it’s not all bad: looking for the good in your child (adoption & foster)

it's not all bad - looking for the goon in your child
People who haven’t adopted a child with attachment issues, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), or mood disorder may have difficulty relating to this post. They may read the title and ask, “What do you mean, of course there’s a lot of good in my child.” But, I think even some parents whose children are doing well can benefit from reading this, especially if you have a negative outlook at times.

Our jobs are so hard, parenting is difficult. No one really tells us this, except maybe your mom, when she says (not yells, because of course no parent ever yells. Ha!), “You’re going to have a child just like you one day, then you’ll see.” The only others times we hear how hard parenting is, is when we’re told teens are a nightmare, and there are sleepless nights with newborn infants, and the terrible twos, but what about all those ages in between?

And what if your child has difficulty stemming from their neglect, abuse, and trauma?

We’re given the responsibility to raise adults, because really that’s what we’re doing. We are training these little ones, bits at a time, how to function in society. We are teaching them right from wrong, why lying isn’t okay, how to respect their teachers, how to be kind to their friends, how to respond when others talk to them…the list goes on.

It can get overwhelming, and we can also get so absorbed in teaching that we only see what our child needs to correct (especially true if your child has more behavior issues than most children). Sometimes parents try so hard to make sure their child is obedient, they miss what their child is doing RIGHT.

I won’t excuse myself from this group of parents. I do the same thing, although I’ve loosened up greatly due to what I’ve learned because of my children and what my husband has tried (I would say he explains it as pushing string) to teach me. But, I have high expectations. No, they weren’t as high when my daughter was misbehaving constantly when she had PTSD, ODD, and RAD, but the bar has been raised as she has proved (and it’s been tested thousands of times) she can meet these expectations.
Find the good your child does

I often slip back into my old patterns of not recognizing the good my children are doing, and only talking about and disciplining the negative. Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve written about focusing on the positive and how important it is, but this is proof once again that I fail too. It’s hard for me to consistently tell my kids they’re doing a good job, yes I do it throughout the day, but far from enough.

A great example of this was when we were sledding this past weekend. Payton could barely walk up the hill on her own, yet, she helped a girl who was older than her climb the snowy bank. She picked and returned someones sled when it got away from them. She grabbed a hat that flew off a sled, and ran down the hill to give it to them. I was amazed and very proud of Miss Payton, but in the middle of all these kind gestures there was some arguing about going to the “bigger hill” because it was much more fun (and dangerous!). I was irritated she wouldn’t leave it alone. I said “No,” and I mean, “No!” Yeah, it might get louder each time.

I was frustrated, but I also needed to consider all the kindness Payton had shown to other sledders.

I find it really difficult to find a balance sometimes.

I would love good behavior, but I also need to recognize her strong will (which I’ve talked about here – and how even after healing, a child who’s gone through such trauma has a strong personality and other specific traits). Like many parents, I get SO tired of repeating myself, and I don’t feel I need to. But, am I able to recognize the good things my kids do? And do I do it often enough?

No, I need to do it more. I even need to work on it with our son, Jeremiah (nonverbal Autism). He gets corrected often, but when he’s doing well, I need to make a conscious effort to tell him what I think, even if that means going to where he is in the house.

The point is, it’s about balance. We need to tell our children when they’re doing well, and much more so when behavior is negative. And, we need to correct negative behavior. (I’ve also written a post about tackling one behavior at a time, because when your child struggles with all the diagnoses above, there can be A LOT of negative behaviors.

You may say, there’s nothing my child does that’s positive or praise worthy. Watch them closely. Is your child smart? Is your child creative (even if it’s not used in a positive way right now)? At a time separated from the “creativity used for ulterior motives” you can tell him he’s quite innovative. Did your daughter pick up her toys today? Did your son take a shower without complaint or at least get the shampoo on and washed off? Did your daughter eat healthy foods for snack? Did she bring her lunch box home? Find those positives.

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s so important, and so easily forgotten, especially when life is difficult and hectic. We run through our days checking off things on our list, homework, making meals, reading together, and making sure our children behave so they can succeed in that world beyond our door, we sometimes fail to recognize what our children are doing well. We get down, and feel riddled with guilt because our child isn’t doing as well as they should be (after healing has taken place and you know your child can reach higher standards).

