing them to always follow our agenda.)
    For our family, there are many outings that have failed, but a trip to the pool never has. This gets Jeremiah around other people, we try different pools so this exposes him to different environments, and we have to work as a family which creates unity for us all. There’s nothing like a family outing with high-needs Autism.

There are so many benefits to teaching your child to swim, and making swimming a regular part of your life. We want our children to be able to swim, but we also want our children to enjoy life, and if they enjoy swimming, go take a dip in a pool, I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Please pass this on to parents of children with Autism, to help prevent drowning deaths.

Here’s a post on how to help your Autistic child learn to swim. I’ve provided a great video there from MarTar swim school that gives some great ideas of what to do with your child in the pool.

Has your Autistic child learned to swim? Do they seem drawn to water? What steps can you take to help your child learn to swim if they don’t know how?

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lies are like flies and multiplying quickly: why adopted and foster children lie

the lies are like flies and multiplying quickly- why adopted and foster children lie
“Caitlyn did it, not me.” “This kid ran past me, grabbed my backpack and…” “The car in front of me slammed on their brakes…” “The teacher never told me the assignment was due.”

It seems like every adoptive, foster, and even biological family deals with lying. In fact,

lying is the biggest struggle for many parents.

I think the reason many moms and dads are so disgusted by lying is because of their past experiences with lying. Whether it be their parents came down hard on them if they lied, or they were constantly accused of lying when they weren’t, or they’ve faced lying boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses. It can put a harsh taste in someone’s mouth when so much shame, guilt, and negativity surround an issue, in this case it’s lying.

Janna’s* previous dealings with lying were mostly in her home growing up. Her mother despised lying and made Janna feel so humiliated when she said something misleading. Yet, if Janna had told the truth in the few instances she was caught telling falsehoods, she would have been in trouble anyway. There wasn’t much leniency for bad behavior in her home growing up, but with lying the big hammer came crashing down. Her parents made her feel despicable if she did lie, and even when she told the truth, they often didn’t believe her. Now Janna’s a foster mom, and

she sees herself reacting in the same manner her parents did.

What’s a person to do? They can deal with it, both the feeling they have toward their parents and those they feel about themselves. But, most of the time it’s passed on and they do the same with their children if they aren’t particularly careful to avoid those emotions of shame, guilt, and being unworthy.

Once we acknowledge that we may have issues with lying that are being transferred to our children, or simply making the issues bigger than they are, we can move forward to understand and help our kids.

I first heard this concept from Bryan Post, and that is, there are two basic human feelings, love and fear. Lying doesn’t come from a place of love, so it stems from fear. Bryan Post says, “…there is the fear of rejection, they fear of being caught, the fear of abandonment, the fear of abuse, etc…The sooner you can grasp this concept, the quicker you will see your child’s behaviors begin to transform.” Post also says, “In fact, brain researcher, Joseph LeDoux, tells us that in times of stress, our thinking becomes confused and distracted and our short-term memory does not work effectively.” (OH, that’s my problem!)
lying based in fear

  • Think through the situations when your child has lied. Can you connect it in any way to fear? Remembering what Post said about fear of rejection, fear of being caught, fear of abandonment, the fear of abuse.

Remember too, our children had another life before they came to us. We don’t know how honesty was treated in their previous home or how lying was dealt with.

Pam Parish touches on this in her soon to be released book, Ready or Not, a book for prospective and current adoptive and foster families. I am privileged to have received an early release copy and I can tell you, you’ve got to get one! In Ready or Not, Pam says,

“At it’s core lying is a survival tactic…The risk a child who has been abused and abandoned takes when telling the truth and admitting that they’ve done something wrong is that they will be abused, abandoned, shamed, or rejected.”

You may not have a story similar to Janna’s, but you probably feel frustrations rise when your child repeatedly lies. Bryan Post says, “Just as your child’s lying is driven by his stress and fear, the actual lie itself triggers stress and fear within you, thus driving your own negative behavior.”

It can be tempting to come down harder on a child who won’t fall in line, which in turn makes the lying worse.

If there are issues with lying, it can be helpful to focus on less consequences (or none) when your child tells the TRUTH.

I encourage parent to tell their child, “If you tell me the truth, you won’t get in trouble,” if it’s a minor infraction (e.g. lost homework, a broken toy, a missing book). Or, if it’s a lie on a larger scale (e.g. something happened to the car, they’re in trouble with the law, they didn’t come home until 2am), I suggest saying, “You won’t be in nearly as much trouble if you tell me the truth.”

Younger children may not always have a fear base for telling a lie, they’re simply testing boundaries and rules. They’ve discovered this idea of trying to fool the adults and they’ll test it to see if it works.

I hope you can see how your child doesn’t lie because they don’t like you or they’re a horrible kid. Your child lies because of fear, and young kids sometimes do because they’re testing life. No fun, but it makes it much easier to deal with.

If you can stay calm and without much reaction to the lie, they can learn to trust you.

What do you think about the relation between lying and fear? Have you dealt with lying in an unconventional way? What did you do and how did it work?

*Names changed to protect privacy

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