be positive for the little people – part 1 (Autism)

bepositiveAutism1

Some of you who parent a child who has Autism get it, you see the great potential they possess and the intelligence which lies within them. Some parents have difficulty seeing those positive attributes in their children.

I fall somewhere in the middle, though I hope closer toward the former. I am making progress in understanding my son’s capabilities, and I wrote a post about what I am learning called Viewing My Nonverbal Child Differently, if you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so. Not only because I wrote it, oh no, but because there is a link to a post Joanna Keating-Velasco penned that is wonderfully insightful. You don’t have to have a child who is nonverbal to read it, I think it applies to many of us.

Last week I wrote about negativity being contagious. It is, and as I said in that post, we may not realize when we are surrounded by negativity, nor when we are filling our life with it.

When we have a child with special needs, it can be so easy to slide into negativity. Not only do I mean saying things like, “This is so hard,” “Why can’t you sit still?” “I can’t handle this anymore,” “Can’t you eat something else?” I also mean the way in which we talk to others in front of our kids, and what we think, as in our expectations of our child.

SLIPPING INTO NEGATIVE NO, NO LAND

Our son, Jeremiah, had been doing better than he had in months. He had gone through some drastic regression, but finally after several months we saw that glimpse of hope. Wow, it’s hard to stay out of negative land when your child regresses significantly and stays there. Jeremiah had stopped drinking juice, which is how I got this AMAZING, sent from heaven, fish oil in him, his sensory needs were off the chart (well, with SPD, they’re already off the chart, but this was worse), he was no longer employing his limited use of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). I was falling farther into that Negative No, No Land.

Finally, I gave it some serious prayer. And, frankly, and completely honest, a miracle happened the next day. We gained, progress was made; there was less angry gnawing at his clothes, less intense sensory hyperactivity, a happier boy, more emotional connection. I know some of you may not believe in God or miracles, and if not, I invite you to spend a couple days in our life because they’re real.

I was negative in those really difficult months, I said things I’m not proud of. I wasn’t calm some days, I got irritated with my daughter (she doesn’t have Autism) when she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Not only was I seeing everything with a negative bent, I was beginning to feel guilty because of my actions and attitude.

NEGATIVITY CAN STEM FROM GUILT

Sometimes our negativity comes from the guilt within. When we fall short of our expectations of ourselves guilt arises. We don’t feel we’re good enough to parent a child with special needs, we don’t say the right things, do the right things. We aren’t gentle enough when our child is jumping on the couch, and we are sitting him down for the 115th time that hour. We don’t feel we do enough therapy, we don’t have enough energy, we don’t try hard enough to feed her a different, healthier food. We don’t notice when everyone else wants to give us a “mother or father of the year” sticker, because we feel stickers of shame, thinking, “You don’t see me at home, or in the car. You don’t know everything about my parenting.”

The reality is that we all have aspects of our life we need to work on. Not one of us is perfect, but we can all make a decision to be better tomorrow. We can all change how we parent.

No matter where our negativity stems from, be it our own guilt over our “failures” or because of our child’s behaviors, our kids can sense how we feel. It comes across as displeasure, condescending remarks, lower expectations, less effort, and depression. I’ve had to work on all of these areas. I still haven’t reached knighthood, far from it, but I have learned some great lessons, and ways to do it better. You’ve read about those in the links I shared and I will share more ideas to help you stay in the right frame of mind later this week in Part 2.

 

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thankful therapy

thankfulnesstherapy

I thought the post I wrote last week would be the last one until after Thanksgiving, then I began thinking about just that; Thanksgiving, and what it means.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen people posting daily about what they’re thankful for. Awesome idea. But it’s hard to be thankful when your children are hurting, acting out, and life is not what you expected. Some of you have kids who wrote the book on strong will. Some of you sacrifice your life daily for your child’s needs. Some of you have angry children who are attacking your world constantly because they’re scared. Life is hard, and the last thing you feel is thankful.

Yet, ask yourself where your children came from. Are they in a better place than they would have been if you hadn’t adopted or fostered? Adoptive and foster parents tend to get stuck in this idea that says, “I didn’t save my child or rescue my child,” in fact they can get downright angry when someone says this about them. But I love to ask if your child is better off with you. Would your son be sleeping in a comfy bed, enjoying family meals with people who love him if he were in an African orphanage? Would your daughter be well fed and warm at night if she was on the streets in Russia? Would your son be safer with a mom who’s doing drugs, and has different men over every week, and doesn’t take care of his needs? I doubt it, and I doubt you are saying yes.

Since this is where you are, and where your child is, you can be thankful for your kids. You can also be thankful they are safe. No, it’s not easy, but can you find things to be thankful for? I would encourage you to find attributes in your child that you can be appreciative of. Your child won’t fit into every category here, but ask yourself the following: Does your child…

  • follow directions?
  • eat veggies?
  • do school work without arguing?
  • enjoy creating art?
  • get along with siblings?
  • have manners?
  • think of others?
  • like to read?
  • follow the morning routine well?

Your child may not do any of these well, or at all, but there is something positive about your child, even if you have to dig to find it. They do have worth, and if you can build on those positives, it will help your relationship grow, and that’s the main goal.

Why is being thankful important? I clearly remember the Thanksgiving after we adopted Payton from foster care. It was only days after her adoption was finalized and we were standing in a circle with family members telling what we were thankful for. Someone (left to be unnamed as to avoid great controversy) said they had nothing to be thankful for. I was quite angry because my precious daughter was now in our arms forever and it was the most thankful I had ever been (we knew she was now safe and a year of fearful anticipation was over). I also saw that the thankless person was miserable. When we can’t find anything in our lives to be thankful for, we dwell on all the negative, and that list can be great. If we focus on what we are grateful for, we have a fuller more joyous life.

Why do I care if you are thankful? I care that you find something to be grateful for because I want your family and your kids to thrive, not just survive. I don’t want this to a Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) that you try to get through as fast as possible, I want you to enjoy it.

Our hurting kids are hurting, and there are days when there aren’t positives to be appreciative of. So what else in your life can you be thankful for? I am truly sorry if there isn’t much, but my hope is that you can find something. Maybe it’s something simple today, like rain or a warm house, maybe tomorrow will bring something else.

I am thankful for all of you who have chosen to care for the orphan, foster child, abandoned and neglected. Without you, they wouldn’t have much to be thankful for. Thank you for all you do! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Here is another post that might help: finding joy