Focusing on those positive will help your mindset stay where it needs to.

Acknowledge the great things your child is doing, and let them know you see it. It will help you realize the positive. Because we all need more positive!

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 “like” my page on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

they can hear you

Tracy Dee Whitt:

can a person with Autism hear and understand?
I’m sharing this wonderful post by Jess at Diary of a Mom because what she says is essential to being an Autism parent. We must realize this as we move forward. We must make what she says part of our every move, our every word.

Just as Jess states, I’m also so thankful for those who’ve taught me lessons about Autism that I would never have learned if they hadn’t come into my life. For me, those voices who’ve changed my outlook on Autism aren’t just the Autistic adults, but also Jess (Diary of a Mom) and Ariane at Emma’s Hope Book. I hope you take the time to read what they have to say. It’s so important for our children’s futures.

Originally posted on a diary of a mom:


{image is a photo of me at a podium, speaking into a microphone at an Autism Speaks walk kickoff in 2010.}

Yesterday, I read a post that was written a couple of months ago, but just made its way to my screen. It was written by a woman who goes by Amythest on her tumblr, Neurowonderful. She describes herself as an artist, writer, public speaker, advocate, and activist who writes about autism and disability.

In the post, she describes a painful interaction with the father of an autistic young man at a recent Autism Speaks Walk in Vancouver. She and a number of other autistic activists had set up a table at the walk in hopes of educating walkers about some of the harm that the organization does in their name.

The post, poignant and important throughout, became excruciating to read here ..

The worst part of all of this is…

View original 1,600 more words

what do you do with expectations?

what do you do with expectationsYou can listen to a recording of this post – just scroll to the end. :)

I’m surrounded by people who think they are living their life right. Though I have to admit, I felt the same way before I entered the world of foster care, adoption, Autism, disorders, and my disease. I thought I had it together, thought I knew how to live life, thought I knew how to raise a child. I was wrong.

Do you feel judged for the way you’re living your life? Do others make suggestions, do they offer you alternatives? When you foster or adopt, so many of life’s regular routines and expectations get thrown out. You realize they don’t work. You live life, and for you, it might be wonderful, but that’s not how others see it.

It’s like you live in a fish bowl with all you can handle and others are plunking little stones into your precious habitat, and you have to heave each one up and out over the side. Those stones (expectations) are heavy, they give you more emotional work than you can carry.

It’s super easy to say, “Ignore them, it’s your life, do what you have to.” But what if it’s family? What if that family doesn’t live across the country?

I have a chronic illness, a rare disease, and no matter how much it’s explained (with physical evidence even), it’s never understood. I don’t clean my house enough, my husband does much of the cooking, and in the yard, there are weeds where there isn’t grass.

It should be enough that we adopted from foster care and have dealt with multiple disorders and diagnoses. It should be enough that our son has nonverbal Autism and needs a lot of supports. People should understand that my husband is self-employed, and built his business from scratch. These aren’t enough reasons to not have the perfect life.

But, the fact is, I don’t WANT what looks like a perfect life. I don’t need to live life like everyone else around me. See, I have riches they can’t even grasp.

I have found this hidden treasure, called my family. They are so much more important things than being able to say I bagged twelve loads of grass, or mop my floor daily.

I have to take care of myself so I can be the best mom I can be (and yes, sometimes I fail). People don’t see how great my son is doing, the progress he’s made – well they see it, but then their expectations for him and I rise. If they would take time, they would also see how much Payton has changed since we brought her into our home. Strangers can acknowledge it, but not those closest to us – or if they do, they don’t say anything.

It’s so hard being judged. I would love to throw it aside and accept who I am and what I do. But, I still find myself looking for others approval, or at least their acceptance of my life. It’s something I need to work on, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. Especially when I know others are struggling with their foster or adopted children, or living with Autism. People don’t understand why you can’t join them for dinner in their home, they want you to be available, they want your children to be perfect. Expectations.

So, we set our own expectations for our family. We do what works for us. We do it that way because we know it’s what we can maintain. I sleep in because I have a disease that wears me out intensely. I don’t take the kids grocery shopping because I’m blessed with a husband who does it for me (with the kids). He gets it. We do this because it works. The world may disagree, but it’s what allows me to be me, and it’s the best outcome for our family.

What about you? Do you feel judged by others? How do you deal with it?

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 “like” my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

it’s not a pity party if someone else throws it (Autism)

it's not a pity party if someone else throws it (Autism)
Opinions. They abound all around me. Today I’m talking about parents of children with Autism having opinions. We have opinions and they are usually quite strong, and rightly so, it’s our child, it’s our family. One of the notions I wanted to tackle today is the Autism parents opinion that people shouldn’t have pity, or feel sorry for us and our child.

I would like to take a look at why people have pity or feel sorry for Autism parents and their children, and then give you a few ideas to contemplate.

It’s fairly common that when someone gives birth they don’t go in with expectations that their child may never talk, have meltdowns when they’re sixteen, not be potty trained until age thirteen, or live with them forever and never have a girlfriend. (This is not the case for every Autistic person, but bear with me.) So, when others hear that your child has Autism they may feel bad. They don’t realize that you’ve accepted your life (if you have) and moved on. They don’t know that you’re okay with (if you are) all the effects of Autism I listed above. If your child has Aspergers, they don’t know that your child isn’t like what I listed above and

they may not understand the Spectrum part of Autism.

And it’s very possible that when a mother gives birth to a child who has Autism, or when that child becomes Autistic, they are sad. They don’t immediately see into the future, knowing that they’ll adjust to their new life and it will be okay. Those people who have pity for your child haven’t developed through what you have. We morph with everything that comes along. Every mountain we face, we climb. When others find out about our child’s diagnosis, they’re stuck in the beginning, looking up at the enormity – the part we’ve tackled.

What if someone feels bad for my son? It’s okay, because there are days when I feel bad for Jeremiah, so can I understand when someone else does too? I feel bad when he can’t communicate and he’s crying, tears rolling down his face. Or when he can’t explain that he had a nightmare, and I can’t console him because I don’t know about it. I feel bad when he doesn’t understand why we can’t get fries at every drive-thru we come upon. I feel horrible when his sensory needs can’t be met and I don’t know what else to do – I’ve offered spinning, jumping, flashing lights, a quiet room, a squishy toy, and chewy necklace. I feel bad for him often.

What about when people show pity for our family?

There are days when I feel bad for myself. Sometimes I’m sad that we can’t simply call the babysitter and go out for dinner or a movie. I’m sad when we can’t both attend our daughter’s school event because Jeremiah can’t go. This doesn’t mean I’m sad about my life, it doesn’t mean that I want anything to change – because I would take Jeremiah the way he is over anything I might want to do. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not sad sometimes.

If someone else feels sorry for us, it means they have sympathy, they don’t know what it would be like to live in our shoes.

Can we rate someones sympathy on a scale from pity to just feeling a little sorry for us? I don’t think so. Sure there will be those who spew their sentiments that they feel SO bad for us or for our child. We can answer truthfully, but kindly. I’ve said, “Thank you. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s okay.”

I honestly don’t get a lot of pity. Maybe it’s in the way I talk about Autism, or that no one I’ve told really understands Autism (usually that’s the case). I’ve had some wonderful intellectual conversations about Autism. One recently diverted to a story about Rain Man, and I said, “Yeah, it’s a Spectrum, and there’s everything in between.” I didn’t want this guy thinking my son was going to begin quoting the birthdays of every President, Prime Minister, King, and Queen of every country.
why people have pity for our children (Autism)

I wish there was more sympathy for Jeremiah and our family. And maybe there are a few others like us.

When we visited my family over Christmas vacation, Jeremiah didn’t receive pity, but was talked to sternly because he was beginning to climb on the t.v. stand (which could’ve held Jeremiah’s weight just fine, but it would’ve gotten scratched). No pity. Jeremiah had also squeezed in between a side table and hutch and knocked over a lamp (it didn’t break and isn’t expensive by the way). The second time he did (before I even had a chance to recognize what was going on – this was ten-minutes after our arrival and seven hour drive) I was told in an austere manner, “You might want to get him out from behind there.” There was no understanding of WHY Jeremiah was trying to get behind the hutch. He was trying to get in a small space and hide. No sympathy. No pity.

There’s no pity (or understanding for that matter) coming from the other side of our family. They weren’t able to take care of Jeremiah during Payton’s Christmas school event because of piddly reasons they could’ve done the following night, one family member added, “He (Jeremiah) needs to learn to be in society.” I laugh (instead of crying – which I do plenty of) because this person has never taken Jeremiah INTO society.

There is no sympathy for our family.

When people feel sorry for us or show pity, it’s often because they feel they couldn’t do what we do.

The truth is, some could and some couldn’t. People say, “I do it because she’s my child, and I would do anything for her, just as you would if it were your child who was diagnosed.” That may be true for some, but not for others. We all handle adversity differently.

I can say the only reason I can do what I do, is because I have an extremely supportive husband. Yes, we have disagreements (okay fights – but it’s mostly me doing the fighting), but overall my husband is my rock.

Could I do it without him? Maybe, but I know it wouldn’t look like it does now, not even close.

It’s always pained me when I hear others say they don’t want people’s pity or don’t want others to feel bad for them (as I think there is a sliding scale, but it’s hard to tell sometimes where someone stands). Often people say, “I’m so very sorry,” because they don’t know what else to say. We received many of those comments when Jeremiah was first diagnosed, and I was okay with it to some extent. I was still trying to accept a new diagnosis and a new way of life, and they didn’t know what to say. They assume it isn’t what I expected.

I would love to hear your experiences of people feeling bad for your child and your family. Share how you feel and what you do about it.

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 “like” my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

TOP 4 posts of 2014 (and more)

Hi there! Wow, it’s been a while. I took a much longer break from Lovin’ Adoptin’ than planned over the Christmas holiday. I hope you all made it through the holidays as I know many of you have some extra challenges.

2014 has been a busy and productive year for Lovin’ Adoptin’. Although my goal was to write that book which is based on much of the information included here, plus more, a look back at the year has made me realize that other great things were happening.

First, thank you to those who follow my blog. Lovin’ Adoptin’ is always increasing in views, and this as well as your comments, will help in getting a publishing house to publish my book when it’s ready.

Second, I had some great opportunities in 2014. I did an interview with Rebecca Vahle on Adoption Perspectives Radio Show (you can see the link to the interview below). I was asked to write for, however their guidelines were very stringent and I wasn’t able to say I write for them, which is essential when trying to procure a book deal – they want to know your writing experience.

Another unexpected opportunity I received this year was speaking to nurses at our local hospital. It began with a questionnaire I filled out about our experience at the hospital with our son who has Autism. I added a letter because, well, I’m a writer. ;) It was written kindly, but laid out that with more understanding of Autism in the hospital our experience would’ve been much better.

After reading the letter, the Pediatric team invited me to speak to them. The Director of Woman’s Health and Childbirth was in attendance and asked to send out my information to all the hospital staff. This led to a phone call with the Nurse Residency Program Coordinator & Clinical Resource Specialist at the hospital, she asked me to speak to new nurses in her training a few times a year! Wow, I feel so privileged to be able to share with these nurses about Autism.

In 2014 I was also asked to write a couple articles for an Anthology on Autism which will be published by the University of Michigan. I’m honored.

So, I thought I’d begin the new year by sharing some top posts of 2014 and add some more that I feel are important reads.


  1. Why Consequences and Rewards Don’t Work (Adoption & Foster) This topic has been hugely popular. I don’t know why comments haven’t been posted on it, however it’s been viewed thousands of times in the last year. I think many adoptive and foster parents can relate and I give steps to take to help your child. As always, I never intend to label the problem, but never give solutions. Another post which is often viewed in connection with this one is, 7 Reasons Why Time-In, NOT Time-Out. Because of these two posts, I was asked to do a radio interview with Rebecca Vahle on Adoption Perspectives Radio Show.
  2. Lies Are Like Flies and Multiplying Quickly: Why Adopted and Foster Children Lie – This issue is obviously not only related to adopted and foster children, but I lay out reasons why hurting children lie.
  3. 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim – Drowning is the #1 cause of death for children with Autism. There is a link within this post on how to help teach your child to swim.
  4. 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to, or in Front of Your Adopted or Foster Child 

And a few more important ones:

Why Adopted and Foster Children Have Sleep Issues (Sleep Issues Part 1) – Most adopted and foster children have a hard time sleeping, so much so that they don’t even sleep during LONG car rides. In this post I explain why this is, and link to an additional post that gives a step-by-step process that will help build trust with your child and help them fall asleep.

Inclusion Vs. Exclusion: Special Needs in the Classroom – I’ve had many conversations about schooling and the special needs child. This explains what inclusion is and why it’s essential for children who have special needs.

These are jest a few topics I’ve covered, you can view lots more on my Contents page.

Thank you for reading, I wish you all a wonderful 2015! 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 “like” my page on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

what does your adopted or foster child need?

What does your adopted or foster child need
What does your child need right now? Do they need a pacifier longer than other kids? Does holding them, feeding them a bottle, comforting them like nothing else? Does your older child still come into your room at night, frightened by a noise, a nightmare, or nothing at all, they just want to be near you? Does your child sit and rock in a toddlers rocking chair even though he’s far too large?

I read a great article that my friend shared, I’ll Keep That in Mind. In it, the author, Stephanie, talks about what she does about suggestions made regarding her hurting child that others make.  In response, she says, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Because wouldn’t it take far too long to explain where her child came from, what eases his stress, or what he needs that he didn’t get in his first years of life? Adding in the question, would people really understand if we told them our child’s story? I do share my children’s stories when not within ear-shot of them, because I feel others need to know what life is like for children who are abused and neglected. They need to know about children in orphanages in other countries, the ones who had to fight for a place in line, a blanket to sleep on, a pencil to draw with, and food to fill their bellies. They need to know about the children in foster care who need them.

Because of all our children went through, they need different parenting, which is laid out in most of the posts where I write about foster and adopted children. We don’t need to worry about the advice of others who didn’t raise a hurting child: Don’t put her in the swing to fall asleep, she’ll get used to it and she may never fall asleep without it. Isn’t he far too old for a bottle? She should be out of pull-ups by now. Why is he sucking his thumb, that’s really not appropriate for his age. Why do you still allow her to _______? Why doesn’t he ________?

Hurting children don’t go by the same rules every other child does, and they shouldn’t. Their emotional age and chronological age most likely won’t line up, and we can’t force it to do so. Because of this, we meet them where they are. They’ll also need something different, their needs met in alternative ways than a child who hasn’t been through trauma.

So, do what you need to do, and don’t feel bad about it.

My son, Jeremiah, loved being in the baby swing when he came to us. His life had been tumultuous and frightening before he came through our door. The place he was happiest (which still included a lot of crying) was in the baby swing. People said, he’ll get used to swinging all the time, and you’ll never break it.

It’s comments like this that make adoptive and foster parents second guess themselves. Oh, gosh, what if? What if we can’t go anywhere without the swing? Well, for a while we didn’t go anywhere without it. My parents purchased a swing for when we visited them on weekends, and if we went somewhere else overnight, we took the swing with us. You work through it, and eventually, Jeremiah stopped needing the baby swing.

It turns out that he has Autism and sensory processing disorder, so that may have been part of why he needed that continuous swaying motion. Now, he has a big-kid swing in his room, and swings outside, as well as a trampoline. He also has a trampoline for indoor use in the winter.

We may never know what’s going on with a child, what their true needs are. I’m glad we used that swing until it was falling apart. It saved my son from pain, and us from misery.
Hurting children go by different rules

I received a comment on my post about sleep issues, the mom said her nine-year-old wanted to sleep on their floor. First, they’d recently moved, and this can be very disruptive for a child who has a traumatic background. The child may have gotten used to their new home, thinking this was finally permanent. They’ve had enough of moves, and living where nothing was their own. Now, they have to pick up and leave it again, and although the parents are with them, it’s still terrifying. They don’t know what to expect, so they’ll need extra reassurance that everything’s okay. They’ll take steps back, probably big ones, but you’ll likely recover a lot faster than you did before.

Second, as for allowing a nine-year-old to sleep on your floor…if it’s not wreaking havoc, let them. If they’re afraid, and need that closeness, let them be near you. (Foster parents won’t be allowed to do this.) I would suggest if your child is having sleep issues to read Why Adopted and Foster Children Have Sleep Issues and How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Sleep.

If you follow the advice in the above posts, relatives and friends, even you, may wonder why your child needs you to be in their room until they fall asleep, even when they’re nine or ten-years-old. The answer? Because they need you. They need you to be their safety net.

For children who are angry and push you away, which is also common, people will ask questions about that too. Your child needs time, they need your reassuring voice and actions reminding them you’re there. It may take a long time before they seem to need you, but trust me, they need you even if their actions don’t convey it.

For those who are being pushed away, and feel unwanted, I’m right there with you. My daughter, Payton, did that to me for years. It was hard, really hard, but I kept at it, showing her I loved her NO MATTER WHAT. No matter how she treated me, no matter what she said, no matter what she thought…and it paid off BIG TIME. Now she wants to be with me, she wants to know why I’m not going on an errand with her, her brother, and her dad, she wants me there! She wants to dress like me, wants me to be in her classroom, and eat lunch with her at school.

Because of Payton’s strong will, the aftermath of hardship LINK, we do things differently. We’re looked at, we’re questioned, but then we are used to it because our life’s been different since we brought Payton, and then Jeremiah into our home. Trauma and Autism need different parenting, and we do this. Every day. It’s what makes our kids flourish and our lives work.

What does your family do differently than others? What do people say when they see you treating your child differently than they expect?

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 like my page on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

look for the “why” – Autism & ABA therapy

look for the %22why%22 - Autism & ABA therapy
“One of the keys to allow children with Autism to thrive is to understand how they process information, and adjust their education and activities accordingly.” – Dr. Mercola

Sparrow Rose Jones, an Autistic adult, wrote a guest post for A Diary of a Mom  about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. I was shocked by what I read. Do you know how ABA began, what the concept was behind it? You may know the premise of how it was started, but stick with me because I will give you some ideas on how to help your child, and how to tweak ABA to help your child more efficiently and respectably.

Dr. Ivar Lovaas is the psychologist who established ABA. Sparrow wrote an excellent article containing in depth information on the therapy and goes to great lengths not to make parents who’ve supported ABA for their child feel guilty. In the article, ABA – by Sparrow Rose Jones, she says, “Much has changed, but this core premise of Lovaas’ work remains solid. ABA’s core belief is that forty hours per week of therapy geared toward making a child externally appear as “normal” as possible will “fix the brokenness” inside that made the child behave that way. ABA believes in an extreme form of ‘fake it until you make it.’” Shockingly, Lovaas said, “You have to put out the fire first before you worry how it started.” 

This isn’t how Autistic people should be treated. And, frankly, that’s not how to best help a child or adult who has Autism. This idea completely ignores their humanity. 

Consistently looking at what needs to be fixed in an Autistic child is a bombardment of negative thoughts.

We have to see the positives in the Autistic person if we’re going to instill in them a sense of worth.

How would we feel if every action of ours was looked at as wrong, and in need of change? What would that do to our self-esteem? If all you ever heard was that you needed to fix what you do every day, it wouldn’t give you hope, it would be quite discouraging.

I’ve talked about it before, but forty-hours of therapy for a child is beyond what they can or are should be made to handle. Children need play, they need down-time, they need to be a child. Emma (age 12, not positive of her age, but it’s close to this, and non-speaking) of Emma’s Hope Book says, “Autism is not a developmental delay, rather it is a different road entirely.”

When you can see that Autism is a different road entirely, your mind opens to such possibilities. Life is smoother, brighter, and different, but in a good way. It’s acceptance, but it’s acceptance that’s good. 

We can’t look at it from Lovaas’ perspective, “putting out the fire first before you worry how it started.” No, we need to completely shift that idea on it’s head. We have to find out why FIRST, then move on to help our child.

If we don’t have the why, we really can’t help them in a humane way.

So, why? Why is your child irritated? Why aren’t they focusing? Why are they jumping or spinning? Why are they chewing on their clothes? Why are they crying or upset?

Is it sensory issues (because most children with Autism have sensory issues). Is their tag bothering them? Do they not like the person who’s teaching them (because if your child is nonverbal, they can’t tell you how they feel)? Are the lights too bright? Are the colors in the space too bold? Do they need a chewie to help with oral issues? Are they crying because they’ve been through this routine hundreds, if not, thousands of times and are tired of it because it’s hard?

Watch your child closely, watch their eyes, listen to their sounds, watch their body language to find answers to these questions.

When you find the “why” it will be a beautiful present you can unwrap. Autism is so complex, but so amazing.

look at your child's abilites
Lia*, the Developmental Interventionist who came to our home to do therapy for a few years taught me so much about this. She really looked at the “why,” and although she’d been trained in ABA, she knew how to modify it to fit Autistic children. She was amazing. One day I called her, in desperate need of advice. Jeremiah had been standing on the t.v. stand, table, counter, and on the back of the couch. I couldn’t keep him down, consistency wasn’t working.

Lia, knowing Jeremiah has Sensory Processing Disorder said, “He’s probably looking for a higher perspective. He likes what he sees when he’s up there. Put him on something high that he CAN stand on, take him outside to the top of your play set.”

I was so relieved. Could this really be the answer? I have back problems and lifting a strong five-year-old down from up high was really wearing me out, plus that’s not what I wanted to do all day. I tried it, and after being consistent with it for a few days, he stopped climbing on furniture he wasn’t allowed on.

Other Autism parents can give us great perspectives too, depending on which ones we listen to. I was talking with one of those Autism parents the other day and she mentioned that they teach their son in the way he learns. Her son learns through music, so they use it to teach colors, shapes, etc. She said he sang words before he talked. I love it.

Then I thought about how Jeremiah learns, and that is through sensory. We found this out through working with Lia. Yeah, she’s done wonders for us and Jeremiah!

Everything we can possibly teach him with sensory, we do. Meaning, when we asked him not to touch the t.v., we put our hand on his and removed it gently, while saying, “Hands off.” We used hand-over-hand when putting puzzle pieces in their places. We used hand-over-hand while telling him to put his snack back in his cup. When teaching Jeremiah how to swing, I put his legs back, while saying, “back,” and moved them forward when saying, “forward.” (While using hand-over-hand, if he resisted, we let go after a count of two or three, it wasn’t done forcibly.)

I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made hearing Autistic adult’s perspectives, having a therapist that saw who my child is and what he needed, and not looking at my son’s disability, but what his abilities are and how I can help him best. It’s taken some really amazing teachers, and I have a long ways to go, but I’m eternally grateful.

I received a comment the other day on Twitter from a mom that was upset by another post I wrote. She said in part, “My verbal son doesn’t love Autism.” I’m really saddened by this. Sure, there are bad days with Autism, but aren’t there for all of us? For the most part my son is happy, and I don’t feel he would be that way if I was more negative. When I’m negative, he’s definitely not as happy. I’m a large determiner of how my son feels about himself.

Here’s a great quote from Jess at Diary of a Mom,

“And it’s funny really (in a not funny at all kind of way) that we talk so much about the inflexibility, the rigidity of those on the autism spectrum when really, isn’t it US, the so-called neurotypical population, who are stuck in this frightfully narrow rut of perception? Isn’t it us who insist that Autistics conform to our version of… well, everything? Isn’t it us who are really so rigid in our thinking as to be capable of believing that other ways of processing, thinking, communicating, experiencing are wholly invalid? That’s pretty remarkable (and, in its practical application, horrifying) stuff, isn’t it?”

I’ve written two other posts on ABA, My Thoughts on Applied Behavior Analysis, and More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis.

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